Néstor Kirchner

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Néstor Kirchner
Kirchner marzo 2007 Congreso.jpg
President Néstor Kirchner in March 2007
President of Argentina
In office
25 May 2003 – 10 December 2007
Vice President Daniel Scioli
Preceded by Eduardo Duhalde
Succeeded by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations
In office
4 May 2010 – 27 October 2010
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by María Emma Mejía Vélez
President of the Justicialist Party
In office
11 November 2009 – 27 October 2010
Preceded by Daniel Scioli
Succeeded by Daniel Scioli
In office
25 April 2008 – 29 June 2009
Preceded by Ramón Ruiz
Succeeded by Daniel Scioli
Governor of Santa Cruz
In office
10 December 1991 – 25 May 2003
Vice Governor Eduardo Arnold (1991–1999)
Héctor Icazuriaga (1999–2003)
Preceded by Ricardo del Val
Succeeded by Héctor Icazuriaga
Mayor of Río Gallegos
In office
10 December 1987 – 10 December 1991
Preceded by Jorge Marcelo Cepernic
Succeeded by Alfredo Anselmo Martínez
Personal details
Born Néstor Carlos Kirchner
(1950-02-25)25 February 1950
Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz, Argentina
Died 27 October 2010(2010-10-27) (aged 60)
El Calafate, Santa Cruz, Argentina
Cause of death Heart failure
Resting place Río Gallegos
Nationality Argentine
Political party Justicialist Party
Other political
Front for Victory (2003–2010)
Spouse(s) Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (1975–2010)
Children Máximo Kirchner
Florencia Kirchner
Alma mater National University of La Plata
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholicism

Néstor Carlos Kirchner (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈnestoɾ ˈkaɾlos ˈkiɾʃneɾ]; 25 February 1950 – 27 October 2010) was an Argentine politician who served as President of Argentina from 25 May 2003 until 10 December 2007. Born in Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz, he moved to La Plata during his youth to study laws at the National University of La Plata. Although the Dirty War had started at the time, Kirchner did not take an active role during it. He met and married Cristina Fernández during this time. He returned with her to Río Gallegos upon graduation, and opened a law firm.

Kirchner run for mayor of Río Gallegos in 1987, and for governor of Santa Cruz in 1991. He was reelected as governor in 1995 and 1999, thanks to an amendment of the provincial constitution. There was a dispute between the president Carlos Menem (1989-1999) and the governor of the Buenos Aires province Eduardo Duhalde; Kirchner sided with Duhalde. Duhalde lost the 1999 presidential elections, and was appointed president by the Congress when the previous presidents, Fernando de la Rúa and Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, resigned during the December 2001 riots. Duhalde proposed Kirchner to run for president in 2003, in a bid to prevent the return of Menem to the presidency. Menem won the presidential elections but, fearing that he may lose in the required runoff election, he resigned. Kirchner became president as a result.

Kirchner took office as president of Argentina on May 25, 2003. Roberto Lavagna, credited with the economic recovery that took place during Duhalde's term of office, was kept as minister of economy, and continued the economic policies set by then. Argentina negotiated a swap of defaulted debt, and paid the whole debt to the International Monetary Fund. The National Institute of Statistics and Census was intervened, to underreport the growing inflation. Several judges of the Supreme Court resigned, fearing impeachments, and new ones were appointed. The amnesty laws for the crimes commited during the 1970s Dirty War, the full stop and due obedience, were repealled and declared unconstitutional, as well as the presidential pardons. This led to renewed trials against the military of the time. Argentina increased the integration with other countries of Latin America, and ceased the automatic alignment with the United States held in the nineties. The 2005 midterm elections were a victory for Kirchner, and signaled the end of the supremacy of Duhalde at the Buenos Aires province.

Instead of seeking reelection, he step down in support of his wife Cristina Fernández, who was elected president in the 2007 general election. Now as first gentleman, he took part in the unsuccessful Operation Emmanuel to release FARC hostages. He ran for deputy of the Buenos Aires province in the 2009 midterm elections, being narrowly defeated. He was appointed Secretary General of UNASUR in 2010. Both Kirchner and his wife were involved (either directly or by their close aides) in political scandals of money laundering and unjust enrichment, such as The Route of the K-Money. He died on October 27, 2010, because of a cardiac arrest, and received a large state funeral.

