Former Brazilian Vice President Jose Alencar died Tuesday as a result of the abdominal cancer from which he had suffered for more than a decade, medical officials said. He was 79.
Alencar died from the combination of an aggravated intestinal obstruction and peritonitis, complications arising from his illness, at Sao Paulo's Sirio-Libanes Hospital, where he had been admitted on numerous occasions over the past year.
Shortly before he passed away, one of the members of his medical team, Dr. Raul Cutait, said that Alencar was sedated, adding that the former vice president was "preparing to rest."
Alencar had battled cancer since 1997, a struggle that required his undergoing surgery 17 times, and on Feb. 9 he was once again admitted to Sirio-Libanes due to an intestinal perforation.
Born on Oct. 17, 1931, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, Alencar served as vice president from 2003 to 2010, during the two presidential administrations of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Alencar came to prominence as a prosperous businessman and owner of the Coteminas textile group, an economic empire that has expanded into several Latin American countries and employs 16,000 people.
That business tradition was what in 2002 led Lula, then a union leader viewed with substantial misgivings by the markets, to select Alencar as his running mate and to symbolize an alliance between the left and Brazil's business sector.
From the time his illness was diagnosed, Alencar underwent many separate treatments to try and overcome the cancer, but he never obsessed over his health, saying on one occasion that "death is a phenomenon of life."
He was passionate about politics and thought about running for Senate or for governor of Minas Gerais in the October 2010 elections, but the ongoing deterioration of his health forced him to set aside plans for a new candidacy.
The aggressiveness of the cancer prevented him from attending the Jan. 1 inauguration of new President Dilma Rousseff, but she and Lula visited his sickbed several times.
His last public appearance was on Jan. 25 when he received the city of Sao Paulo's highest honor in a tribute attended by Rousseff.
Upon receiving the prize, Alencar said that now he could "die calm and happy," adding that he never thought that so many people would "mobilize" themselves to support him in his recovery.
Alencar had been married to Mariza Campos Gomes da Silva for 45 years and leaves behind three children and a number of grandchildren.