Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa, the internationally acclaimed "voice of the voiceless ones" whose criticism of South America's military regimes led to her exile to Europe, died Sunday in Buenos Aires. She was 74. The three-time Latin Grammy-winner recorded more than 70 albums through the decades, and was best known for her transcendent rendition of the song "Gracias a la Vida," written by Violeta Parra of Chile. She had been in the hospital for two weeks, suffering from liver damage and other ailments, according to the Associated Press. Today, she lay in repose at the National Congress of Argentina, where thousands of people came to pay their respects. Affectionately nicknamed "La Negra" by her fans for her long, black hair and mix of Indian and French ancestry, Sosa sang songs sympathetic to Communist opponents of military dictatorships such as that of Argentina's Jorge Videla in the mid 1970s. In 1979, she and about 200 students were arrested during a performance in La Plata. Under international pressure, the Videla regime let her go with a small fine of about $1,000. But she left the country, fearing for her life. "I knew I had to leave," Sosa told the Associated Press. "I was being threatened by the Triple A (a right-wing death squad that terrorized suspected dissidents during the 1976-83 military junta). The people from the navy, the secret services were following me." She spent several years in Spain and France, and returned to her native land in 1982, just several months before the collapse of the regime due to the Falklands War against the U.K. Her most recent album, "Cantora 1," was nominated two weeks ago for three Latin Grammys, including album of the year and best folk album, according to the New York Daily News.
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