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Carme Chacón dead; Spain’s first female defense minister was 46

Spain's former defence minister Carmen Chacon gives a

Spain's former defence minister Carmen Chacon gives a speech on Jan. 7, 2012, in Olula del Rio, near Almeria. Chacon was found dead on April 9, 2017 at her home in Madrid, a spokeswoman for the Socialist Party told AFP. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / JORGE GUERRERO

MADRID — Carme Chacón, Spain’s first female defense minister and a prominent socialist party leader, has died. She was 46.

The party said in a statement that Chacón died on April 9 from a heart condition she had had since birth.

Chacón helped modernize Spain’s armed forces when she took the helm of the Ministry of Defense in 2008, in the government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Photos of Chacón reviewing the troops while heavily pregnant became a symbol of a new era in Spanish politics.

Spain’s socialist party, or PSOE, said in a statement that Chacón had always been “at the vanguard” of the party.

“Despite her youth,” the statement said, Chacón had a “passion to defend the socialist ideals and, with time, she became a very important figure in our party.”

Before taking charge of the Defense Ministry, she had previously been minister of housing and a national lawmaker.

When Zapatero stepped down in 2011, she ran for PSOE’s top leadership, although she eventually lost the vote to former Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

Between 2012 and 2016, she had been in charge of the party’s international relations, before she left politics to join a law firm in Madrid.

Chacón’s body was found by police in her home on April 9 after relatives called emergency services when they couldn’t reach her. She was married and had a young son.

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