Ion Diaconescu, 94, symbol of communist resistance
BUCHAREST, Romania - Ion Diaconescu, an anticommunist activist who helped Romania’s push toward democracy, has died.
He was 94.
Mr. Diaconescu, who was imprisoned for 17 years by the communists for his political beliefs, died Tuesday night, former prime minister Victor Ciorbea said. No cause of death was given, but Mr. Diaconescu had recently been treated for heart problems.
Parliament held a moment of silence yesterday for Mr. Diaconescu, after remembering him as a politician who was guided by principles, not personal interests.
“Today’s politicians only think about their own interests,’’ said Romania’s best-known political dissident, Doina Cornea.
“That is why Romania is crawling along.’’
Like Mr. Diaconescu, Cornea was put under house arrest by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu for criticizing the communist regime.
“Ion Diaconescu understood that faith and principles are national treasures, and he didn’t betray these values, enduring 17 years in communist prisons,’’ Cornea said.
Mr. Diaconescu entered politics in the late 1930s as a member of the youth organization of the Peasant Party.
He was arrested in 1947 after the communists came to power in Romania and sent to one of the gulags where over the next decades tens of thousands of Romanians would die. Mr. Diaconescu endured 17 years in prison before being released in 1964 under an amnesty for political prisoners.
After the fall of communism in Romania in 1989, Mr. Diaconescu helped reestablish the center-right Peasants’ Party. He served as speaker of Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies from 1996 to 2000 and headed the Democratic Convention, a loose governing coalition that was marred by political infighting.
A consensus seeker, he was widely respected, even by his political rivals.
President Traian Basescu and former president Ion Iliescu paid tribute to him yesterday. Basescu said Mr. Diaconescu remains “a symbol of the fight against communism.’’
Former president Emil Constantinescu said that Mr. Diaconescu was “a symbol of communist resistance in Romania and Eastern Europe, and a symbol of honesty and honor’’ in politics.
Mr. Diaconescu’s open coffin was put on display yesterday at the Peasant’s Party headquarters.
He will be buried in Bucharest today.