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Former Colombian president Belisario Betancur dies at 95

Belisario Betancur

Bogota, Colombia | AFP | Former Colombian president Belisario Betancur, who steered his country through one of its most turbulent periods in the 1980s, died Friday aged 95, doctors announced.

President Ivan Duque led tributes for the former conservative leader, who was president of the South American country from 1982 to 1986.

“I deeply regret the death of a great friend, a great Colombian, former president Belisario Betancur,” Duque wrote in a message on Twitter.

“His legacy in politics, in our history, in our culture, is an example for all future generations.”

Betancur was being treated in a Bogota clinic for a kidney condition. The Santa Fe Foundation clinic said in a statement that the ex-president passed away at 2:32 pm (2032 GMT).

Marta Lucia Ramirez, the country’s vice president, had prematurely announced Betancur’s death in a tweet the day before.

She corrected the mistake within minutes, but not before it was picked up by national media, leading to a flood of reactions from public figures.

The conservative Betancur was president when leftist M-19 guerrillas seized control of Bogota’s Palace of Justice in November 1985 — a dramatic foretaste of the violence that was to mark Colombia over the next decades.

He was the first president to summon the rebel groups that emerged in the 1960s to a dialogue with the government, assuring them he would work to achieve peace.

The main rebel group, the FARC, finally signed a peace agreement with the liberal government of Juan Manuel Santos more than 30 years later, in 2016.

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