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Former Brazilian Vice President Jose Alencar dies

From Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
Brazil's former Vice-President Jose Alencar delivers a speech in June 2007 in Sao Paulo.
Brazil's former Vice-President Jose Alencar delivers a speech in June 2007 in Sao Paulo.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alencar rose from humble beginnings to become a textile tycoon
  • Brazil's ex-president says his former VP was a "man of exceptional dimensions"

(CNN) -- Former Brazilian Vice President Jose Alencar died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, officials said. He was 79.

Alencar died at the Syrian-Lebanese Hospital in Sao Paulo. He had been fighting intestinal cancer for more than a decade, the government said.

Alencar was vice president under former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who praised his former colleague at a press conference in Portugal.

"Our relationship was that of brothers ... We functioned as an orchestra, we joked around, we had our serious talks. I think Brazil has lost a man of exceptional dimensions," the popular ex-president told reporters.

The current president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, said it was an "immense honor having him (Alencar) in her life."

Alencar rose from humble beginnings to become a leading textile tycoon. He was elected to the Senate in 1998.