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Spain’s first woman defence minister found dead at 46

Chacón reviewing troops as minister for Defence in 2008
Chacón reviewing troops as minister for Defence in 2008 / E. A.
  • The PSOE Socialist party mourns after former-politician Carme Chacón dies suddenly at home of a suspected congenital heart defect

Carme Chacón, former senior member of the PSOE party and Spain’s first woman defence secretary was found dead in her home in Madrid last Sunday evening.

Family had been unable to contact the well-known ex-politician and police and fire brigade were called to force down the door. The emergency services said that she “had been dead for several hours”.

Carme Chacón had often spoken publicly about a congenital heart defect that was diagnosed when she was ten and which could have caused her serious complications at any time. “Ihave 35 beats a minute, my heart is backwards and an atrium and ventricle are blocked,” she explained in 2015.

Originally from Esplugues de Llobregat (Barcelona), she leaves an eight-year-old son, who was staying with her former husband when she died.

Chacón, who was 46, rose swiftly to the top of the PSOE hierarchy and during the government of José Luis Rodríquez Zapatero was first female defence minister from 2008 to 2011.

Her appointment to the role when pregnant was widely seen as a step towards the modernisation of Spanish politics and, in her own words, contributed to “breaking the glass ceiling”.

Although she came a close second in PSOE leadership elections in 2012, Chacón had gradually withdrawn from active politics, giving up her parliamentary seat last year, and involving herself in a Madrid law firm and as a lecturer at a college in Miami. She had only returned from Florida for Easter the day before her death, sending an Instagram with a view from the plane saying how much she was looking forward to seeing her son.

There was widespread shock and grief across Spanish politics. On Monday her coffin was placed in the headquarters of the Socialist party in central Madrid before a private cremation.

A succession of politicians, some from rival parties, friends and members of the public went to sign a book of condolence and pay their respects.

Susana Díaz, president of the Junta de Andalucía, candidate for the leadership of the party in next month’s elections and close friend of Chacón, spoke for many. “I was lucky to have her friendship and her by my side in both difficult and happy times,” Díaz said to journalists.