Early life[edit]

Néstor Kirchner in the 1960s

Néstor Carlos Kirchner was born on February 25, 1950, in Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz; which was a Federal territory at the time. His father, Néstor Carlos Kirchner Sr., met the Chilean María Juana Ostoić by telegraphy. They had three children: Néstor, Alicia Kirchner and María Cristina Kirchner. Néstor was part of the third generation living in the city. Néstor Kirchner suffered from strabismus since an early age, caused by Pertussis, and refused to receive a medical treatment because he considered his strabic eye part of his self-image.[1] During his high school studies he briefly considered becomig a teacher, but was rejected because of his poor diction.[2] He also practiced as a basketball player, but was rejected by the coaches.[1]

He moved to La Plata in 1969, to study law at the National University of La Plata. There were heated political controversies at the time, caused by the decline of the Argentine Revolution military government, the return of the former president Juan Perón from exile, the election of Héctor Cámpora as president of Argentina, and the early stages of the Dirty War. Néstor Kirchner joined the "University Federation for the National Revolution" (FURN), a political student union. The FURN has been described by former members as a chapter of the Montoneros guerrilla in the University, but other former members consider instead that although the FURN had sympathy and links with Montoneros, it was never involved with their terrorist attacks.[3] Néstor Kirchner was not a political leader in the union, but just a common student of the lot.[3] He was present at the Ezeiza massacre, a celebration at the Ezeiza airport during Perón's return that turned into a shooting.[4] He has also been present in the expulsion of Montoneros from Plaza de Mayo.[4] Although he met many members of the Montoneros guerrilla, he had never been a Montonero himself.[5] By the time that the Montoneros were outlawed by Perón, Kirchner had already left the FURN.[6]

By this time Kirchner had met Cristina Fernández, three years younger than he. The political turmoil made their romance short - only six months - before they were married. There was no religious ceremony, only a civil wedding, and Kirchner's friends sang "Los muchachos peronistas", a peronist hymn, during the event. Néstor Kirchner graduated a year later, and returned to the Patagonia with his wife.[3] He established a law firm with fellow lawyer Domingo Ortiz de Zarate. Cristina Fernández joined the firm in 1979.[7] The firm worked for banks and financial groups that filed eviction lawsuits, as the 1050 ruling of the Central Bank had increased the price of the mortgage loan's interests.[7] The Kirchners acquired twenty-one land lots at cheap prices, as they were about to be auctioned.[8] Although the forced disappearances were common during the Dirty War, Néstor and Cristina Kirchner never signed any Habeas corpus.[9] Their law firm took military involved in the Dirty War as clients.[10]

The National Reorganization Process eventually allowed political activities, for a future return to democracy. Néstor Kirchner created the "Ateneo Juan Domingo Perón" organization, which supported the deposed president Isabel Martínez de Perón, and promoted political dialogue with the military.[8] Raúl Alfonsín, who was running for president for the Radical Civic Union (UCR), denounced a pact between the military and the Peronist unions that sought an amnesty for the military. Rodolfo Ponce was an union leader mentioned by Alfonsín, and Kirchner organized a rally supporting Ponce.[8] Alfonsín won the 1983 presidential elections, and the Peronist Arturo Puricelli was elected governor of Santa Cruz. Puricelli appointed Kirchner president of the provincial social welfare fund.[8]

Kirchner became noteworthy in the province, and resigned in 1984. He ran for mayor of Río Gallegos in 1987, and won by a slim margin of 110 votes. His friend Rudy Ulloa Igor helped him to gather those defining votes.[11] Julio de Vido and Carlos Zannini worked with him since those days. Kirchner took advantage of the state-owned channel to promote his activities. The Peronist Ricardo del Val was elected governor on that same year, and the province was damaged by the 1989 hyperinflation. Kirchner became the main opposition to Del Val, who was impeached and removed in 1990.[11][12]

Governor of Santa Cruz[edit]

President Eduardo Duhalde's endorsement helped propel the little-known Governor Kirchner to the Presidency in 2003, though they later became rivals.

