Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Argentine Ex-Leader Dies; Political Impact Is Murky

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on October 28, 2010

by Alexei Barrionuevo for The New York Times, October 27th, 2010.

Néstor Kirchner, the former president of Argentina who led his country out of a crippling economic crisis before being succeeded by his wife, died unexpectedly early Wednesday, apparently of a heart attack, opening a period of intense political uncertainty in the nation.

After complaining of flu symptoms Tuesday night, Mr. Kirchner, 60, lost consciousness early Wednesday and was rushed to a hospital in El Calafate, a town in the southern Argentine province of Santa Cruz. Doctors there pronounced him dead at 9:15 a.m. local time, according to an official in Mr. Kirchner’s inner circle.

Luis Buonomo, the presidential doctor, said Mr. Kirchner died from sudden cardiac arrest, according to reports in Argentine newspapers. He had undergone two procedures in the past year to clear arterial blockages, the most recent in September.

Mr. Kirchner’s death, coming on a national holiday to conduct the census, throws next year’s elections and the presidency of his wife and political partner, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, into a sudden state of flux. Not only did Mr. Kirchner and his popularity as president help her be elected, but he also exercised substantial influence behind the scenes of her government, playing a hands-on role in the running of the economy and recently serving as the head of their Peronist party.

Together they formed one of the world’s most powerful political couples, dubbed the “penguins” for Mr. Kirchner’s close association with his Patagonian home province, Santa Cruz. As president, Mrs. Kirchner was more often the public face of their partnership, while he was the master political operator, pulling the levers of the Peronist machinery. Mr. Kirchner held the disparate governing coalition intact by inspiring loyalty in lower-level politicians and unions with subsidies and patronage, and by growing the economy at a swift pace, even at the cost of inflation. (continue reading… )

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