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Published: Thursday May 22, 2014 MYT 9:05:02 PM
Updated: Thursday May 22, 2014 MYT 9:06:01 PM

Former Venezuelan president Lusinchi dies at 89

CARACAS (Reuters) - Jaime Lusinchi, Venezuela's former president who left office in 1989 with high ratings despite an economic crisis and love affair with a secretary, has died aged 89 of a lung infection.

Though trained as a pediatric doctor, Lusinchi entered politics early and went on to serve as president for five years. He died in a Caracas clinic on Wednesday night, colleagues said.

"With pain we announce that the ex-president of the Venezuelan republic, Jaime Lusinchi, has just passed away. Peace to his soul," said Henry Ramos Allup, who heads the Democratic Action party to which the former president belonged.

Accused of corruption after vacating the presidency, Lusinchi left for the United States and Costa Rica, but returned to his homeland in his final years for medical treatment.

As a young activist, he was briefly held and tortured under the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in the 1950s.

During his rule, Venezuelans were scandalized by Lusinchi's extramarital affair with private secretary Blanca Ibanez whom he later married. The nation's economic problems also grew, from a rising debt and weakening currency to high inflation.

(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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