Néstor Kirchner ran for governor of Santa Cruz in 1991. He got only the 30% of the vote, but was elected governor thanks to the ley de lemas.[13] When he assumed the governorship, the province of Santa Cruz was being battered by the then ongoing economic crisis, with high unemployment and a budget deficit equal to US$1.2 billion.[14] He expanded the number of members of the Supreme Court of the province from three members to five, and appointed three loyal judges. This gave him control over the provincial judiciary.[15][16] He was critizised for preventing the investigation of corruption cases.[16] Santa Cruz received U$S 535 millions for oil royalties in 1993, which Kirchner deposited in a foreign bank, which was later absorbed by Morgan Stanley.[17] He was elected for the Constituent Assembly that organized the 1994 amendment of the Argentine Constitution, proposed by the Peronist president Carlos Menem. Kirchner opposed the modification that allowed the re-election of the President of Argentina, but could not prevent its approval. He proposed an amendment of the provincial constitution, which allowed the indefinite re-election of the governor.[18] Both Menem and Kirchner were reelected to their respective offices in 1995. He established a faction within the PJ that opposed the economic policies of Menem, but Eduardo Duhalde, governor of the populous Buenos Aires province, rejected it.[18]

The number of state workers grew from 12,000 to 70,000 during Kirchner's administration. The province did not generate jobs in the private sector, and many firms that tried to establish themselves in it were driven away. A local journalist interviewed by journalist Jorge Lanata considered that this placed de-facto restrictions on economic freedom, and subjeted the people to Kirchner's control. Most of those jobs were from the public works area.[19]

With Menem unable to run for a third presidential term, Duhalde ran for president in the 1999 presidential elections. Kirchner sided with Duhalde in his dispute with Menem, and sought reelection as governor of Santa Cruz. The PJ was defeated on the national level by the radical Fernando de la Rúa, who became the new president. Kirchner was reelected, despite of the growth of the UCR in the province.[20] Troubled by a great economic crisis, De la Rúa resigned two years later, amid the December 2001 riots. The Congress appointed Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, governor of San Luis, as interim president. When Rodríguez Saá resigned as well, Duhalde was appointed president. Duhalde slowly restored the economy, and rushed the presidential election when two piqueteros were killed during a demonstration.[21] The provincial elections, however, kept their original dates and were not rushed.[22]

2003 presidential election[edit]

Néstor Kirchner and Daniel Scioli take office as president and vice president

Carlos Menem originally ran for a new term as president, and Eduardo Duhalde tried to prevent it. Instead of holding primary elections within the PJ, the 2003 elections used a variant of the Ley de Lemas for a single time. All the Peronist candidates were allowed to run in the main election, using political parties created for the event. Even though Kirchner ran for the presidency with the support of Eduardo Duhalde, he was not the initial candidate chosen by the president. Trying to prevent a third term of Carlos Menem, he sought to promote a candidate that may defeat him, but Carlos Reutemann (governor of Santa Fe) did not accept and José Manuel de la Sota (governor of Córdoba) did not grow in the polls. He also tried with Mauricio Macri, Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, Felipe Solá and Roberto Lavagna, to no avail. He initially resisted helping Kirchner, fearing that he may ignore Duhalde once in the presidency.[23] As Kirchner was identified with the centre-left, Duhalde boosted his image by appointing Daniel Scioli as his vice-presidential candidate, who was identified with the centre-right.[24] Only a handful of Peronist governors supported either of the candidates: most of them stood aside from the conflict, and awaited for the election to define the relations with the victor.[25]

The general election took place on April 27. Menem won the first round with 24.5%, followed by Kirchner with 22.2%. The conservative Ricardo López Murphy ended third, at a higher distance from the two main candidates.[26] As Menem was well short of the threshold required to win outright, the result triggered a runoff election for May 18. However, Menem had a negative image, and pre-electoral polls showed him losing to Kirchner in a massive landslide (pollsters showed Kirchner taking anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the vote). Rather than face a humiliating defeat, Menem pulled out of the runoff, a move that was roundly criticized by the other candidates.[16][27] The judiciary declined requests to call a new election, and also refused to sanction a runoff election between Kirchner and López Murphy, though López Murphy let it be known he would not take part in any case. The election was validated by the Congress, and Kirchner became president on May 25, 2003. Kirchner's 22.2 percent is the lowest vote share ever recorded for an Argentine president in a free election.[28]

