Peru's defense minister dies of heart attack at 71

Lima (AFP) –


Peruvian Defense Minister Jose Huerta, a retired general, died Monday of a heart attack during a visit to military bases, the government announced. He was 71.

Two days of national mourning were declared in honor of Huerta, who passed away after arriving in Santa Maria de Nieva, a town in Peru's Amazonas region, state media said.

He collapsed as he was boarding a helicopter.

President Martin Vizcarra paid tribute to Huerta's service to the nation, and called the news of his death "painful."

Huerta was given full military honors when a coffin bearing his remains was flown back to the capital Lima. Lawmakers observed a moment of silence.

Huerta assumed office just nine days after Vizcarra took over from former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who stepped down in March last year.

Monday and Tuesday were designated as official days of mourning. The country's flag will be flown at half-staff on all public buildings, military bases and police barracks.