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Tue Jul 9, 2019, 11:38 AM

Former Argentine President Fernando de la Rua dies at age 81

Last edited Wed Aug 28, 2019, 06:32 PM - Edit history (1)

Former Argentine President Fernando de la Rúa died today after being hospitalized for bronchitis and a worsening heart and kidney condition. He was 81.

The conservative de la Rúa governed Argentina from 1999, until an economic collapse and consequent riots forced him to resign half-way into his term in 2001.

Born in 1937, he followed in the footsteps of his father (a judge) and became a lawyer.

He rose quickly through the ranks of the centrist UCR and in 1973 was chosen as running mate to four-time nominee Ricardo Balbín – losing by a record 37% to the populist leader Juan Perón.

Campaigning in his 1938 Chevrolet, de la Rúa was elected to Congress in 1991 and as Mayor of Buenos Aires in 1996, becoming the first elected (rather than appointed) mayor since the city was federalized in 1880.

A coalition between the UCR and the center-left FREPASO resulted in his nomination on the ‘Alliance’ ticket in 1999 – elections he went on to win by 10%.

Crisis president

De la Rúa inherited serious external imbalances from his pro-business predecessor, Carlos Menem, including a $12 billion current account deficit and a $150 billion foreign debt.

He lost control of the crisis early on however.

Revelations in August 2000 that he had approved bribes for five key senators for their vote on an IMF-backed labor deregulation bill led Vice President Carlos Álvarez and five cabinet members to resign in protest.

Once market interest in Argentine bonds dried up, he sought an IMF bailout by way of a then-record $38 billion credit line in December.

Referred to as “bulletproofing,” the bailout required deep budget cuts amid recession and 15% unemployment.

How nice it is to share good news,” de la Rúa fatefully announced at the time.

Appointing Menem’s former Economy Minister, Domingo Cavallo, was interpreted as desperation by investors however, leading to mounting capital flight during 2001.

Cavallo sought to avoid a default by offering bondholders a “Megaswap,” which delayed payments at the cost of additional interest in the out years.

The July 2001 Megaswap was a boon to banks seeking to unload Argentine bonds – but failed to stem the crisis or avoid a default. After the IMF cut access to its credit line on December 5, bank withdrawal limits enacted by Cavallo led to massive riots.

The president resigned on December 20, famously fleeing the Casa Rosada presidential offices by helicopter.

Low profile

De la Rúa kept a low profile afterward, due as much to his unpopularity as to a heart condition.

Argentina’s economy later recovered; but of the $82 billion in bonds that were later restructured (triggering a wave of holdout lawsuits), 60% were issued during the Megaswap.

He was later indicted for malfeasance related to the Megaswap, for his role in the Senate bribery scandal, and for his alleged role in up to 30 deaths at the hands of police during the 2001 riots. He was cleared of all charges in 2014.

De la Rúa was a vocal supporter of right-wing President Mauricio Macri, whose election in 2015 was followed by a similar debt bubble – and crisis.


Fernando de la Rúa (1937-2019) and his wife of 49 years, Inés Pertiné.

De la Rúa’s conservative Catholic upbringing shaped his politics. His alliance with the center-left fell apart just 10 months into his brief presidency, and he later became a staunch Macri supporter.

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Response to sandensea (Original post)

Tue Jul 9, 2019, 12:55 PM

1. 'Freedom House" addresses de la Ra, possibly creatively rearranged, as it has been influenced,

if not controlled occassionally, by hard right reactionary Cuban "exile" Crank, er, Frank Calzon.

Sourcewatch report on Calzon:

Frank Calzon
Frank Calzon is the executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba. [1]

In 2007 Calzon noted that: "I am a Cuban refugee who has spent most of my life advocating human rights for Cubans and others. From l986 through 1997 I was Freedom House’s Washington representative. I have testified before the U.N. Commission for Human Rights in Geneva and for the last ten years I’ve been the executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

"During the current fiscal year the Center for a Free Cuba has received from USAID $l, 081,164 and from the National Endowment for Democracy $21,472.84. We also raise about a quarter of a million dollars a year from the Cuban American community." [2]

"In 1981, Calzon founded the American National Foundation, along with Jorge Mas Canosa, Francisco Jose "Pepe" Hernandez and other emigrés of Cuban origin known for their terrorist activities against Cuba. In CANF, he was executive secretary, a position he used to promote laws against Cuba in the U.S. Congress, as well as to set up the well-known subversive radio station Radio Marti.

"During this time he was also responsible for spearheading a number of aggressive press campaigns against the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of Cuba.

"Calzon left the CANF in 1987, after a power struggle with president Jorge Mas Canosa. Afterwards, he joined the New York based nongovernmental organization Freedom House...

"With the fall of the socialist camp, Freedom House intensified the development of programs directed to subverting Cuba, fomenting the creation of counter revolutionary organizations and ringleaders in the national territory. Between 1995 and 1997 Calzon directed the Cuban Program of Freedom House, using the same methods employed against former socialist states in Eastern European. His long history with the CIA, beginning at a young age, was a perfect reference point for this post." [3]

. . .