The elections at other districts were held in October. The mayor of Buenos Aires, Aníbal Ibarra, was re-elected in a run-off election against Mauricio Macri. Neither of them were Peronists, but Ibarra had voiced his support for Kirchner, and Macri was supported by Duhalde. Duhalde proved to still be an influential figure in the Buenos Aires province: Felipe Solá, aligned to him, was elected governor by a landslide, the PJ got the highest number of deputees since 1983, and won the mayoral elections at several cities lost to the UCR in 1999. The three leading candidates in the Buenos Aires province were all Peronists. The victories at the other provinces gave the PJ the full control of the Congress, and three quarters of the governors were Peronists as well. The journalist Mariano Grondona considered that Argentina turned to be ruled by a dominant-party system.[29]


First days[edit]

Néstor Kirchner takes office as President of Argentina.

Néstor Kirchner took office as president of Argentina on May 25, 2003. Contrary to tradition, the ceremony was held at the Palace of the Argentine National Congress, and not Casa Rosada. He announced that he would head changes on many issues, from politics to culture. The ceremony was attended by the provincial governors, the president of the Supreme Court Julio Nazareno, the heads of the armed forces, and the head of state of Cuba, Fidel Castro. Raúl Alfonsín was the only former president of Argentina who attended it. He moved to the Casa Rosada through the Avenida de Mayo, and broke the protocols to get close to the people. He was hurt in the head by accident with a camera at this point.[30]

Kirchner kept four members of the cabinet of Eduardo Duhalde. Roberto Lavagna, the minister of economy, was kept to confirm that Kirchner would mantain the economic policies laid during the previous administration. Lavagna was credited with the recent economic recovery.[31] Ginés González García stayed as minister of health. Anibal Fernandez was moved to the ministry of interior, and José Pampuro to defense.[32] He also brought four members of his cabinet as gobernor of Santa Cruz. Alberto Fernández, who organized his political campaign, was appointed chief of the cabinet of ministers. Sergio Acevedo was placed in charge of intelligence. Julio de Vido was appointed minister of Federal Planning, an office similar to his previous one in the province. That was also the case of his sister Alicia Kirchner. As the appointment of relatives was not unusual in Argentina, her appointment did not generate any controversy.[31] The chancellor Rafael Bielsa was from another political party, the Frepaso.[33]

Relation with the judiciary[edit]

The Argentine judiciary was unpopular since the presidency of Carlos Menem, who appointed the majority of its members with judges loyal to him. This Court was known as the "automatic majority".[34] Kirchner sought to remove the most controversial members of the Court. He organized an impeachment against the head of the court, Julio Nazareno, who preferred to resign.[34] Judge Adolfo Vázquez also resigned before the impeachment, citing personal reasons.[35] Another impeachment was organized against judge Eduardo Moline O'Connor, who resigned as well.[34] The judge Guillermo López also resigned to prevent an impeachment.[36] The removals were well received by the public, and boosted Kirchner's popularity.[34]

Kirchner also arranged that new proposed members of the Court should be made public, be evaluated by organizations, and only then formally proposed to the Congress. Raúl Zaffaroni, a former politician of the Frepaso, was the first judge appointed with this new system.[37] He was followed by Elena Highton de Nolasco, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court.[38] Another female judge was Carmen Argibay. Her appointment was controversial, as she declared herself to be an atheist and a supporter of legal abortion.[39] Those judges held liberal views on criminal justice, and countered the social requests for harsher pro-victim policies caused by the murder of Axel Blumberg.[40]

Economic policy[edit]

Néstor Kirchner and the Minister of Economy during most of his term, Roberto Lavagna.

