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Novelist Arturo Uslar Pietri Dies

February 27, 2001

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Venezuelan novelist and historian Arturo Uslar Pietri, one of the world’s leading Spanish-language writers, died of a heart attack in Caracas. He was 94.

Uslar Pietri, who died at home Monday, influenced generations of Latin American writers. His most celebrated works included ``Las Lanzas Coloradas″ (The Red Lances), ``El camino de El Dorado″ (The Road from El Dorado), ``La isla de Robinson″ (Robinson’s Island), and ``El laberinto de fortuna″ (The Labyrinth of Fortune).

In 1990, Uslar Pietri received Spain’s prestigious Asturias Prize for letters. For 50 years, he also was a leading columnist and political analyst for the Caracas newspaper El Nacional. He served as minister of education, interior and treasury in the 1930s and 1940s.

Uslar Pietri was a member of a civilian government that was overthrown by Venezuela’s military in 1945. He went into exile in New York, where he continued writing and taught at Columbia University. When democracy was re-established in 1958, he returned to Venezuela and served as a senator from a small independent party, running for president in 1968.

After an attempted coup in 1992 by Venezuela’s current president, Hugo Chavez, Uslar Pietri was a leading critic of pervasive corruption and the reluctance of Venezuela’s leading political parties to reform the political system. Chavez ultimately was elected president in 1998, and Uslar Pietri later criticized what he called the left-leaning Chavez’s authoritarian rule.

``I fight for Venezuelan democracy, I’ve fought for it and I will keep on fighting for it,″ the writer said in a 1992 interview with The Associated Press. He said he hoped ``we would have a democracy worthy of its name and not the caricature that we have.″

Uslar Pietri is survived by a son, Federico. His wife, Isabel Braun, died in 1996.

A funeral was being held Tuesday afternoon in Caracas’s Eastern Cemetery.

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