Fernando de la Rúa

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Fernando de la Rúa
Fernando de la Rúa con bastón y banda de presidente.jpg
48th President of Argentina
In office
December 10, 1999 – December 21, 2001
Vice President Carlos Álvarez (1999-2000)
None (2000-2001)
Preceded by Carlos Menem
Succeeded by Adolfo Rodríguez Saá
1st Head of Government of Buenos Aires
In office
August 6, 1996 – December 10, 1999
President Carlos Menem
Preceded by Jorge Domínguez
Succeeded by Enrique Olivera
Personal details
Born (1937-09-15) September 15, 1937 (age 76)
Córdoba
Nationality Argentine
Political party Radical Civic Union/Alliance
Spouse(s) Inés Pertiné
Profession Lawyer
Signature

Fernando de la Rúa (born September 15, 1937) is an Argentine politician. He was president of the country from December 10, 1999 to December 21, 2001 for the Alliance for Work, Justice and Education (a political alliance of the Radical Civic Union and Frepaso). He resigned during the December 2001 riots.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Born to Eleonora Bruno and Antonio De la Rúa in the city of Córdoba, he attended the local Military Lyceum before entering the National University of Córdoba, from which he obtained his law degree. The son of a judge and longtime supporter of the centrist Radical Civic Union (UCR), de la Rúa became involved in politics at a young age, and entered public service in 1963 as an advisor to President Arturo Illia's Internal Affairs Minister. He married the former Inés Pertiné, a Buenos Aires socialite, in 1970, and had three children, including Antonio de la Rúa, an entrepreneur who was engaged to pop superstar Shakira.


He first appeared in the national political arena in 1973, when he was elected to the Argentine Senate, representing the city of Buenos Aires. A few months later he ran for the Vice Presidency as veteran UCR politician Ricardo Balbín's running mate in snap elections called for September of that year; their ticket was defeated by the recently returned populist leader, Juan Perón, in a landslide. His youth (running for Vice President at the age of 36) earned him the still-standing nickname of "chupete" ('pacifier' or 'dummy'), as he was perceived as a political neophyte.[1]

He taught criminal law at the University of Buenos Aires after the March 1976 coup that suspended Congress,[2] and wrote four books on legal theory. Despite earlier support by the late Ricardo Balbín, de la Rúa was defeated by Raúl Alfonsín for the UCR nomination for the presidency in 1983. The UCR prevailed in the 1983 elections, and de la Rúa was overwhelmingly returned to the Senate. His 1989 reelection bid was complicated by an economic crisis that affected all UCR candidates, however, and although he won the popular vote, de la Rúa was outmaneuvered in the Electoral College by an alliance between the Justicialist Party and the Ucedé.[3]

Elected to the Lower House by his constituents in the city of Buenos Aires in 1991, he was again returned to the Senate in a 1992 special election, and de la Rúa became increasingly thought of as presidential timber in the press.[4] Benefiting from his high standing in the polls and the amendments to the Constitution that gave Buenos Aires the right to elect its own mayor, de la Rúa became the first elected mayor of Buenos Aires following elections on June 30, 1996.

Quick to tackle chronic property tax evasion in his city, de la Rúa earned a reputation for efficiency as his city's mayor. President Carlos Menem's dismissal of the Alliance candidate as "boring" was effectively used by the de la Rúa campaign in their ads, by which de la Rúa's tedium became a desirable alternative to Menem's "party" (a reference to the latter administration's numerous corruption scandals).[1] This, as well as the nation's mounting social and economic problems, helped carry de la Rúa to victory in the October 24, 1999, presidential election, handily defeating the ruling party candidate, Buenos Aires Governor Eduardo Duhalde (despite the latter's opposition to the unpopular president). Fernando de la Rúa was inaugurated President of Argentina on December 10, 1999.

