Mario Covas, the straight-talking governor of Brazil’s powerhouse state of Sao Paulo and one of the country’s most respected politicians, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 70.
Covas died Tuesday after suffering multiple organ failures at a hospital in downtown Sao Paulo, doctors said.
The governor was halfway through his second four-year term at the helm of Sao Paulo, which, with 34 million people, is Brazil’s most populous state and its industrial, agricultural and financial nerve center.
In 1988, Covas and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, now the country’s president, founded the Brazilian Social Democratic Party with other key Sao Paulo politicians. Covas made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1989, losing to Fernando Collor de Mello, but Cardoso went on to win in 1994.
“He leaves a legacy of democratic coherence and obstinacy, not only for his words but also for his fight, and that is why I called him a warrior of democracy,” said Justice Minister Jose Gregori. “For me, it is the loss of one of the cleanest references for democracy.”
The son of a coffee broker, Covas was born April 21, 1930, in the port city of Santos.
He entered politics in 1962, when he was elected to Congress for the Brazilian Democratic Party. As he began his second term in 1966, the military regime stripped him of his political rights after he defended a fellow congressman who had criticized the armed forces.
In 1979, Covas returned to Congress. Four years later, he was appointed Sao Paulo mayor.
Covas was elected to the Senate in 1986, and two years later.
Covas is survived by his wife, Lila, and two children, Renata and Mario.