Former Argentine President Carlos Menem died on February 14 at the Los Arcos Sanatorium in Palermo. He was 90 years old.
He served as the country’s president for 10 years, between 1989 and 1999.
Carlos Menem was a politician known for his dashing good looks and extravagant lifestyle.
He was a far cry from the military dictators he preceded and a throwback to the glamour of his political hero, Juan Perón.
After years of political instability Menem hoped to rescue Argentina from economic abyss, restoring its financial prosperity by seducing it away from isolationism and protectionism.
He opened the country to foreign investment, re-established relations with Britain and shifted its antagonistic relationship with the United States to one of almost unconditional support.
However, Carlos Menem’s administration was battered by financial scandal, rampant corruption, spiraling unemployment and irresponsible borrowing which sowed the seeds for a further, catastrophic economic collapse shortly after he left office.
Carlos Saúl Menem was born on July 2, 1930, in Anillaco – a small town in the north west of Argentina.
His parents were both immigrants from Syria. Born a Muslim, he became a Roman Catholic in his youth, but retained strong ties to his parents’ homeland.
After studying law at the University of Córdoba, Carlos Menem became active in the campaign to free political prisoners and was a supporter of the country’s former authoritarian president, Juan Perón.
In 1956, the year after Juan Perón was toppled in a military coup, Carlos Menem was arrested for attempting to foment violent opposition to the government and was briefly imprisoned. The following year he formed a provincial branch of the Peronist Youth movement.
Carlos Menem was elected as the local representative for his region in 1962, but yet another military coup prevented him from taking his seat. He travelled to Spain, where he met the exiled Perón, who gave Menem his blessing and predicted him a great future.
He was imprisoned by the military junta, this time for two years – accused of corruption and links with guerrilla movements. He was banished from the capital and restrictions placed on his political involvement until Argentina’s defeat in the Falklands and the collapse of the regime of Gen Leopoldo Galtieri.
With the country’s economy in tatters and the annual rate of inflation running at 5,000%, Carlos Menem’s government faced a crisis from the start.
He set out to convince the international financial community that he was capable of turning his country’s fortunes around. He pegged the peso to the US dollar, privatized public utilities and introduced a more market-based economy – a far cry from Peronism.
Additional foreign investment gave the country a much needed financial boost, reducing inflation and increasing output, but it came at the cost of mass unemployment.
Even so, Carlos Menem was re-elected in 1995 after he had amended the constitution to allow a second presidential term. But the glitz and glamour of the jet-setting, philandering, sports-mad president could not mask increasing problems with the economy.
He was close to both US President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. He was invited to address a joint session of the US Congress and helped to found Mercosur, the South American customs union.
Hundreds of thousands of Argentines have rallied in Buenos Aires to mark one month since the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
The protest was called by federal prosecutors and attended by Alberto Nisman’s family and opposition politicians.
They defied torrential rain to demand justice for Alberto Nisman, who had been investigating the government.
Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in his apartment on 18 January.
It is still not clear whether he killed himself or was murdered.
Alberto Nisman was investigating Argentina’s deadliest terrorist attack, the 1994 bombing of the Amia Jewish centre.
The silent march was called by prosecutors demanding a full investigation.
Alberto Nisman’s ex-wife, federal judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, and their two daughters joined the demonstration, which lasted nearly two hours.
Similar protests took place across the country.
Argentines living in Spain, France, Israel and other countries also gathered to demand justice for Alberto Nisman.
Officials have denounced the march as a political move to weaken the government.
Alberto Nisman was found with a bullet wound to the head and a gun was lying next to him.
Days earlier, he had published a 300-page report in which he accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman of covering up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing.
His body was found just hours before he was due to appear before a congressional committee to present more details of his allegations.
News of Alberto Nisman’s death and its timing led to speculation among some Argentines that the government may have played a role in it.
The government has strongly denied both allegations.
In an open letter published on her website, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner suggested rogue intelligence agents had fed Alberto Nisman false information in order to destabilize her government.
She also said she was convinced Alberto Nisman’s death was not suicide.
Days later, the president announced she planned to dissolve Argentina’s intelligence service, SI.
Critics said the move was aimed at diverting attention away from Alberto Nisman’s death.
According to one of his colleagues, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died in unexplained circumstances, borrowed a gun because he did not trust the police protecting him.
