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Carlos Sa√ļl Menem (born July 2, 1930) is an Argentine politician who was President of Argentina from July 8, 1989 to December 10, 1999.

Early life

Carlos Sa√ļl Menem Akil was born in 1930 in Anillaco, a small town in the mountainous north of La Rioja Province, Argentinamarker. His parents were immigrants from Syriamarker-Ottoman Empire, and as a young man, he joined his father as a traveling salesman dealing in feed and sundry items. Menem enrolled in the National University of Cordobamarker, and received a juris doctor in 1955. As a Law student, he became a vocal Peronist, and after President Juan Per√≥n's overthrow that year, he was briefly incarcerated. He later joined the Peronist Party's successor, the Justicialist Party, and was elected President of its La Rioja Province chapter, in 1963.

Governor of la Rioja

Menem after his 1973 victory.
Governor Menem in 1983.

1st term (1973-1976)

Menem 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. Having been close to La Rioja Bishop Enrique Angelelli (a Third World Priest opposed by much of Argentina's conservative Roman Catholic Church), he was imprisoned by the military junta in Formosa Province until 1981, reportedly tortured in the process.

2nd and 3rd terms (1983-1989)

In October 1983, with the collapse of military rule, Menem was elected once again as Governor of La Rioja, and reelected in 1987. During this second turn at the Governor's desk, Menem implemented generous corporate tax exemptions, attracting the first sizable presence of light manufacturing his province had ever seen. The pragmatic Governor Menem, nevertheless, kept provincial payrolls well-padded.


The 1989 election

Campaigning as a maverick within his own party, he defeated longtime Peronist leader Antonio Cafiero in the 1988 primary elections and was elected President on May 14, 1989, succeeding Ra√ļl Alfons√≠n. His campaign was centered on vague promises of a "productive revolution" and a "salariazo" (jargon for big salary increases), aimed at the working class, the traditional constituents of the Peronist Party. Jacques de Mahieu, a French ideologue of the Peronist movement (and former Vichymarker Collaborationist), was photographed campaigning for Menem.


Presidential inaugural, July 8, 1989.
Menem assumed duties in the midst of a major economic crisis which included hyperinflation and recession. After a failed stabilization program sponsored by Bunge y Born (a leading agribusiness firm), and another one involving the conversion of time deposits into government bonds, newly-appointed Finance Minister Domingo Cavallo introduced a series of reforms in 1991 and pegged the value of the Argentine peso to the U.S. dollar. This Convertibility Plan was followed by a wholesale privatization of utilities (including the oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), the post office, telephone, gas, electricity and water utilities). A massive influx of foreign direct investment funds helped tame inflation (from 5,000% a year in 1989 to single digits by 1993) and improved long-stagnant productivity, though at the cost of considerable unemployment.

Menem's successful turnaround of the economy made the country one of the top performers of the developing countries in the world. Argentina's GDP (below 1973 levels when Menem took office) increased 35% from 1990 to 1994 and physical investment, by 150%. Negotiations with Brazilmarker resulted in the Mercosur customs union, in March 1991, and on November 14, he addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress, being one of only three Argentine presidents who had that distinction (together with Ra√ļl Alfons√≠n and Arturo Frondizi). Menem was reelected to the presidency by a large majority in the 1995 elections.

The early success of the dollar peg (when the dollar was falling) was followed by increasing economic difficulties when the dollar began to rise from 1995 onwards in international markets. High external debt also caused increasing problems as financial crises affecting other countries (the Tequila Crisis in Mexico, the East Asian financial crisis, the Russian financial crisis in 1998) led to higher interest rates for Argentina as well. At the end of his term, Argentina's country risk premium was a low 6.10 percentage points above yield on comparable U.S. Treasuries.
Presidents Menem and Clinton share a laugh during the 1994 Summit of the Americas.
Some years after the end of Menem's term, the combination of fixed-rate convertibility and high fiscal deficits proved unsustainable, despite massive loan support from the International Monetary Fundmarker, and had to be abandoned in 2002, with disastrous effects on the Argentine economy.


Menem's presidency became tainted with accusations of corruption. His handling of the investigations of the 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center was often criticised as being dishonest and superficial. He is suspected of diverting the investigation from the "Iranian clue", which would lead to the responsibility of that country in the attack.

Menem's government re-established relations with the United Kingdommarker, suspended since the Falklands War, within months of taking office. He also earned plaudits for resolving territorial disputes with neighboring Chilemarker, and during his administration, over 20 border issues with Chile - including the arbitration of the especially serious Laguna del Desierto dispute - were peacefully solved.
Carlos Menem in 1999.
In 1994, after a political agreement (the Olivos Pact) with the Radical Civic Union party leader, former president Ra√ļl Alfons√≠n, Menem succeeded in having the Constitution modified to allow presidential re-election, so that he could run for office once again in 1995. The new Constitution, however, introduced decisive checks and balances to presidential power. It made the Mayor of Buenos Airesmarker an elective position (previously the office belonged to a presidential appointee and was in control of a huge budget), to be lost to the opposition in 1996; the president of the Central Bankmarker and the Director of the AFIP (Agencia Federal de Ingreso P√ļblico meaning Federal Tax & Customs Central Agency) could only be removed with the Congressmarker's approval. It also created the ombudsman position, as well as a board to propose new judicial candidates.

One of the most criticized measures of his administration was the pardon he granted on December 29, 1990 to Jorge Rafael Videla, Emilio Massera, Leopoldo Galtieri and other leaders of the National Reorganization Process (the 1976‚Äď1983 dictatorship), and some guerrilla leaders as well, on the grounds of "national reconciliation". This action sparked a protest of nearly 50,000 people in Buenos Aires. Former president Ra√ļl Alfons√≠n called it "the saddest day in Argentine history". His neoliberal policies were also criticized by the left side of Argentine political spectrum and by some in the Catholic Church, and gave rise to the Piquetero movement of unemployed workers.

