Manuel Fraga Iribarne, 89, a blunt-talking politician who founded Spain's ruling conservative party and was the last surviving minister from Gen. Francisco Franco's right-wing regime, died Sunday of heart failure at his Madrid home, according to the Spanish news agency Europa Press.
In a career spanning 60 years, Fraga served as Franco's information and tourism minister and as Spain's interior minister after the dictator died in 1975. He helped write the country's post-Franco, democratic Constitution that was passed in 1978 when democracy was restored.
Fraga also ran his native Galicia region with a tight grip from 1990 to 2005 and then settled into a seat in the Spanish Senate.
Fraga was born Nov. 23, 1922, in the northwestern town of Villalba. He held several midlevel positions in the Franco regime until he was promoted to minister of information and tourism in 1962.
In 1966, Fraga engaged in a famous effort at damage control when four American hydrogen bombs fell on the southern Spanish village of Palomares after a midair collision between a B-52 bomber and a refueling plane.
None exploded, but radiation was strewn when the plutonium-containing detonators on two of the bombs did explode. Those two bombs and a third that had also hit the ground were found within a day.
But the fourth bomb had fallen into the sea and eluded recovery for 75 days.
While crews were frantically searching for it, Fraga joined U.S. Ambassador Angier Biddle Duke in taking a much-publicized swim off Palomares' beach to show it was safe to go into the water.
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