Diego Lagomarsino lent Alberto Nisman a gun the day before he was found shot dead.
Alberto Nisman was about to testify about alleged attempts to cover up Iranian involvement in a bombing in 1994.
Prosecutors have yet to establish if he committed suicide or was killed. He will be buried on January 29.
Alberto Nisman had been due to appear in Congress to publicly accuse President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of being behind an attempt to hide the alleged involvement of Iranian suspects in the Jewish centre bombing, which killed 85 people.
He was found dead in his apartment on January 18.
On January 28, Alberto Nisman was mourned at a private wake. He will be buried on January 29 at a Jewish cemetery in La Tablada, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Diego Lagomarsino, a computer specialist and long-time acquaintance of Alberto Nisman, lent him the gun that killed him.
He told a news conference that Alberto Nisman had told him he “feared for the safety of his daughters”.
“I told him, <<Look this (gun) is old, it’s an old weapon… I don’t know if you will be able to protect yourself with it>>.
“He said to me, <<Don’t worry, it’s to have in the glove box just in case a crazy person with a stick comes up and says I am a traitor>>.”
Diego Lagomarsino, the last person to see Alberto Nisman alive, said he showed him how to load and unload the gun, but the prosecutor had assured him he would not use it.
But he added that Alberto Nisman had told him: “I don’t even trust my security detail.”
Diego Lagomarsino has been charged with giving a firearm to someone who was not the registered owner – the only person to be charged in the case so far.
Alberto Nisman’s security chief has been suspended and is under investigation along with two other members of his guard.
Ruben Benitez had co-ordinated a security team of 10 officers to protect Alberto Nisman.
Police say the team broke with protocol by remaining out of contact with Alberto Nisman for several hours on the day of his death and failing to report to their superiors.
In a national address on January 26 and in two letters, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner accused former intelligence agents of manipulating Alberto Nisman to bring charges against her.
She suggested he was killed to increase the damage to her.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced plans to disband Argentina’s intelligence services and replace them with a new agency.
Investigators have said they believe Alberto Nisman committed suicide, but have classified his death as suspicious because they could not rule out murder or an “induced suicide”.
Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner says she is convinced the death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman was not suicide.
Alberto Nisman, 51, was found shot dead in his apartment on January 18.
The prosecutor probing Alberto Nisman’s death said it appeared to be suicide.
In a letter published on January 22, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner cast doubt on that theory.
Alberto Nisman had been investigating the 1994 deadly bombing of a Jewish centre.
Eighty-five people died in the bombing in Buenos Aires. It was Argentina’s worst terrorist attack.
Days prior to his death, Alberto Nisman had accused Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman of involvement in a plot to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing on the seven-storey AMIA community centre.
He died just hours before he was due to give details of his allegations to a congressional committee.
Alberto Nisman based his allegations on intercepted conversations which seem to suggest Argentine intelligence officers tried to whitewash the Iranian suspects in the 1994 bombing.
In a 300-page report, Alberto Nisman alleged that after years of tension caused by the 1994 bombing, the government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was keen to improve ties with Iran in order to trade Argentine grain for badly needed oil.
Government spokesman Anibal Fernandez dismissed the allegations on January 21 as “absolutely feeble”.
In a letter published on her Twitter account, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said Alberto Nisman had been provided with “false information” and that the spies he quoted were not really spies at all but had misled him deliberately.
She also referred to his death as “the suicide (I’m convinced) was no suicide”.
Investigating prosecutor Viviane Fein had said on January 19 that there had been “no intervention” from others in Alberto Nisman’s death.
The prosecutor said the bullet found lodged in his head had been fired at close range from the gun which had been found lying next to Alberto Nisman’s body.
Viviane Fein added that the apartment’s door had been locked from the inside and that the key was in the lock.
She said there was no evidence of any outside “intervention”, although she did not rule out the possibility that Alberto Nisman had been “induced” to kill himself.
Relatives and friends of Alberto Nisman, who had spoken to him in the days prior to his death, said he appeared confident and in good spirits, although he did mention receiving threats.
Media speculation about whether Alberto Nisman’s death was a suicide has been mounting as new statements and evidence emerge.
On January, it was revealed that a test failed to detect any gunshot residue on Alberto Nisman’s hands.
While Viviane Fein said that the negative result could be due to the small caliber of the gun, it reignited suspicion that Alberto Nisman did not pull the trigger.
