Argentine politician, president 1989–99; leader of the populist Perónist Partido Justicialista (PJ; Justicialist Party). Although gaining electoral support from the poor, he introduced sweeping privatization and cuts in public spending in an attempt to tackle Argentina's economic crisis of hyperinflation and recession. He pardoned leaders of Argentina's period of military rule (1976–83) who had been imprisoned under his predecessor Raúl Alfonsín for their violation of human rights. He contested for the presidency again in 2003, but withdrew from the run-off race as polls showed he was heading for defeat. He considered running for the presidency again in 2007, but decided it against it after being defeated in an election to be governor of La Rioja province.
During his presidency Menem re-established diplomatic relations with the UK, which had been broken off with the Falklands War of 1982, and helped form South America's Mercosur customs union. This stimulated the free market, but unemployment was high. Menem had the constitution changed to allow him to contest and win the 1995 presidential elections for a second and final four-year term. He declared a state of economic emergency in November 1995, giving him powers to raise taxes, privatize and cut waste, and his economic reforms were supported by IMF financial credits. A two-term limit prevented Menem from standing in the 1999 elections and the Peronist candidate, Eduardo Duhalde, was defeated by Fernando de la Rua. In 2001, Menem was arrested over an arms export scandal dating back to 1991 and 1996, but the allegations were not proved. He gained most votes in the first round of the presidential elections in April 2003, but fell short of an overall majority and pulled out of the run-off round as he faced almost certain defeat a the hands of his rival, Néstor Kirchner. In June 2004 he formed his own People's Peronism faction within the Justicialist Party.
Born in Anillaco, in La Rioja province, the son of Syrian immigrants, Menem was raised as a Sunni Muslim but converted to Roman Catholicism. He studied law at Córdoba University and founded the Perónist Youth Organization in 1955, but a year later was imprisoned in 1956 for taking part in a revolt aimed at restoring Juan Perón to power. Party leader in La Rioja from 1963, he became president of the province in 1973, but was deposed and imprisoned in 1976 when the military junta ousted President Isabel de Perón, widow and successor to Juan Perón. Menem was released in 1981 and became governor again 1983–89.
Menem (Akil), Carlos (Saul)