(Bloomberg) -- Luis Echeverria Alvarez, who was Mexico’s interior minister and then president during the darkest days of one-party rule and repression, has died. He was 100.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador confirmed Echeverria’s death and wrote his condolences to the former leader’s friends and family in a Twitter post. Echeverria died on Friday night, El Financiero reported.

Echeverria came to represent the repressive face of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that governed Mexico for seven consecutive decades until 2000. Infamous for his connection to two massacres of student protesters, Echeverria adopted left-wing rhetoric and policies as president from 1970 to 1976, while brutally putting down the leftist opposition.

“He represents a past to which nobody wants to return, one of international alienation, economic recession and social fracture,” Veronica Ortiz, a lawyer and co-host of a show on Mexico’s non-partisan Congress channel who has followed the nation’s politics for more than two decades, said in an interview. “He was an authoritarian, the PRI was hegemonic and there was no opposition.”

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa called the party “the perfect dictatorship” for its method of handing power from one president to the next and stifling democracy.

Echeverria was Mexico’s interior minister, the nation’s top domestic security official, in 1968. On Oct. 2 of that year, a week before Mexico City was scheduled to host the Summer Olympics, federal troops opened fire on student demonstrators at the Plaza de Tlatelolco in Mexico City. In what came to be remembered as the massacre at Tlatelolco, “students who had gathered in a plaza for an evening meeting were picked off by government snipers perched on rooftops,” the New York Times reported in 2018, marking the 50th anniversary of the event.

The final death toll was never known, with estimates ranging from dozens to hundreds. 

In an interview with Time in 1970, Echeverria said the government crackdown had focused on student rioters, not peaceful protesters. 

“Not one was arrested for writing a novel or a poem or for his way of thinking,” Echeverria said. 

He long denied ordering government troops to fire and directed suspicion to the president he was then serving under, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, who died in 1979.

“There was a hierarchy,” Echeverria told investigators and reporters in 1998, according to CNN. “The army is obligated to respond to only one man. My conscience is clear.”

In 2006, a Mexican court issued a house-arrest warrant for Echeverria on charges of genocide for the 1968 massacre. The charges were dropped after a judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired, then were reinstated, then were dropped again when a court said that while the killings constituted genocide, Echeverria wasn’t involved.

There was a similar effort to hold Echeverria to account for the so-called Corpus Christi massacre of 1971, in which a government-trained paramilitary group killed more than 100 demonstrators in Mexico City. Echeverria was president at that time, having won election in 1970. In that case as well, the statute of limitations was ruled to have expired.

Echeverria was born on Jan. 17, 1922, in Mexico City. He studied law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico before working his way up the ranks of the PRI, landing a senior leadership position in the Interior Ministry by 1958, according to the “Encyclopedia of U.S.-Latin American Relations” (2012). 

He was interior minister from 1964 to 1969. 

As president from 1970 to 1976, he poured resources into social and economic programs, boosting growth and more than quadrupling the nation’s foreign debt. 

His outspoken, candid style of speaking to the public earned him the nickname “The Preacher.” He clashed with business elites over the government taking majority shares in the mining and telephone industries, imposing limits on foreign investment and expropriating farmland to redistribute to peasants. He ended his term by devaluing the peso.

As part of his effort to subdue politically active youth groups, he banned the recording and sale of rock music by Mexican bands, a prohibition that remained in place in some form until the 1980s.

In foreign policy, Echeverria sought alliances with developing nations to counter the U.S., working with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Chile’s Salvador Allende. He made a failed bid for secretary general of the United Nations in 1976.

Echeverria was married to Maria Esther Zuno, who died in 1999. They had eight children. 

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