Remarks made by the locksmith who was called to gain access to Alberto Nisman’s flat further fuelled speculation.
The man, who only gave his name as Walter, described how it had taken him only two minutes to get in.
He said that the service door “was closed but not locked” and that it had been easy to “simply push the key” which was on the inside with the help of a wire.
“If someone entered or not, I don’t know,” he added.
Apart from the locked main door and the service door, investigators have found a third way into the apartment.
They said a narrow corridor housing air conditioning equipment linked Alberto Nisman’s apartment to that of a neighbor.
Recent footprints and fingerprints found inside the corridor are currently being tested.
Argentine federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner last week of a cover-up has been found dead at his home in the capital, Buenos Aires.
Alberto Nisman was investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in which 85 people died.
On January 14, he accused Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of involvement in a plot to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing.
The president’s spokesman dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous”.
Alberto Nisman, 51, was found dead by his mother in the bathroom of his home.
The Security Ministry released a statement saying that Alberto Nisman’s bodyguards had raised the alarm after he failed to answer their phone calls on January 18.
Concerned about his welfare, they fetched Alberto Nisman’s mother and tried to enter his apartment, the statement said.
They found the door locked from the inside with a key still stuck inside.
After a locksmith gained access, they found Alberto Nisman’s body in the bathroom.
According to the statement, a gun and a cartridge shell were found next to his body.
Alberto Nisman was due to give evidence at a congressional committee hearing on January 19 to outline his accusations against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and other officials.
He had published a 300-page report on January 14 alleging that the president and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had opened a secret back channel to Iranians suspected of involvement in the bombing of the community centre.
Alberto Nisman alleged that the scheme was intended to clear the Iranian suspects in order to facilitate a trade deal between Iran and Argentina.
He said that he had issued a request that a judge question the president and the foreign minister “for being authors and accomplices of an aggravated cover-up and obstruction of justice regarding the Iranians accused of the AMIA [Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association] terrorist attack”.
The car bombing of the seven-storey building was the worst terrorist attack in Argentina’s history.
In 2007, Argentine prosecutors accused Iran of planning and financing the attack, and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of carrying it out.
Iran dismissed the allegations as “baseless”.
So far, no-one has been convicted in connection with the AMIA attack.
Last July, at events marking the 20th anniversary of the bombing, Pope Francis demanded justice for the victims.
Argentina has banned Procter & Gamble (P&G) from doing business in the country, accusing the company of tax fraud.
A statement on the presidential website, published on November 2, said P&G had inflated the price of imports by $138 million in an effort to get money out of the South American country.
Argentina also accused the company of attempting to avoid taxes.
P&G said it was working to understand and resolve the allegations.
Argentina has banned Procter and Gamble from doing business in the country, accusing the company of tax fraud
“We don’t pursue aggressive tax/fiscal planning practices as they simply don’t produce sustainable results,” said P&G spokesman Paul Fox.
The alleged fraud involves shipments of razors and other hygiene products.
The statement, published on behalf of Argentina’s Federal Administration of Public Revenue (AFIP), added that details of the alleged fraud have been sent to its counterpart in the US – the Securities and Exchange Commission.
P&G has been operating in Argentina since 1991 and currently runs three manufacturing plants and two distribution centers in the country.
New York Judge Thomas Griesa has ruled that the Republic of Argentina is in contempt of court for refusing to obey an order to repay the debt it owes to two US hedge funds.
Argentina has been mired in a US court dispute with the funds, which bought the country’s debt at a discount after its default in 2001.
In July, Judge Thomas Griesa ruled that Argentina must repay the funds before it can repay other bondholders.
Argentina refused, sending the country into default.
On September 29, Argentina’s ambassador to the US warned in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that if the country was found to be in contempt of court, it would represent “unlawful interference” in Argentina’s domestic affairs.
And in a strong statement, the Argentine Foreign Ministry in Buenos Aires said Judge Thomas Griesa’s ruling “violates international law” and “has no practical effect other than to provide new elements helpful to the slanderous political and media campaign conducted by vulture funds against Argentina”.
Argentina has been found in contempt of court for refusing to obey an order to repay the debt it owes to two US hedge funds
The statement added: “Griesa holds the sad record of being the first judge to declare a sovereign state in contempt for paying a debt, after failing in his attempt to block the restructuring of the foreign debt of Argentina.”
