CARME CHACON, Spain’s first female defence minister and a prominent socialist party leader, has died aged 46.
Chacon, who was famously photographed in 2008 reviewing troops in Afghanistan while seven months pregnant, died in her Madrid home on Sunday from a congenital heart condition.
She was Spain’s first female defence minister, symbolising the change of culture since the end of military rule.
In 2007 Ms Chacon also served as housing minister in the Socialist government led by ex-Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
Spanish politicians were among the many Spaniards who expressed shock and sympathy over Ms Chacon’s sudden death.
Mr Zapatero said he was ‘heartbroken at the death of my comrade and friend.’
He said ‘we feel emptiness, because of the enormity of this loss, for Spanish democracy and for all socialists’.
The current Popular Party (PP) defence minister, Dolores de Cospedal, said ‘I deeply mourn the ex-minister.’ ‘My heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and the Socialist Party. RIP.’
At the age of 37, and seven months pregnant, she visited Afghanistan, five days after being appointed defence minister.
She told El Pais ‘pregnant or not, I was clear that my first duty was to visit those who are able to put their lives at risk for higher values: for other people’s freedom.’
‘A pregnant woman is not sick. Sure, it’s harder when you’re pregnant and on your feet all day. I wanted to express society’s gratitude to those who put themselves in danger to bring peace to regions of conflict.’
After the Afghanistan trip, she also reviewed troops in Madrid while pregnant in May 2008.
She joined the Socialist Youth at the age of 18, and began her political career as a local councillor in 1999-2007. Later she served as an MP representing a Barcelona constituency. She was born in Llobregat, Barcelona, in 1971.
She was the daughter of a fire service official in Barcelona and his lawyer wife. As a girl, she had been advised to lead a calm life because of her heart condition. But she ignored the advice repeatedly – including the suggestion that it would be risky to have children.
Ms Chacon had also taught political science at Miami Dade College, in Florida, whose president Eduardo J Padron said her contribution had ‘left an indelible mark’.
‘Spain is losing a distinguished figure from its modern political scene. And Spanish women are losing someone who always took a stand to emphasise the importance of women’s roles in modern society, and among the college’s faculty and students.’
Chacon leaves behind her husband and eight-year-old son.