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Salvador Jorge Blanco, former Dominican Republic president, dies at 84

Former Dominican Republic President Salvador Jorge Blanco, who was convicted of corruption under a political antagonist's administration but later declared innocent by an appeals court, died Sunday. He was 84.

He died at his home in Santo Domingo, said his son, Orlando Jorge Mera. Jorge Blanco had been in a coma since suffering a cerebral hematoma when he fell out of bed Nov. 20. He had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, in which liquid builds up around the brain and spinal cord.

President from 1982 to 1986, Jorge Blanco was sentenced with three other men to 20 years in prison in 1991 for misspending government funds meant for military purchases. He was the first former Dominican head of state to be convicted of corruption and served two months in prison before he was released to continue his appeal.

The conviction was overturned in 2001 by an appeals court that ruled Jorge Blanco and the three other men were never provided the right to defend themselves during the 1991 trial.

"We are proud of his legacy," his son said in a Twitter message.

Jorge Blanco, a member of the Revolutionary Party, had maintained his innocence and said he was the victim of political persecution during the presidency of Joaquin Balaguer, who held office for 10 years after Jorge Blanco's term.

Jorge Blanco's single term in office was marked by severe economic problems that lingered despite his austerity policies backed by the International Monetary Fund and rescheduling of one-third of the Caribbean country's $3-billion foreign debt.

Labor unions called repeated one-day general strikes in protest of the austerity measures, which included freezing public paychecks. Judges, government-employed doctors and agronomists went on strike over wages. Rioting that erupted in April 1984 left dozens dead.

Jorge Blanco did not seek reelection in the 1985 presidential campaign.

At the end of his term in 1986, Balaguer's lawyers announced a corruption probe and Jorge Blanco sought asylum from the Venezuelan ambassador after a judge ordered him arrested. Venezuela turned him down.

-- Associated Press

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