Omar Bongo, who ruled the small African nation of Gabon for 41 years, died Monday in Spain at age 73.

Bongo was Africa’s longest-serving ruler. He become immensely wealthy in a nation that struggled with widespread poverty.

Bongo died in a Barcelona hospital from cardiac arrest, the Gabonese government announced Monday. His government repeatedly had denied that he had serious health problems.

Bongo came to power in 1967, when Lyndon B. Johnson was president, and crushed dissent, opposition and curtailed the press. According to the New York Time, he presided over an oil boom that fueled an extravagant lifestyle for him and his family. He owned dozens of luxurious properties in and around Paris, built a $500 million presidential palace and owned a feet of fine cars.

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