Carlos Menem, former president of Argentina, dies at age 90

The current president of Argentina confirmed that the nation’s former leader, Carlos Menem, has died at the age of 90, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

According to the AP, Menem was president of Argentina in the 1990s and is best known for his work revitalizing the nation’s economy — although his successes were “short-lived” — and for cementing relations between Argentina and the U.S.

The AP said Menem lived an “often flamboyant lifestyle” and had been battling an illness in the weeks leading up to his death.

Successes and controversies

Menem first assumed office in 1989 and stayed in the role for the next decade. Upon assuming power, Menem reportedly remarked, “I don’t know if I’m going to get the country out of its economic problems, but I’m sure going to make a more fun country.”

Among his notable successes was bringing Argentina closer to the United States after years of alignment with the Soviet Union.

In fact, under Menem, Argentinian troops even participated in the first Gulf War and helped in United Nations-backed humanitarian missions, the AP reported.

Of course, his time in office wasn’t without controversy. The AP said Menem faced pushback for “granting a pardon to former military junta members serving sentences of up to life in prison for crimes connected to the disappearance of Argentine dissidents during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.”

At the time, Menem defended the move as necessary, according to the Los Angeles Times. “That those who died fighting for their ideals rest in peace; that their memory not serve to divide Argentines; that their blood serve to unite us more, to create for ourselves, for our children and for our children’s children, an atmosphere of peace, of progress, of well-being promote national reconciliation and unity,” he said.

“He leaves us with memories”

Upon Menem’s death, former Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who was in office until 2019, paid tribute in a tweet. “Above all, he leaves us with memories of a good person, whom I will remember with great affection,” Macri said, according to The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Menem’s “body will lie in state at the [country’s] capitol building before being buried in an Islamic cemetery in provincial Buenos Aires.”

In the meantime, questions about what’s next for Argentina loom as the nation continues to get pummelled by the coronavirus. The pandemic hit Argentina’s economy hard, and inflation there is “nearing 40%,” according to Forbes, with the country’s debt growing.

Maybe it’s time for a new leader to step up and take Argentina into an era of prosperity it hasn’t seen in decades.

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