Menem, Carlos Saúl

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Menem, Carlos Saúl

Carlos Saúl Menem (kär´lōs säōōl´ mā´nĕm), 1930–, president of Argentina (1989–99). A Peronist (see Juan Domingo Perón), he served as governor of La Rioja (1973–76, 1983–89). Imprisoned during the 1976 coup, he was released in 1981. He won the 1989 presidential elections by appealing to the deep-rooted sentiment for Perón among the poor and the working class. In office, however, he addressed Argentina's economic crisis by reducing subsidies for the poor, controlling hyperinflation, privatizing state-owned companies, and reducing government regulation of businesses. He also reversed the policies of his predecessor, Raúl Alfonsín, pardoning military officers convicted of human-rights violations, and improved relations with Great Britain and the United States. Menem was reelected in 1995. By the end of his last term he was increasingly perceived as too flamboyant and tolerant of official corruption. In 2001, Menem was indicted on charges, later dismissed, of conspiring to smuggle arms to Croatia and Ecuador during his presidency. New charges relating to the arms sales were brought in 2007; he was acquitted in 2011, but the acquittal was overturned in 2013. Menem ran for a third term in 2003, but after winning the first round with 24% of the vote, he withdrew from the runoff when he appeared likely to lose by a landslide. He spent most of 2004 in Chile to avoid an Argentine government corruption investigation into his presidency. Elected one of La Rioja's three senators in 2005, he ran for governor of the province in 2007 but lost.

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