Kirchner kept the minister of economy of Eduardo Duhalde, Roberto Lavagna, as well as his main economic policies. The main pillars of the economic plan were a trade and fiscal budget surplus and a high exchange rate for the dollar. The surplus was benefited by taxes established during the presidency of De la Rúa and the devaluation that took place during the presidency of Duhalde.[41] Kirchner sought to rebuild the Argentine industrial base, public works and public services. He also sought to re-negotiate the operation of public services privatized by Carlos Menem and owned by foreign companies. Those policies were accompanied by a nationalist and pro-poor rhetoric.[42]

Kirchner and Lavagna negotiated a swap of defaulted debt in 2005. It was write-down to just a third of the original debt.[43] He also refused to work any structural adjustment program,[44] and paid the whole debt to the IMF in a single payment, using the Central Bank reserves. This payment ended the Argentine default with the IMF.[45] The economy grew for an annual 8% during Kirchner's term. However, much of that growth was caused by favorable international conditions, and not by the Argentine policies. Foreign investment remained low, because of the hostility towards the IMF, the US and the United Kingdom, the renationalization of privatized companies (such as the water supply, which was managed by the French Suez),[46] the diplomatic isolation and the state interventionism. The energy sector suffered from this, as the lack of investments caused the energy reserves to drop during the 2000s.[43]

Lavagna proposed to slow down the economic growth, to control the growing inflation. Kirchner rejected this, and promoted wage boosts to reduce economic inequality.[47] He also extended the use of unemployment insurance and other forms of social welfare.[48] The government intervened the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina, which provided economic figures that under-reported the inflation. The poverty was also under-reported, as it is calculated with the inflation figures.[49] Kirchner sought to co-opt the union and piquetero leaders, to reduce the chances of strikes and protests.[49] The results were mixed, as it led to conflicts between loyal and opposing piqueteros. Their usual system of protest, the blocking of streets and avenues, made them highly unpopular. However, Kirchner refused to order the repression of piquetero demonstrations, to avoid the risk of further violence.[50]

Lavagna refused to be a candidate in the 2005 midterm elections, and criticized the over-pricing of public works managed by De Vido. As a result, Kirchner asked him to resign. The finance secretary Guillermo Nielsen, who managed the debt restructuring, resigned as well. Felisa Miceli, head of Banco de la Nación Argentina, was appointed minister to replace Lavagna.[51] Miceli resigned in 2007, months before the presidential elections, because of a scandal over a bag with a huge amount of money found at her office bathroom. She was replaced by the industry secretary, Miguel Gustavo Peirano, for the remainder of Kirchner's term.[52]

Foreign policy[edit]

Kirchner and presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, in a 2006 summit in Brasília.

Néstor Kirchner took a pragmatic approach towards the Argentine foreign policy.[53] The Argentina–United States relations did not continue the automatic alignment held in the 1990s, but did not become anti-americanist either. The chancellor Rafael Bielsa referred to those relations as "cooperation without cohabitation" with the United States, in contrast to the relations of the Menem era, which were known as "carnal relations".[54] Kirchner opposed the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The 4th Summit of the Americas hosted in Mar del Plata ended with violent protests against Bush, the negotiations stalled, and the bloc was never implemented.[55] Kirchner mentioned in the UN that, although he firmly opposes terrorism, he did not support the War on Terror.[56] He refused to receive the US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, and sent forces to the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti.[57]

Kirchner sought an increased integration with other Latin American countries. He relaunched the Mercosur, sought to add new countries to it, and improved the relations with Brazil.[58] Still, Argentina did not automatically align with Brazil, the regional power of South America.[59] Kirchner tried to stay in a middle ground between Brazil, as he considered Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva too conservative, and Venezuela, as he considered Hugo Chávez too anti-Americanist. He worked both with the centre-left rulers Lula and the Chilean Ricardo Lagos, and with the left-wing rulers Chávez, the Cuban Fidel Castro and the Bolivian Evo Morales.[57]

2005 midterm elections[edit]