Judge Thomas Griesa said he would decide on a penalty at a later date.
After Argentina defaulted on about $100 billion of debt in 2001, the country negotiated a settlement with the majority of its bondholders to repay a certain portion of the amount owed.
Some bondholders accepted swaps for lesser-valued bonds but were not paid interest on those bonds.
However, two hedge funds – NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management – have demanded full repayment of the $1.5 billion they are owed, and have sued to prevent Argentina from paying back only its restructured bonds.
Argentina has refused, saying that they are “vulture funds”, and has attempted to enact legislation to skirt Judge Thomas Griesa’s ruling.
This has left two banks in New York – Bank of New York Mellon and Citigroup – with millions of dollars on hold that Argentina had planned to pay in interest to holders of its renegotiated debt.
Three relatives of Pope Francis have been killed when their car slammed into the back of a truck on a highway in central Argentina, the Vatican’s official broadcasting service said on Tuesday.
Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Bergoglio, who was driving the car was in serious condition following the accident just after midnight on Monday. Emanuel Bergoglio’s wife, 35, and two children aged 2 years and 8 months died.
Three relatives of Pope Francis have been killed in a car crash in Argentina
“The pope has been informed and is deeply grieved by the tragic news. He asks all those who share his pain to join with him in prayer,” said a statement on the website of Radio Vaticana.
The driver of the grains truck, Raul Pombo, told local television stations he felt the impact and found Emanuel Bergoglio’s vehicle wedged under the rear of his vehicle.
“I began stopping passing cars to ask for their fire extinguishers because the car was on fire,” Raul Pombo said.
The region’s highway patrol chief, Jorge Rainieri, called the impact “powerful” and TV pictures showed the mangled wreckage of the compact car. The accident occurred in Argentina’s central Cordoba province.
Argentina is blaming the US for its debt default, calling the mediator in failed talks “incompetent”.
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said Argentina was considering opening proceedings at international tribunals in The Hague after it was declared to be in technical default.
The announcement came just hours after last-minute talks in New York with a group of bond-holders failed.
The bond-holders are demanding a full pay-out of $1.3 billion.
Argentina says the bond-holders are “vultures” using the South American country’s debt problems to make a big profit.
The investors are US hedge funds that bought debt cheaply after Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001-2002.
Argentina is blaming the US for its debt default
They are also known as “hold-outs” because they did not sign up to a restructuring of debt which the majority of bond-holders agreed to in 2005 and 2010.
Under that deal, investors agreed to settle for about one-third of what they were originally owed.
However, hedge funds NML and Aurelius Capital Management bought up a large chunk of the remaining distressed debt at low prices.
They demand to be paid the full face value of their holding.
Jorge Capitanich said Argentina would denounce the “vulture funds” before the International Court of Justice at The Hague and the UN General Assembly.
He said the US was to blame for its “shameful” handling of the funds’ case against Argentina.
“The responsibility lies with a state, that of the United States of America,” he said in a news conference at the presidential palace.
Jorge Capitanich accused the US of “not acting in an adequate manner”.
The Argentine government had expected the dispute to go all the way to the US Supreme Court, which would have bought the country more time.
In June, the Supreme Court declined to hear Argentina’s appeal against the decision of a lower court that made it liable for the money.
Under that court’s ruling, Argentina cannot use the US financial system to keep paying the restructured bondholders unless it also pays the “vulture funds”, placing it in technical default.
However, Jorge Capitanich denied the country was in default at all, arguing that it has the money to pay the interest that became due to the restructured bondholders on June 30 but that it was barred from doing so by the court’s ruling.
He suggested that holders of its performing debt demand their money from the US judge who blocked the June 30 interest payment.
Jorge Capitanich also suggested one way out of the impasse would be for a third party to buy out the hold-out investors.
He said that move would allow them to side-step a clause that was seen as a major stumbling block on the way to a deal.
The clause, known as RUFO (rights on future offers) states that Argentina cannot favor the hold-outs over those who accepted the restructuring deals.
Jorge Capitanich also said that in the meantime Argentina would maintain its policies to stimulate the economy.
Ratings agency S & P declared Argentina in default after the government missed a deadline for paying interest on $13 billion of restructured bonds.
Argentina has defaulted on its debt for the second time in 13 years after last-minute talks in New York with a group of bond-holders ended in failure.
