Antonio Carlos Peixoto de Magalhaes, one of Brazil's most influential politicians who held on to power as the country came under a military dictatorship and returned to democracy, died Friday. He was 79.
Magalhaes died of multiple organ failure after being hospitalized last week, the Sao Paulo Heart Institute said in a statement.
Magalhaes had a devoted following in his home state of Bahia, where he served as governor three times and represented the northeastern coastal state three times in the Senate. But his harsh manner of dealing with opponents of the 1964-85 dictatorship and mastery of backroom deal-making also earned him enemies, as well as the nickname "Toninho Malvaldeza," or Tony Evil.
Born Sept. 29, 1927, in the Bahia state capital of Salvador, Magalhaes attended medical school but entered politics at 27 when he was elected to the Bahia State Legislature. He then served three terms in Congress.
He backed the 1964 coup that overthrew President Joao Goulart and became a close ally of the military regime. Military officials returned the favor, appointing him mayor of Salvador and twice naming him Bahia state governor.
After the return to civilian rule, Magalhaes helped found the conservative Liberal Front Party and was tapped as the country's communications minister, a powerful post under President Jose Sarney, the first civilian in power after the dictatorship.
In 1991, he was elected to a third term as governor of Bahia, and in 1994 he became a senator. He also served as the Senate's president from 1997 to 2001, when he resigned amid a secret vote scandal.
He was accused of looking at a list of how senators voted on a measure to impeach a fellow lawmaker and was threatened with expulsion, which would have made him ineligible for reelection. He resigned, and was voted back into office the next year.
Magalhaes is survived by his wife, Arlete; a daughter, Teresa Helena; and a son, Antonio Carlos, who will take over his Senate seat. Another son, Luis Eduardo Magalhaes, died of a heart attack in 1998 at age 43.