Bolivian man said to be 123 years old dies in Andean village

LA PAZ Tue Jun 10, 2014 5:10pm EDT

1 of 2. Aymara Indian Carmelo Flores gestures during an interview with Reuters TV in his hometown of Frasquia, 110km (68 miles) north of La Paz, August 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David Mercado

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LA PAZ (Reuters) - An indigenous man in Bolivia whose reported age would have made him the oldest person ever known, died on Monday night in his village near Lake Titicaca, his only living son said.

Carmelo Flores, an Aymara Indian, claimed to be 123 years old. Flores carried national identity documents based on a baptism certificate showing his birthday as July 16, 1890.

But Bolivia only began issuing official birth certificates in 1940 and authorities were never able to confirm or disprove Flores' age.

"He died yesterday at nine at night," his son Cecilio Flores, who is nearly 70, said on Tuesday. "He wasn't able to stand up, his foot was swollen. Doctors told me that's how it is with diabetes."

Flores attributed his longevity to eating quinoa seeds and riverside mushrooms, and to constantly chewing coca leaves.

He lived in a straw-roofed hut in Frasquia, a 4,000-meter (13,123-feet) high Andean hamlet east of La Paz.

Flores said he fought in the 1932-35 Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, hunting skunks to nourish himself. He also briefly lived in La Paz, but never took to the bustling capital.

He spent his last years taking walks in shoes made of recycled tires and laying on a blanket watching village life go by.

The official title of the oldest person in the world who ever lived belongs to Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died at 122 years in 1997, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

(Reporting By Daniel Ramos; Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Grant McCool)

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