Former Argentina president Carlos Menem, who forged close ties with the U.S. and delivered short-time economic stability in the 1990s, has died. Menem often enjoyed a flamboyant lifestyle.
The lawyer from one of the poorest provinces in Argentina, regarded by critics as a playboy, drove Argentina toward a free-market economy favoured by investors and envied by neighbours. Menem’s achievements, however, coincided with surging foreign debt, economic inequality and unemployment.
Menem was also highly flexible as a politician, starting his career as a disciple of Gen. Juan Domingo Peron. The latter formed the populist movement that carries his name and put the economy under state control. Between 1989 and 1999, he served two terms as a president and transformed the nation.
“I don’t know if I would be able to steer the country out of its economic instability, but I will try my best to make it a more fun country,” Menem said. He enjoyed the company of celebrities, hosting Madonna and the Rolling Stones in Buenos Aires. Once faced a lot of hate after getting a red Ferrari as a gift from a European businessman in 1992.
“It’s mine and only mine,” he said on television. He was a big auto racing fan.
Years later, he hesitantly agreed to sell the car for $135,000, with the money going to state affairs.
He got the Peronist Party nomination and won the presidential elections in 1989, taking advantage of social and economic chaos in Argentina. The poor were raiding supermarkets to obtain food, and the country was sinking in 5,000% annual inflation.