Presidency[edit]

De la Rúa's government inherited an ongoing economic crisis. His administration initially announced increases in infrastructure spending and teacher pay (the subject of a "white tent" protest on Congressional Plaza from 1997 to 1999) and established educ.ar ("educate"), a state-sponsored educational website. Enjoying high approval ratings initially, continuous disputes and rivalries among the coalition partners, a general sensation of inaction in the face of recession, and a failure to tackle corruption, as well as de la Rúa's own lack of charisma and slow demeanor (perceived as stupor), hurt his public image.[5] The July 29 suicide of Dr. René Favaloro, the creator of coronary bypass surgery, following repeated, unsuccessful attempts to obtain federal reimbursement for millions in services, underscored public perceptions of an inability to govern, moreover.[6] Subsequent revelations that the administration bribed a number of UCR senators for their support of a stalled labor law flexibilization bill in April led to the resignation of Vice President Álvarez in protest on October 6, as well as of Cabinet Chief Rodolfo Terragno and of three other cabinet members, pushing the de la Rúa presidency into its crisis stage.[7]

Economy Minister José Luis Machinea enacted austerity measures,[8] and successfully negotiated a US$38 billion International Monetary Fund line of credit in December.[9] A worsening recession and disapproval of cutbacks led to Machinea's resignation on March 5, followed two weeks later by that of his conservative successor, Ricardo López Murphy. Facing mounting pressure and 18% approval ratings,[10] on March 19, 2001, the president reached out to Domingo Cavallo, the economist behind the "Argentine miracle" during the early 1990s. Cavallo's appointment was, however, interpreted as an act of desperation by the derivatives markets and a massive shorting of Argentine bonds ensued, followed by at least US$40 billion in domestic capital flight.[11]

President de la Rúa upon tendering his resignation, December 21, 2001.

Deep budget cuts, including a 13% reduction in pay for the nation's 2 million public sector employees, failed to curb the rapidly increasing country risk on almost U$100 billion in Argentine bonds, increasing debt service costs and further limiting access to international credit, despite a moderately successful debt swap arranged by Cavallo with most bondholders. Voters reacted to the rapidly worsening economy in the October 2001 midterm elections by both depriving the Alliance of its majority in the Lower House, and by casting a record 25% of spoiled ballots.[10]

The financial crisis and the wave of capital flight led Cavallo to impose a limited account freeze on cash withdrawals on December 1, and four days later, the IMF, IADB and World Bank announced the cancellation of loan tranches of over US$5 billion.[12] The withdrawal limits led to growing popular unrest, moreover, and by mid-December, rioting had begun in a number of poorer urban neighborhoods. Amid repression of protesters and rioters that left 23 dead, one of the president's last acts in office was to ban extraditions for human rights violations.[13] De la Rúa was ultimately forced out of office, however, by the December 2001 riots, which took shape under the rallying cry, ¡Que se vayan todos! ("Away with them all!") – referring to the governing and political class.

Later life[edit]

De la Rúa was hounded by numerous charges and lawsuits in subsequent years, both relating to police repression during the riots,[14][15] as well as for his role in the Senate bribery case,[16] and for alleged irregularities in the 2001 debt swap.[17] He was indicted for homicide by Judge Claudio Bonadío in March 2007, though the ruling was reversed a year later. Accusations by Security Minister Enrique Mathov and Internal Affairs Minister Ramón Mestre that the president had ordered demonstrators at the Plaza de Mayo (in which five died) quelled, were ruled unsubstantiable by Judge Bonadío in April 2009.[15]

Honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b New York Times (September 26, 1999) (Spanish)
  2. ^ International Who's Who. 2004. Europa Publications, 2003.
  3. ^ Página/12. Parábola de Fernando. (Spanish)
  4. ^ Noticias, September 6, 1991.
  5. ^ "Little sympathy for Argentine president", BBC News, 17 March 2001
  6. ^ New York Times (August 7, 2000)
  7. ^ Clarín (October 7, 2000) (Spanish)
  8. ^ Clarín (May 29, 2000) (Spanish)
  9. ^ Periodismo. De la Rúa anuncia hoy el blindaje financiero. (Spanish)
  10. ^ a b BBC News
  11. ^ Univ. of Pittsburgh study
  12. ^ Clarín December 6, 2001) (Spanish)
  13. ^ World Briefing | Americas: Argentina: Human Rights Extraditions The New York Times, December 25, 2001
  14. ^ Es Más (March 8, 2002) (Spanish)
  15. ^ a b Clarín (April 8, 2009) (Spanish)
  16. ^ La Nación (February 26, 2008) (Spanish)
  17. ^ Clarín (July 10, 2006) (Spanish)
  18. ^ Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class in 2001 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)
  19. ^ "O chefe de estado argentino, Fernando de La Rua, reencontrou-se hoje com o ex-presidente português Mário Soares (...)" (in Portuguese). Angop. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Carlos Menem
President of Argentina
1999–2001
Succeeded by
Adolfo Rodríguez Saá
Preceded by
(none)
Chief of Government of Buenos Aires
1996–1999
Succeeded by
Enrique Olivera