QUITO -- Leon Febres Cordero, a former Ecuadorian president, died Monday from lung cancer and emphysema, sources close to the ex-leader said. He was 77.
Febres Cordero, who governed from 1984-1988, had also been head of the Christian Social Party, or PSC, and he had returned to Ecuador recently after traveling to Tampa, Florida, to receive medical treatment.
The Ecuadorian government declared three days of national mourning and expressed its regret at the passing of Febres Cordero.
In an executive decree, President Rafael Correa said he had decided "to declare three days of national mourning" and ordered all public agencies and Ecuador's diplomatic missions abroad to fly the country's flag at half staff.
Correa also decided to appoint a commission of government representatives to attend Febres Cordero's funeral and ordered the armed forces to "provide posthumous honors" to the former head of state.
The ex-president's wake will be held in the port city of Guayaquil, his hometown, press sources said.
Alfonso Harb, one of his closest friends and a party colleague, confirmed that Febres Cordero died at 4:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) on Monday at the Guayaquil Hospital, where he had been admitted after returning to the country on Dec. 7 in an ambulance aircraft from Florida where he had been receiving radiation therapy.
Harb said that even while he was "fighting for his life," the ex-president kept up to date on the country's affairs.
Harb added that he will always remember how much of a "fighter" and "warrior" Febres Cordero was in the last hours of his life.
After the news of his death broke, many of the former president's followers, party colleagues and supporters gathered at the doors of the hospital to express their sorrow, and dozens of journalists were on hand as well to cover the event.
The media reported that the funeral service will be held in the Guayaquil Cathedral, where Febres Cordero's body will lie in state for 36 hours.
A mechanical engineer by profession, the former president traveled frequenly to the United States during his last years for routine medical procedures and, on one occasion, to have eye surgery.
Febres Cordero was one of the most influential politicians in Ecuador in recent decades and, at the same time, one of the most controversial for leading his administration with a great deal of harshness, according to his detractors.
The Attorney General's Office had warned that five former presidents, including Febres Cordero, could be called to testify about the alleged implication of their administrations in supposedly illegal foreign debt contracts, according to a report by the commission that this year investigated the country's public credit over the past 30 years.
The conservative Febres Cordero was also investigated by the so-called "Truth Commission," which seeks to clear up numerous complaints of human rights violations during his administration