So-called “vulture fund” investors were demanding a full pay-out of $1.3 billion on bonds they hold.
Argentina has said it cannot afford to do so, and has accused them of using its debt problems to make a big profit.
A US judge had set a deadline of 04:00 GMT on Thursday for a deal. The crisis stems from Argentina’s 2001 default.
Late on Wednesday evening, Argentina’s Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said the investors had rejected the government’s latest offer.
Argentina has defaulted on its debt for the second time in 13 years after last-minute talks in New York with a group of bond-holders ended in failure
“Unfortunately, no agreement was reached and the Republic of Argentina will imminently be in default,” Daniel Pollack, the court-appointed mediator in the case, said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
The fresh default is not expected to affect Argentina’s economy in the same way it did in 2001, when dozens were killed in street protests and the authorities froze savers’ accounts to halt a run on the banks.
“The full consequences of default are not predictable, but they certainly are not positive,” Daniel Pollack said.
Speaking at a news conference in New York, Axel Kicillof said Argentina would not do anything illegal.
The investors, also known as “hold-outs”, are US hedge funds that bought debt cheaply after Argentina’s economic crisis.
They never agreed to the restructuring accepted by the majority of bond-holders.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has described as vultures the minority bond-holders – including Aurelius Capital Management and NML Capital.
She accuses them of taking advantage of Argentina’s debt problems to make large profits.
S&P noted that it could revise the rating if Argentina were to find some way to make the payments.
The hedge funds are demanding Argentina make interest payments on debt which it defaulted on in 2001, even though it was bought at less than face value.
The US courts have blocked payments to other bondholders who agreed a separate deal with Argentina, until agreement with the “hold-outs” is reached.
Axel Kicillof said he planned to return to Argentina after the news conference, saying the country would do what is needed to deal with what he called an unfair situation.
Germany’s soccer team were crowned world champions for the fourth time as Mario Gotze’s extra-time winner beat Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil.
Substitute Mario Gotze controlled Andre Schurrle’s cross with his chest before volleying in with seven minutes left.
Both sides wasted chances in normal time, Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi both dragging wide.
Germany’s soccer team were crowned world champions for the fourth time at World Cup 2014 (photo AP)
Benedikt Howedes hit the Argentine post with a header late in the first half, but Mario Gotze sparked German celebrations.
Mario Gotze became the first substitute to score the winner in a World Cup final.
More than 250,000 German fans are estimated to have watched their country’s win at Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate.
More than 25,000 police, soldiers and firefighters ensured there was tight security around the Maracana stadium ahead of kick-off. Brazilian authorities said it was Rio de Janeiro’s largest ever security operation.
Thousands of supporters packed on to Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach to watch the match on big screens.
Shakira, who is the partner of Barcelona and Spain defender Gerard Pique, performed some of her most recognizable hits at the World Cup 2014 closing ceremony ahead of final kick-off.
The World Cup 2014 final was also watched by Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In an unauthorized biography of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, author Lindner Franco tells about lovers, bookmarks, money, business and power are the ingredients that make up the life of a woman of character, personality, and these same characteristics are repeated in men who choose politics.
Lindner Franco’s Los Amores de Cristina (The Lovers of Cristina) is also presenting a dialogue between Vice President Amado Boudou and banker Jorge Brito, to which the President was so convinced he was behind a run on currencies to collapse the peso.
The rumors about a possible romance between Amado Boudou and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner ran like wildfire in Buenos Aires
“Tell the president that I have nothing to do with that,” says the banker to Amado Boudou.
“Do not be problem. I talk to the mommy and I solve it” Amado Boudou responds.
But the phones were tapped and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner heard the dialogue; it was “the beginning of the end for Boudou”.
“The rumors about a possible romance between the number 1 and number 2 of the Government ran like wildfire in Buenos Aires.”
“The governor of Chaco province Jorge <<Coqui>> Capitanich was convinced he would be chosen to accompany Cristina as vice president in elections. He learned a couple of hours before the president made the announcement that it would be Boudou.”
Jorge Capitanich confided to a journalist: “That’s very disappointed. The policy makes sense. Boudou as VP doesn’t, it’s another thing.”
Amado Boudou is now being charged in a corruption case. He is suspected of using his influence when he was economy minister to ensure that a contract to print Argentina’s currency was awarded to a company he allegedly controlled.
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