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Stephen Solarz, former congressman, dies at 70

November 30, 2010 |  6:16 am

Solarz Former Rep. Stephen J. Solarz of New York, a foreign-affairs expert who in 1986 revealed the extravagance of Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, including her 3,000 pairs of shoes, has died. He was 70.

Solarz died Monday at George Washington Hospital in Washington after a four-year battle with cancer of the esophagus, said his son-in-law, Glen Prickett.

Solarz angered many of his fellow Democrats when in 1991 he co-sponsored the resolution authorizing Republican President George H. W. Bush to wage the first war against Iraq. A year later, he lost his seat in a dramatically redrawn New York City district that he had served since 1974.

Solarz's most well-known battle was in 1986, when he held highly publicized hearings to prove that Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos had looted the Philippine treasury of millions of dollars to buy real estate in the United States. He led the congressional movement to withhold military aid to that country until Marcos could be driven out and Corazon Aquino installed as president.

“Solarz fought for democracy in the Philippines during the dark days of martial law, even when his own government's policy was to support the Marcos regime,” Edwin Lacierda, a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III, said. “He was a true friend of the Philippines.”

A few years later, Solarz surprised some with his willingness to play a leadership role in authorizing the first Gulf War after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Some thought because he had been an early opponent of the Vietnam War, he should have favored continuing sanctions in the gulf — the position of the Democratic Party leadership.

Solarz, who was a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the time that the Gulf War was not comparable to Vietnam. Rather, it was more like World War II.

“I would imagine that the Kuwaitis must feel today exactly the way the French felt after the Normandy invasion,” he said. “They obviously did not relish having bombs dropped on their homes and factories and fields, but they knew this was the price they had to pay to be liberated from the Nazis.”

-- Associated Press

Photo: Stephen Solarz in 1992. Credit: Associated Press