A former Colombian presidential candidate who became an icon of the country*s democratic left while presiding over its progressive constitutional court has died.

Carlos Gaviria died Tuesday night at age 77, two weeks after checking into a Bogota hospital with a respiratory infection.

President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed Gaviria*s death on Twitter, saying the jurist's passing represents "an enormous loss for the country."

A longtime law professor, Gaviria was appointed to the high court after Colombia's constitution was revised in 1991 and he presided over a number of landmark cases, including the decriminalization of possessing small amounts of drugs.

He entered then electoral politics, and as presidential candidate in 2006 for the Alternative Democratic Pole party secured more votes than any leftist candidate had until then.