Magazine article Newsweek International

Menem on the Record : 'Even Jesus Aroused Great Hatred but Also Great Love'

Magazine article Newsweek International

Menem on the Record : 'Even Jesus Aroused Great Hatred but Also Great Love'

Article excerpt

When Argentine President Carlos Saul Menem passes the sash to his successor on Dec. 10, he will have completed an unprecedented 10 years and five months in office. He is now writing his biography and planning a series of trips abroad to speak about the last decade in Argentina. Last week he sat down with NEWSWEEK's Mac Margolis and Peter Hudson. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What have been your main accomplishments?

MENEM: We reformed the Constitution by way of total consensus. All of Argentina's reforms in the past were basically imposed from above. We completely restored relations with Great Britain after the Malvinas war. We solved our border disputes with Chile. Mercosur [the common market linking Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay] is another success.

In economics, our achievements were even greater, starting with streamlining government. All the money-losing state companies were turned over to the private sector. We totally eliminated hyperinflation, which could have meant a debacle and national convulsion. We made important advances in eliminating corruption. In almost every way we are much better off than in 1989. According to the United Nations, Argentina has risen in the category of "human development" from 106th place in 1989 to 39th today.

What have you left undone?

The only major item on the agenda that is still pending is unemployment, which is a result of the various crises. But we already have many proposals on the table and we have more than $30 billion in foreign- currency reserves. We inherited government with only $60 million! There are $80 billion in bank deposits, almost 60 percent in dollars. This has afforded us total stability.

But there is still much to be done in the way of social reforms.

All human effort is flawed, but there has never been a process of reform in Argentina like the one we set in motion in education and health care. …

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