Obituary: Nestor Kirchner

Argentina’s former president served from 2003 to 2007 and is credited with bringing the country out of economic turmoil.

Nestor Kirchner
Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina were the most powerful Argentine political couple since the Perons [AFP]

Nestor Kirchner became president of Argentina in 2003, in the aftermath of a financial meltdown that saw the biggest ever default on a World Bank loan.

After accumulating about $170bn in debt, the country had changed from a darling of the international financial community into a nation in which millions of people had lost their life savings and poverty was virulent.

During his time in office, Kirchner oversaw the country’s emergence from economic catastrophe.

Over his four-year term, he restructered and cancelled the nation’s debt and brought relative financial stability.

Kirchner had been little known both nationally and internationally on winning the presidency.

By the time he left office in 2007, he had high approval ratings and was just one half of Argentina’s latest political dynasty.

A leftist, who led the Front for Victory party – a splinter of the Peronist Justicialist Party – Kirchner was succeeded as president by Cristina Fernandez-Kirchner, his wife.

Presidential couple

The Kirchners had met at law school at the National University of La Plata in the eponymous province of the capital Buenos Aires during the time of Argentina’s repressive military rule in the 1970s.

The couple married in 1975 and graduated the following year.

Fernandez-Kirchner first became a provincial governor in the late 1980s, but then her husband won three terms as governor of the southern province of Santa Cruz from 1991 and climbed up the party ranks.

The pair appeared to use their own positions to back each others’ political policies, with Fernandez-Kirchner supporting Kirchner’s decisions as president as a member of Congress.

Their impressive political influence has not come without controversy.

The couple are said to have ruled together during their presidential terms and the exchanging of presidencies was seen by some as an evasion of presidential term limits.

Kirchner was widely expected to run for the presidency again in 2011.

The couple have also been accused of accruing massive wealth during their periods in power.

Regional diplomat

The couple were the most powerful political couple in Argentina since Juan Domingo Peron and his wife Eva, who ruled as president and first lady in the 1940s and 50s.

Since vacating the presidency, Kirchner became a National Deputy of Argentina – a congressman – for Buenos Aires province in 2009.

He was elected secretary-general of the regional grouping Unasur (the Union of South American Nations) in 2010, helping to mediate a diplomatic standoff between Colombia and Venezuela later in the year.

Kirchner suffered heart problems in 2010, having to undergo two major operations including an antiplasty after a heart attack in September.

He died of cardiac arrest on October 27, 2010 after feeling chest pains while staying at a family home in El Calafate, in the southern province of Santa Cruz, the same province in which he was born on February 25, 1950.

Source: News Agencies