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Miguel de la Madrid, president from 1982-1988, died Sunday. He was 77. De la Madrid, a longtime smoker, had been hospitalized with emphysema. During his six-year term, he had imposed unpopular economic austerity measures after being dealt a disastrous hand by the president who preceded him, José López Portillo. The measures imposed by the Harvard-educated de la Madrid have been credited with putting Mexico on the path that led to the North American Free Trade Agreement and making the Mexican economy more efficient.
De la Madrid also is known for his relative inaction on the devastating Sept. 19, 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which analysts have said was a factor in creating the conditions for the PRI's eventual ouster from the presidency in 2000.
In 2009, in a radio interview with Carmen Aristegui, de la Madrid expressed regret as selecting Carlos Salinas de Gortari as his successor. De la Madrid later wrote a letter retracting some of what he said, indicating he was suffering from a form of dementia. Salinas also wrote her a letter, criticizing her for interviewing his predecessor when a third of de la de Madrid's brain was not functioning.
Story, Wall Street Journal. Story, Frontera (PDF).
In December, he was mistakenly reported to have died.
Update, April 4: Columnist Óscar Genel writes a nice column about the deaths of de la Madrid and of former UNAM rector and Attorney General Jorge Carpizo. He says de la Madrid's father was killed by a tenant who did not pay his rent. Column, Frontera (PDF).
Update, April 17: Jesús Silva-Herzog and Francisco Suárez Dávila pay tribute to de la Madrid. (PDF)
Update, April 20: Excélsior columnist Leo Zuckermann writes about his long interview with de la Madrid after he left office, calls de la Madrid a responsible politician. Zuckermann's column (PDF).