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File Picture - Haitian President Rene Preval speaks during a Security Council meeting on Haiti at the U.N. headquarters at the U.N. headquarters in New York, April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton


By Makini Brice

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Former Haitian president Rene Preval, the first leader in Haiti's 202-year history to win a democratic election, serve a full term and peacefully hand power to a successor, has died, the government of the Caribbean nation said on Friday.

The cause of death was not made public. In 2010, during Preval's second term as president, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake.

"I was touched to learn of the death of former President Rene Preval," President Jovenel Moise said on Twitter, describing him as a "dignified son of Haiti."

During his 1996-2001 presidency, Preval managed to build roads and public squares, worked with peasants on land reform, and unlike many of his predecessors was not accused of massive human rights violations, despotism or theft.

His second terms will be remembered more than anything for the earthquake that destroyed much of the capital Port-au-Prince, killing some 200,000 people. Preval's government was criticized for its response to the disaster.

Born in the rural town of Marmelade in 1943, Preval trained as an agronomist before a career in politics that allied him with former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was deposed in a bloody 2004 revolt.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Frances Kerry and Grant McCool)