FreedomHouse's comments regarding de la Rúa:


In office for its first year, the multiparty government of President Fernando de la Rua found itself confronted by a minefield of public corruption and economic sluggishness bequeathed by his predecessor, Carlos S. Menem. Faced with a senate and a judiciary packed with Menem supporters, De la Rua lost a crucial ally-his vice president-who resigned in protest of the official handling of a congressional bribery scandal that appeared similar to tactics used during the Menem government. The scandal threatened to wreck De la Rua's center-left coalition and squander the clean-government political capital it had won while in the opposition. By year's end, the government's tentative efforts to confront spiraling violent crime and the growing impoverishment of parts of the middle class led to growing disaffection with the government as well. The fight against crime has been complicated by Menem's legacy of security forces and intelligence agencies seasoned with former death squad activists and former members of a lethal military regime, whose presence has exacerbated a troublesome and long-standing problem of excessive violence and corruption on the part of the police.

The Argentine Republic was established after independence from Spain in 1816. Democratic rule was often interrupted by military coups. The end of Juan Peron’s authoritarian rule in 1955 led to a series of right-wing military dictatorships as well as left-wing and nationalist violence. Argentina returned to elected civilian rule in 1983, after seven years of repression of suspected leftist guerrillas and other dissidents.

. . .

At the end of 1999, Transparency International ranked Argentina 72 out of 99 nations rated for public corruption. Menem's feud with the Peronist Party presidential nominee, Buenos Aires governor Eduardo Duhalde, sealed the latter's fate as Duhalde was beaten by De la Rua 48.5 percent to 38 percent in national elections held in October 24, 1999. The Peronists retained control of the senate, with 35 of the 67 seats, and they hold the governorships in 18 of 23 provinces. Upon taking office, De la Rua sought to put the government's accounts in order, cut spending, raise taxes, and push forward with unpopular labor reforms. He also made a series of appointments and issued sweeping rules and regulations designed to rein-in public corruption. A reform-minded serving police officer was appointed head of the corruption-riddled Federal Police, and there also appeared to be a greater willingness by some judges to investigate cases of official corruption, including vote-buying scandals in both houses of congress. In April, De la Rua dismissed a nine-member military tribunal after they claimed military rather than civilian courts had jurisdiction over cases in which military personnel had been accused of kidnapping, and in some cases killing, hundreds of babies born to detained women during the so-called dirty war of the 1970s and 1980s.

De la Rua's government also moved to confront a problem of mostly narcotics-related money laundering that had ballooned under Menem. In May, the Alliance received a boost when its candidate, Anibal Ibarra, won the Buenos Aires mayoralty vacated by De la Rua when he assumed the presidency in December. In October 2000 De la Rua twiced reshuffle his cabinet, the second time after Vice President Carlos Alvarez's stunning decision to resign. Alvarez stepped down after the president's determination appeared to waiver on uncovering the truth about the reported buying of congressional votes in order to pass labor legislation. Possible government involvement, including by members of De la Rua's inner circle, was suspected in the vote buying. In December, a judge who himself was under investigation for "illegal enrichment," dropped the charges against the 11 senators named in the scandal, saying he lacked sufficient evidence to proceed.


So much trouble in a great country caused by one horrendous, determined, misanthropic, greedy group of creatures. Argentina is undoubtedly due to find a way to overcome their clutches through the courage and intelligence of true leaders.

Thank you, sandensea.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #1)

Tue Jul 9, 2019, 01:13 PM

2. Didn't know he had dealings with Cuban exiles - though I should've guessed given his hard-right turn

de la Rúa, like many in Argentina's upper-middle class, was beholden to ultraconservative landed interests - people who in general despise the middle class, but use them for their votes and support.

That made him a lifelong conservative, though always of the center-right variety (the kind of people tea-partiers call RINOs here in the U.S.).

His personal politics seemed to take a sharp right turn in recent years though, becoming one of Macri's best-known supporters - something that hurt Macri more then it helped, given de la Rúa's own unpopularity.

I've noticed over the years that many otherwise centrist Argentine politicians become hard-right cavemen after visiting Cuban exiles in Miami. A little of the old MK-Ultra, perhaps?

Whatever it was, it was perfectly wasted on him, given that among Argentines 'de la Rúa' was synonymous with failure and incompetence.

de la ruina, they called him ('of the ruin'). But as always when someone passes on, Godspeed.

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Response to sandensea (Reply #2)

Tue Jul 9, 2019, 01:38 PM

3. Sorry, I bumbled in trying to suggest the Freedom House description of the man might be accurate,

or not that accurate, depending upon which person at Freedom House oversaw the article, in the end, since Frank Calzon is not the world's most reliable source, being entirely driven by right-wing reactionary interests.

The article itself was the first one I saw searching for information on the former President's time in office.

As mentioned repeatedly over the years, the "exiles" have an oversized, and unjustified influence over U.S. policy in all decisions made since they bonded totally with Ronald Reagan, and, of course, Richard M. Nixon who found their services indispensable, for his purposes.

That article did reveal the impact in Argentina made by right-wing interests has been catastrophic.

Certainly appreciated seeing your comments.

True, "Godspeed" seems appropriate.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #3)

Tue Jul 9, 2019, 02:21 PM

4. Good find! The Freedom House assessment was indeed accurate (though it left the IMF out)

The IMF's role in the de la Rúa disaster, you'll recall, became a hot topic of conversation among economists for years.

A textbook example of what not to do.

But predictably enough, it's the very sequence they're using with Macri now. That's the IMF's business plan, after all:

· Help elect presidents who'll run up gigantic debts, congratulating them all the way as they do so.

· Offer an outsized bailout once said debts become unpayable. Make sure the bailout money is used to finance capital flight by fleeing speculators, rather than anything constructive.

· Once the bailout becomes unpayable too (or there's a change in administration), become coy all of all sudden and refuse any further assistance.

· And once a crisis erupts, offer a new bailout in exchange for mass privatizations - especially of energy/mineral resources.

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