"Patricio Aylwin, president of the peaceful transition to democracy, died," reads Wednesday's front page of the Chilean establishment newspaper El Mercurio. The former head of state (1990-1994) died Tuesday in his Santiago home surrounded by his family. He was 97.
Aylwin, a law professor and leader of the centrist Christian Democratic Party for over half a century, was the first civilian elected president after the bloody 17-year dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). He received widespread praise for his guidance in helping Chile, now one of Latin America's most stable countries, transition back to democracy.
After Aylwin's death was announced by his family, current Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared three days of national mourning.