ROSEAU, Dominica — Prime Minister Pierre Charles of the Caribbean island of Dominica, a critic of some U.S. policies, died Tuesday night of an apparent heart attack, hospital officials said. He was 49.
Charles, who had recently been on a brief leave of absence because of heart problems, was pronounced dead at Princess Margaret Hospital.
Tourism Minister Charles Savarin said Charles was leaving his office after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday night when he complained of chest pains and collapsed.
It wasn't immediately clear who would replace Charles in the nation's top political post. During Charles' three-week leave, Trade and Foreign Affairs Minister Osborne Riviere served as acting prime minister.
Charles was born in the village of Grand Bay in southern Dominica.
He was elected to Parliament in 1985.
He was appointed prime minister in 2000 after predecessor Roosevelt Douglas died of a heart attack. He had earlier served as the country's minister of communication and works.
He was critical of the 1983 U.S. invasion of nearby Grenada, which was supported by Dominica's leader at the time, Prime Minister Dame Eugenia Charles.
More recently, Charles was critical of the U.S. action in Afghanistan and he called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
Charles defended recent austerity measures as necessary to improve the economy of one of the Caribbean's poorest countries.
The 2003 budget slashed spending 15% and introduced new taxes -- measures that were unpopular with many workers and led to strikes in the former British colony of 71,000 people.
Twice in the past year Charles had angioplasty after complaining of chest pains. To assist his recovery, he took a leave of absence in late November, returning to work after three weeks.
Charles is survived by his wife and their two children. He also has a son from a previous relationship.
Funeral arrangements were pending.