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Tuesday, April 29, 2003

# Posted 9:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CRY FOR ARGENTINA, DAMMIT! Leading the pack after the first round of Sunday's presidential election is former Argentine President Carlos Menem. A victory for Menem in the second round would be a tragedy of historic proportions. He is a corrupt and megalomaniacal charlatan.

Discosure: I am not a neutral observer of Argentine politics. As I've mentioned before, I spent the past summer as an intern in the Argentine Senate, working for Rodolfo Terragno, one of the few men committed to honest politics in a den of thieves.

Thankfully, there is a good chance that Menem won't win. His negative ratings have been in the 60s or higher for the past fifteen months. The WaPo notes that Menem's opponent, Gov. Nestor Kirchner of Santa Cruz, "has a reputation for running a clean government."

With any luck, the Post will do a little more research on Kirchner before the final balloting next month. Having a reputation for clean government in Argentina is like having a reputation for chastity in a brothel. It's all relative. While Kirchner doesn't seem to have authored the sort of billion dollar scams that earned Menem his reputation, people I talked to in Buenos Aires observed that Kirchner seems to share the difficulty of most Argentine provincial governors in distinguishing between the provincial budget and his personal allowance.

If there is hope for Argentina, it is that its citizens are slowly beginning to recognize that widespread corruption is the primary cause of their suffering. However, they must learn to criticize not only their politicians but also themselves. As a very perceptive friend of mine in the Senate observed, the politicians are of the people, and the politicians will only change when the people change.

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