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Montevideo, December 9th 2021 - 07:54 UTC



Menem is back and promises strong opposition to Kirchner.

Wednesday, December 22nd 2004 - 20:00 UTC
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Former Argentine President Carlos Menem arrived Wednesday in his home province of La Rioja from his self-imposed Chilean exile to pursue renewed political ambitions despite a poor showing in the 2003 presidential race

The way was cleared for Mr. Menem's return after his friends posted a million-dollar bond and judges lifted arrest warrants against him for failing to appear in connection with two separate corruption cases.

Mr. Menem, 74, flew from Santiago by private plane to his political turf of La Rioja, where the security arrangements at the airport were overwhelmed by hundreds of his followers swarming the runway and surrounding the caravan waiting to transport the two times Argentine president. He was accompanied on the 70-minute flight from Santiago by his brother, Senator Eduardo Menem and one of his nephews Congressman Adrian Menem, among others.

A caravan of cars festooned with Argentine flags and placards hailing his return followed Menem to the La Rioja provincial headquarters of the Peronist Party, where he was scheduled to speak about his plans to run for president in 2007.

The former leader decided to return to Argentina following two federal judges decision to quash arrest warrants against him in connection with alleged secret Swiss bank accounts and irregularities in the construction of two prisons in Buenos Aires during his administration.

The judges had ordered Mr. Menem's arrest after he ignored several subpoenas to testify. But courts in Chile, where he has resided with his Chilean wife for the past eight months, rejected both magistrates' extradition requests.

Mr. Menem is not precisely a popular figure in Argentina according to the latest public opinion polls which indicate that 86% of his fellow countrymen disapprove of their former president's performance, according to Buenos Aires daily La Nacion.

Adrian Menem said earlier Wednesday that his uncle was "a victim of injustice" and of a "campaign of political persecution". The young Congressman added that his uncle "will be operating in La Rioja" from where he plans to organize his political comeback targeting the 2007 presidential election.

"We don't have a party president or a National Council. It's a completely anomalous situation because Mrs. Kirchner and her husband are trying to establish a political movement which is contrary to the essence of Peronism", cautioned Mr. Menem.

"Transversalism has nothing to do with our cause or our movement", insisted the former president who outlined his political agenda: primaries in the Peronist party to elect authorities; legislative elections in 2005 and presidential election in 2007. "We're determined to organize the opposition to this government which is not Peronist".

Mr. Menem won the first presidential round in April 2003 with 24% of the vote but he pulled out of the runoff when polls showed him loosing badly to now President Nestor Kirchner.

When asked if his age was not an obstacle to his candidacy in 2007, Mr. Menem compared himself to "the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, who ruled until he died at the age of 104".

But even when judges have spared him from arrest for the moment, the former chief executive still faces several legal battles.

Next week Mr. Menem will appear in federal court in Buenos Aires and he is also being investigated in connection with suspected irregularities in the sale of land in Buenos Aires and must confront a reopened probe into illegal arms sales during the 1990s.

An appeals court recently reversed the earlier dismissal of charges against Menem in the arms case.

He was under house arrest for six months in 2001 on those charges, accused of being the "head of a criminal conspiracy" responsible for illicit arms deals involving sales to conflict areas in Ecuador and Croatia. Mr. Menem was released in October of that same year after a Supreme Court dominated by his appointees ruled that there was not enough evidence implicating him in the crime.

The only President Kirchner administration official who talked about Mr. Menem's Wednesday return was Interior Minister Anibal Fernandez.

"In the most deep Aristotelian concept, he (Menem) is a political animal?he will continue involved in politics. He surely will and those who know him are certain he will do so until the end of his life or until he has the strength to do so. But, I believe there's no atmosphere for his efforts to prosper".

Categories: Mercosur.

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