Argentina Mourns Former President Nestor Kirchner

Nestor Kirchner, who died suddenly of a heart attack Wednesday.In her first public appearance since her husband’s death, President Kirchner, wearing dark glasses and accompanied by her two children, arrived Thursday at the presidential palace in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, where Mr. Kirchner is lying in state.Apparently choking back tears, President Kirchner approached her husband’s coffin and rested her hands on it while being consoled by her daughter.Outside, thousands of mourners continued to gather in the streets of the capital, many waiting in line to pay their respects to the former president. Mourners have left posters, flowers, letters, flags and other memorials outside on the palace walls. They began gathering in the pre-dawn hours Thursday in the square outside the presidential palace.The presidents of Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay are also in Buenos Aires to pay tribute to the former leader.The former president’s body was flown to the capital overnight from the southern city of El Calafate, where he died.Three days of mourning have been declared in the country.  Mr. Kirchner is expected to be buried in his hometown of Rio Gallegos later in the week.Mr. Kirchner had previously suffered from heart problems and had surgery last month to treat a blocked artery.  He was 60 years old.

Mr. Kirchner served as president of Argentina from 2003 until 2007, when his wife succeeded him.  He was credited with leading the country out of a severe financial crisis while in office, and many expected him to run for president again in next year’s elections.In a statement Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the Argentine people.  He said Mr. Kirchner played a significant role in the political life of his country and that his prayers are with the Kirchner family.Other world leaders expressing condolences include United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Pope Benedict and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.Mr. Kirchner stayed active in politics after leaving office, serving in the Argentine Congress and as leader of the country’s Peronist party.A lawyer by training, Mr. Kirchner was first elected to public office as mayor of the southern city of Rio Gallegos, later becoming governor of the province of Santa Cruz – Voanews