Carlos Menem

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Carlos Saúl Menem
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Became President:1989
Predecessor:Raúl Alfonsín
Successor:Fernando de la Rúa
Date of Birth:July 2, 1930
Place of Birth:Anillaco, La Rioja

Carlos Saúl Menem (born July 2, 1930) was President of Argentina from 8 July 1989 to 10 December 1999 for the Justicialist Party (Peronist).

He was born into the Muslim family of Saúl Menem and Mohibe Akil, Syrian immigrants in the small town of Anillaco, in the Argentinian province of La Rioja.

He was trained as a lawyer at the University of Córdoba and became a supporter of Juan Domingo Perón.

Menem campaigned for political prisoners and was arrested in 1957 for supporting violent action against the dictatorship of Aramburu.

Notwithstanding his conversion to catholicism, his ties with his parents'homeland remained strong. In 1964, he travelled to Syria where he met Zulema Fátima Yoma, another Syrian-Argentinian, whom he married in 1966. He also presided the Syrian-Lebanese Association of La Rioja.

He was elected governor of La Rioja in 1973, a prominent post that left him exposed after the overthrow of President Isabel Martínez de Perón in March 1976. He was imprisoned by the junta in Tandil, Buenos Aires, until 1981.

In October 1983, with the collapse of military rule, Menem was elected once again as governor.

Campaigning as a maverick within his own party, he won the primary elections and was elected president in 1989, succeeding Raúl Alfonsín. His campaign was centered about some vague promises of 'productive revolutiuon' and 'salariazo'. He was speaking to the worker mass, the ones who had followed the Peroninst politicians faithfully, sometimes without a real analisis.

His major problem was the economy, damaged by hyperinflation and recession. Menem acted quickly: Finance minister Domingo Cavallo introduced a series of reforms and linked the peso to the US dollar. The economy improved at the cost of considerable unemployment.

In 1991 he helped the formation of the Mercosur customs union.

His rule became tainted with accusations of corruption. His handling of the investigations of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center was often criticised as being dishonest and superficial. He's suspected of deviating the investigation from the 'Iranian clue', which would lead to the responsibility of this country in the attact.

He pardoned Jorge Rafael Videla, Emilio Massera, Leopoldo Galtieri and other leaders of the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Menem had the Constitution modified in 1994 to allow him to run for office once again in 1995.

Moreover, his government reestablished relations with the United Kingdom, broken during the Falklands War.

During his presidency, his son Carlos Saúl Facundo Menem Yoma died in a flying accident. After divorcing Zulema Yoma, his remaining daughter Zulema María Eva Menem fulfilled the role of First Lady in formal occasions.

His attempt to run for a third term in 1999 was unsuccessful, as it was ruled to be unconstitutional.

In May 2001, he married Chilean model Cecilia Bolocco (Miss Universe 1987).

On June 7, 2001, Menem was arrested over an arms export scandal dating back to 1991 and 1996, and remained under house arrest until November. He appeared before a judge in late August 2002 and denied all charges.

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Carlos Menem with William Cohen and wife Janet

It was hinted that Menem held more than USD $10 million in Swiss bank accounts. However, the Swiss banks and authorities denied these allegations.

Menem garnered the greatest number of votes in the April 27, 2003, first round presidential election, but failed to get the votes necessary to win an overall majority. A second-round run-off vote between Menem and Néstor Kirchner was scheduled for May 18, 2003. Being certain that he was about to face electoral defeat, Menem decided to withdraw his candidacy, thus automatically making Kirchner the new president.

Menem and Bolocco, who had had a child in the meantime, moved to Chile. Argentine's justice has repeatedly tried to have Menem extradited to face embezzlement charges, but this has been rejected by the Chilean Supreme Court, as under Chilean law people cannot be extradicted for questioning.

In June 2004 Menem announced that he had founded a new faction within the Justicialist Party, called People's Peronism.

On December 22 2004, he returned to Argentina after his arrest warrants were cancelled. He still faces charges of embezzlement and failing to declare funds, but despite this (and opinion polls showing that he is disliked by 85% of Argentines) he has stated his ambition to run in the 2007 election.

Preceded by:
Raúl Alfonsín
President of Argentina
Succeeded by:
Fernando de la Rúa

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External links

et:Carlos Menem es:Carlos Menem fr:Carlos Saúl Menem


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