Kirchner soon distanced himself from Duhalde, and removed all the people close to him from the government, to reduce his political influence. Kirchner also sought supporters from all the social and political spectra, to counter the influence of Duhalde within the party. However, both of them delayed an open dispute and stuck together during the 2003 legislative elections, held in October.[60] The dispute was influenced by the political weight of the Buenos Aires province, the most populated district in Argentina, with almost the 40% of the national voters.[61] The dispute continued in the 2005 midterm elections. Without consensus in the PJ for a single candidate for senator of the Buenos Aires province, both leaders had their respective wives run for the office: Hilda González de Duhalde for the PJ, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for the Front for Victory, which was kept by the Kirchners.[62] Cristia Kirchner won those elections.[63] As in 2003, the elections were defined within Peronist factions. The opposition parties were scattered, and could not provide a national united front.[64]

The electoral victory gave Kirchner the confidence to remove Lavagna from the cabinet as well. He also replaced the ministers Rafael Bielsa, Jose Pampuro and Alicia Kirchner.[47]

Human rights policy[edit]

Néstor Kirchner oversees the removal of portraits of military from the National Reorganization Process from the National Military College.

Kirchner worked with the premise that the 1970s Dirty War would be still going on, in a different manner.[65] In his inaugural speech he supported the human rights organizations, who sought the incarceration of the military of the National Reorganization Process.[66] He sent a bill to the Congress to repeal the Full stop law and the Law of Due Obedience, which had halted the trials to the military over crimes related to the Dirty War. This project was resisted by Duhalde and Scioli. Most legislator, however, considered it a mere symbolic gesture, as the constitutionality of the laws would be decided by the Supreme Court.[67] Both amnesty laws were repealled in Congress on August 2003. Many cases were reopened as a result. The Supreme Court declared the laws unconstitutional in 2005,[68] as well as the presidential pardons issued by Menem.[69] The mason Jorge Julio López, witness in a trial against the police officer Miguel Etchecolatz, was dissapeared in 2006.[70]

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo made their final demonstration in 2006. They considered that Kirchner, unlike the previous presidents, was not their enemy.[71] They became political allies of Kirchner, who included them in prominent locations during his speeches. The generous financing turned the group into a powerful NGO.[72]

Despite of the repudiation to the military forces that took part in the Dirty War, Kirchner did not hold a similar repudiation for the guerrilla movements of the time. The government ignored the anniversaries of the terrorist attacks, such as the 30th anniversary of the ERP terrorist attack to the tank regiment of Azul, and the 15th anniversary of the 1989 attack on La Tablada barracks. Kirchnerism engages in historical revisionism that downplays and even ignores the presence of terrorist organizations during the Dirty War.[73] The guerrillas that commited suicide with suicide pills or who were executed by their own organizations were recategorized in 2006 as victims of state terrorism, and their relatives received huge state compensations.[74] The victims of the guerrillas, on the other hand, did not receive any compensation.[74] The journalist Ceferino Reato considers that the Kirchners seek to replace the theory of the two demons, which blamed the Dirty War equally to the military and the guerrillas, with a "theory of the angels and demons", which puts the blame exclusively on the military.[75]


Return of Kirchner to Argentina, after the failed Operation Emmanuel.

With the victory of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, both members of the marriage swaped jobs, and Kirchner became First Gentleman.[76] Néstor Kirchner remained a highly influential politician during the term of his successor and wife.[77] He supervised the economy, and led the PJ.[78] The powerful marriage has been compared with those of the Argentines Juan Perón and Eva Perón, and the Americans Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.[76] Most media suspected that Kirchner stepped down for re-election in order to circumvent the term limits by swaping roles with his wife multiple times.[78][76][79]

He took part in the Operation Emmanuel in Colombia to release a group of FARC hostages, in December 2007.[80] The Colombian politician Íngrid Betancourt was among the group of hostages. Kirchner returned to Argentina after the failure of the negotiations.[81] The hostages were released a year later during Operation Jaque, a covert operation by Colombian military forces as a result of the reluctance of the guerilla to release them.[82]

