(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.