Former President Carlos Menem was buried on Monday and received military honors in a small ceremony on the outskirts of the capital.
The coffin of the late Peronist leader and senator was buried next to his late son, Carlos Menem Jnr., In the Islamic cemetery of San Justo, in the province of Buenos Aires.
A military band performed before the ceremony, as soldiers carried the coffin to its resting place. