BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Gheorghe Apostol, a veteran Communist politician who gained international attention in 1989 by publicly criticizing the Romanian dictatorNicolae Ceausescu, died Saturday in Bucharest. He was 97.
His death was reported by the Romanian news media, which did not give the cause.
Mr. Apostol became a Communist in the 1930s, when the party was still illegal in Romania, and served as a close ally of the Communist leader at the time, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. After World War II, the Communists gained power, taking over the government in 1947.
Mr. Apostol served as Romania’s agriculture minister in 1953 and 1954 and as the party’s general secretary in 1954 and 1955.
After Mr. Gheorghiu-Dej died in 1965, Mr. Apostol was defeated in a contest for Communist Party leader by Mr. Ceausescu, who ended up ruling Romania for 24 years.
Mr. Apostol was soon considered Mr. Ceausescu’s rival. Acting on the advice of senior party members, he became a diplomat and served as Romania’s ambassador to Argentina in the 1970s and later as ambassador to Brazil, before returning to Romania in 1988.
Mr. Apostol gained international attention by signing the “letter of the six,” in March 1989, in which he and five other senior Communists publicly criticized Mr. Ceausescu for the first time. In the letter, they opposed his plans to destroy thousands of villages and accused him of damaging the country’s economy and reputation abroad.
The letter was broadcast on Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America. A short time later Mr. Apostol was placed under house arrest.
Mr. Apostol was released during Romania’s anti-Communist revolt in December 1989, during which Mr. Ceausescu was toppled and executed.
Soon afterward, Mr. Apostol retired from public life. He is survived by his wife and three children.