Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Argentina: Ex-president Kirchner dies

Nestor Kirchner, former Argentine president and husband to current head of state Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, died this morning of a heart attack.

Kirchner, who had undergone a pair of arterial procedures earlier this year, passed away in his home province of Santa Cruz despite the intervention of medical staff to revive him. The former president between 2003 and 2007 died reportedly with his wife by his side after he was rushed to a nearby hospital.

Numerous regional and world leaders sent messages of condolences to the Kirchner family and solidarity to the Argentine people. Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declared three days of mourning over the “very sad” news of Kirchner’s death. A moment of silence was held at a meeting of the Organization of American States while Uruguayan president Jose Mujica philosophically said “life goes on, but it is a reminder to everyone that life can be taken from us at any moment."

Prior to his presidency Kirchner served as Santa Cruz governor, and at the time of his death he was serving as both a congressman and as president of the UNASUR bloc. As UNASUR head he helped broker a meeting earlier this year where the Colombian and Venezuelan government agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties.

His time in the Casa Rosada was defined by overseeing Argentina’s economic recovery after a profound crisis that he blamed on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “dictatorship”. He helped bring some political stability after the country had five presidents in a tumultuous two weeks and he spearheaded justice reforms that led to human rights trials of members of the “Dirty War” junta.

His detractors, however, criticized him for consolidating political power for himself and his wife as well as his fiery speeches against figures such as political elites and the IMF. Other opponents were upset with his kirchnerismo populism that included raising the minimum wage and pensions while also increasing government control of the economy.

Kirchner was said to be a candidate in next year’s presidential elections and his death was described by The Economist as “a political cataclysm.” Argentina is a “country that seems to be condemned to living between tragedy and drama” wrote Eduardo van der Kooy in regarding the nation’s unsure political future.

Kirchner’s body will be in view at a public wake on Thursday at the Casa Rosada presidential palace, reportedly the first time this will be done for a former president.

Image- Al Jazeera English
Online Sources- The Telegraph,, El Universal, BBC News,, BusinessWeek, The Guardian, The Economist

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