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Josť Alencar, former vice president of Brazil

Vice President José Alencar (center) with candidate Dilma Rousseff and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last year. Vice President José Alencar (center) with candidate Dilma Rousseff and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last year. (Pedro Vilela/AFP/Getty Images)
By Stan Lehman
Associated Press / March 30, 2011

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SÃO PAULO — Brazil’s former vice president José Alencar died yesterday after a long battle with abdominal cancer. He was 79.

The textile magnate shared eight years of government with Brazil’s first working-class president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who left office as Dilma Rousseff was sworn in at the new year.

The Sirio-Libanês Hospital in São Paulo said Mr. Alencar arrived Monday. According to the hospital, he died of multiple organ failure surrounded by family.

He won the respect of many Brazilians with candid talk about living with cancer and his promotion of preventive practices that lead to early detection.

Mr. Alencar, a multimillionaire businessman, was picked as Silva’s running mate in 2002 in a clear bid to win the support of rs, ranchers, business leaders, military officers, and foreign investors who feared the former trade union leader’s radical leftist past.

Like Silva, Mr. Alencar was raised poor. Silva joined the labor movement and toiled as a lathe operator, but Mr. Alencar built an empire of textile factories and amassed a fortune once estimated at about $200 million.

Despite their different paths, Mr. Alencar was one of Silva’s biggest supporters in Brazil’s contentious political arena, standing by the president during corruption scandals that cost some of Silva’s aides their jobs.