With regards to the military, Menem ordered the forceful repression of a politically-motivated uprising on December 3, 1990, and thus ended the military's involvement in the country's political life. Menem also effected drastic cuts to the military budget, and appointed Lt. Gen. Martín Balza as the Army's General Chief of Staff (head of the military hierarchy); Balza, a man of strong democratic convictions and a vocal critic of the Falklands War, had stood up for the legitimate government in every attempted coup d'état throughout his senior career, and gave the first institutional self-criticism about the Armed Forces' involvement in the 1976 coup and the ensuing reign of terror. Following the brutal death of a conscript, Menem abolished conscription in 1994, decisively ending a military prerogative over society and its self-perceived role as an institution that it "made men out of boys."


Office Holder
President Carlos Menem
Vicepresident Eduardo Duhalde (1989-91)
Carlos Ruckauf (1995-99)
Chief of Cabinet of Ministry Eduardo Bauza (1995-96)
Jorge Alberto Rodríguez (1996-99)
Ministry of the Interior Eduardo Bauza (1989-90)

Julio Mera Figueroa (1990-91)

José Luis Manzano (1991-92)

Gustavo Béliz (1992-93)

Carlos Ruckauf (1993-95)

Carlos Corach (1995-99)
[Ministry of Foreign Affairs Domingo Cavallo (1989-91)

Guido di Tella (1991-99)
Ministry of Defense √ćtalo Argentino L√ļder (1989)

Humberto Romero (1989-90)

Guido di Tella (1990-91)

Antonio Erman Gonz√°lez (1991-93)

Oscar Camilión(1993-96)
Jorge Domínguez (1996-99)
Ministry of the Economy Miguel √Āngel Roig (1989)

Néstor Rapanelli (1989)

Antonio Erman Gonz√°lez (1989-91)

Domingo Cavallo (1991-96)
Roque Fern√°ndez (1996-99)
Ministry of Social Security León Arslanian (1989-90)

Jorge Maiorano (1990-93)

Rodolfo Barra (1993-94)

Elías Jassán (1994-98)
Ra√ļl Granillo Ocampo (1998-99)
Ministry of Work Jorge Triaca (1989-92)

Rodolfo Díaz (1992-93)

Enrique Rodríguez (1993-97)

José Armando Caro Figueroa (1997-99)
Ministry of Social Assistance
and Public Health
Julio Corzo (1989-93)

Antonio Erman Gonz√°lez (1993)

Eduardo Bauza (1993-95)

Alberto Kohan (1995-96)

Avelino Porto (1996-98)

Julio César Aráoz (1998)

Alberto Mazza (1998-99)
Ministry of Education and Culture Antonio Salonia (1989-94)

Jorge Alberto Rodríguez (1994-98)

Susana Decibe (1998-99)
Ministry of Public Services Roberto Dromi

Continuing political career

Menem's attempt to run for a third term in 1999 was unsuccessful, as it was ruled to be unconstitutional. Opposition candidate Fernando de la R√ļa defeated Eduardo Duhalde, the nominee of Menem's party, and succeeded Menem as President.

Menem tried again four years later, winning the greatest number of votes, 24%, in the first round of the April 27, 2003 presidential election. This was far from the 45% required for election (or 40% if the margin of victory is 10 or more percentage points), and so a second-round run-off vote between Menem and second-place finisher Néstor Kirchner, who had gotten 22%, was scheduled for May 18. Certain that he was about to face a resounding electoral defeat, Menem withdrew his candidacy on May 14, thus automatically making Kirchner the new president-elect.

In June 2004 Menem announced that he had founded a new faction within the Justicialist Party, called People's Peronism, and stated his ambition to run in the 2007 election.

In 2005, the press reported that he was trying to make an alliance with his former Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo to fight in the parliamentary elections. The alliance was apparently frustrated; Menem said that there had been only preliminary conversations. In the 23 October elections, Menem won the minority seat in the Senate representing his province of birth. This was viewed as a catastrophic defeat, signaling the end of his political dominance in La Rioja, since the two senators for the majority were won by President Kirchner's faction, locally led by former Menemist governor √Āngel Maza. It was the first time in 30 years that Menem lost an election.

Menem ran for Governor of La Rioja in August 2007, but was defeated, receiving third place with about 22% of the vote. Following this defeat in his home province, he withdrew his candidacy for president.

Corruption charges

On June 7, 2001, Menem was arrested over an arms export scandal relating to exports to Ecuadormarker and Croatiamarker in 1991 and 1996, and remained under house arrest until November. He appeared before a judge in late August 2002 and denied all charges. 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 and his second wife Cecilia Bolocco, who had had a child since their marriage in 2001, moved to Chilemarker. Argentine judicial authorities repeatedly requested Menem's extradition to face embezzlement charges, but this was rejected by the Chilean Supreme Court, as under Chilean law people cannot be extradited for questioning.

On December 22, 2004, he returned to Argentinamarker after his arrest warrants were cancelled. He still faces charges of embezzlement and failing to declare illegal funds outside of Argentinamarker.

In August 2008, it was announced Menem was under investigation for his role in the 1995 Río Tercero explosion, which is alleged to have been part of the arms scandal involving Croatia and Ecuador.

In December 2008, the Germanmarker multinational Siemens agreed to pay an $800 million fine to the United Statesmarker government, and approximately ‚ā¨700 million to the German government, to settle allegations of bribery. The settlement revealed that Menem received about US$2 million in bribes from Siemens in exchange for awarding the national ID card and passport production contract to Siemens; Menem denied the charges.


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