Néstor Kirchner took active part in the government conflict with the agricultural sector in 2008. During this conflict he became President of the Justicialist Party, and declared full support for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in the conflict.[83] He accused the agricultural sector of attempting a coup d'état.[84] He was one of the speakers in a demonstration made next to the Argentine National Congress supporting a bill on the matter, that would be voted the following day. Kirchner requested by then to accept the result in the Congress.[85] Many senators who had formerly supported the government's proposal rejected it. The voting ended in a tie with 36 supporting votes and 36 rejecting votes. As a result, vicepresident Julio Cobos, president of the chamber of senators, was required to cast a decisive vote. Cobos voted for the rejection, and the law proposal was rejected.[86]

On June 2009 legislative elections he ran for National Deputy for the Buenos Aires Province district. He was defeated by Francisco de Narváez, from the Union PRO coalition. The Front for Victory was defeated as well in the Buenos Aires city, Santa Fe and Córdoba. As a result, the Kirchners lost the majority in the Congress. The voter disenchantment with the Kirchners was caused by the inflation, crime and the conflict with the rural sectors of the previous year.[87] The Kirchners rushed a media law during the transition, as they still had the majority before the new legislators took office.[88]

Néstor Kirchner was proposed by Ecuador as a candidate Secretary General of Unasur, but was rejected by Uruguay, at a time when Uruguay and Argentina were debating the Pulp mill dispute. The dispute was resolved in 2010 and the new Uruguayan president, José Mujica, supported Kirchner's candidacy. Kirchner was unanimously elected the first Secretary General of Unasur, during a Unasur Member States Heads of State summit held in Buenos Aires on 4 May 2010.[89] In that role, he successfully mediated in the 2010 Colombia–Venezuela diplomatic crisis.[90]

Personal style and ideology[edit]

Néstor Kirchner giving a speech.
Main article: Kirchnerism

Néstor Kirchner is considered at times as a left-wing president,[91] but that consideration is relative.[92] Although Kirchner was to the left of previous Argentine presidents, from Raúl Alfonsín to Eduardo Duhalde, and contemporary Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, he was to the right of other Latin American presidents such as Hugo Chávez or Fidel Castro.[92] His strong nationalist approach to the Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute was closer to right-wing politics,[93] and he did not consider classic left-wing policies such as socialization of production or the nationalization of the public services privatized during the presidency of Carlos Menem.[93] He did not attempt either to modify the institutional system, the church–state relations or disestablish the armed forces.[93] His view of the economy was influenced by his government of Santa Cruz, a province rich in oil, gas, fish and tourism and strongly focused on the primary sector of the economy.[59] Kirchner usually avoided long-term policies, and turned to the left or right according to circumstances.[54]

Néstor Kirchner was a Peronist, and managed the political power as the historical Peronist leaders have traditionally done.[94] One of the characteristics of his political style was the constant generation of controversies with other political or social forces, and the polarization of public opinion.[95] This strategy was used against financial sectors, military, police, foreign countries, international bodies, newspapers, and even Duhalde himself, with varying levels of success.[96] Kirchner sought to generate an image contrasting that of former presidents Carlos Menem and Fernando de la Rúa. Menem was seen as frivolous, and De la Rúa as doubtful, so Kirchner worked to be seen as serious and determined.[97]

Néstor Kirchner sought to concentrate most of the political power for himself. The emergency superpowers law, which gave discretionary powers to the president to re-arrange the national budget, was periodically renewed. The Front for Victory, initially conceived as a "lema" of the PJ, was turned into a political alliance of the PJ, factions within other parties that supported Kirchner, and minor left-wing parties. The progresivist population, lacking leaders since the crisis that discredited the UCR, supported this new coalition as well.[98] Most Peronists simply defected to the new party. The end of the economic crisis and the discretionary control of the state finances allowed Kirchner to discipline his allies and co-opt his rivals. As a consequence of this, the Congress became compliant, and the opposition was unable to present a credible alternative to the government. Besides the concentration of power, Kirchner personally micromanaged most government tasks, or assigned them to his most trusted aides, regardless of the formal hierarchy of the cabinet. For instance, Kirchner managed personally the foreign relations with the United States and Brazil, and left the relations with Bolivia and Venezuela in the hands of Julio de Vido, minister of federal planning.[54] There were no cabinet meetings during his presidency, a rare custom in a national government. This may have been influenced by his tenure in Santa Cruz, a scarcely populated province, where the cabinet was of little use and the decision-making is largely made by just the governor.[99]

Allegations of embezzlement[edit]

Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández net worth combined over time.

The Skanska case took place during the presidency of Néstor Kirchner. Several members of the cabinet of De Vido were accused of bribery in the requests for tender for the construction of pipelines. It was based on a tape recording of Skanska's businessmen discussing such bribes. The case was closed in 2011, when it was ruled that the tape was not an acceptable evidence and that there was no overpricing. The case was reopened in 2016, with the Kirchners out of the government, and the tape was accepted as evidence.[100]

The wealth of the Kirchners, as reported to the AFIP, grew forty sixfold between 1995 and 2010, more than 4,567%.[101] An important part of their wealth increase took place in 2008, jumping from 26.5 millions to 63.5 millions. This was caused by the sale of lands acquired three decades before, the rent of their hotels, and several time deposits, both in Argentine pesos and US dollars. They opened a business consultant, "El Chapel". They also established the firms Hotesur SA and Los Sauces, to manage the rents of their luxury hotels at El Calafate. They also expanded the infrastructure of Comasa, a firm whose 90% of the shares belonged to them. Their salaries as politicians only ammounted for the 3.62% of their total earnings.[102]

Néstor Kirchner was first trialed for unjust enrichment in 2004. The case worked on the growth of his wealth in the 1995-2003 period. The case was received by judge Juan José Galeano, and then moved to judge Julián Ercolini, who declared him innocent in 2005.[103] A new case involving both Kirchners was received by judge Norberto Oyarbide, who declared them innocent in 2010.[104]

The investigative journalism TV program Periodismo para todos aired an investigation in 2013, that detailed a case of embezzlement and an associated money trail involving the late Néstor Kirchner, the then president Cristina Kirchner and the businessman Lázaro Báez. Báez was benefited with money from public works. He had been benefited 95% of the requests for tender of the Santa Cruz province since 2003, more than 4,000 millions of pesos.[105] The scandal was known as The Route of the K-Money (Spanish: La ruta del dinero K). The Hotesur scandal took place a couple of years later: a company owned by Báez rented more than 1,100 rooms per month at the Kirchner hotels, even when they were not actually occupied. It was suspected that it was a money laundering scheme, to make the money from public works finally become a personal gain of the Kirchners.[106]

In April 2016, Daniel Muñoz, Kirchner's private secretary and confidant, has been implicated in the Panama Papers leaks as the owner of the Gold Black Limited company. Muñoz had died early in the year. The director of company, Sergio Todisco, is investigated by prosecutors who suspect that the company may have been used for money laundering, on behalf of people concealing their identities.[107]


Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Hugo Moyano, during the funeral of Nestor Kirchner

Néstor Kirchner died on October 27, 2010, aged 60. It was a national holiday for the INDEC to run a national census, so he was at his home in El Calafate. He suffered a cardiac arrest, and was rushed to a local hospital. He was pronounced dead at 9:15 a.m., local time.[78] He had undergone two procedures in the year. He had surgery on his right carotid artery in February,[108] and an angioplasty surgery in September.[109]

The corpse of Kirchner was flown to the Casa Rosada, for a state funeral. Three National days of mourning were declared for the event. It was attended by thousands of people, despite of the heavy rain. The media reported that a thousand people per hour entered to the Casa Rosada, in groups of 100 to 150. Cristina Kirchner, in mourning clother, stood next to the coffin. The people brought candles, flags and flowers, and Cristina Kirchner took some of those personally.[79]

His death caused international reactions a few minutes after it was announced. Brazil and Venezuela declared three National days of mourning. Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, declared a minute of silence, as well as the Organization of American States. Barack Obama, from the United States, sent his condolences.[109] The state funeral was attended by Chávez and Lula da Silva, among others.[79]



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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
position created
Secretary General of Unasur
Succeeded by
María Emma Mejía Vélez
Preceded by
Eduardo Duhalde
President of Argentina
Succeeded by
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Preceded by
Héctor Marcelino García
Governor of Santa Cruz
Succeeded by
Héctor Icazuriaga
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
First Gentleman of Argentina
Succeeded by
Juliana Awada Macri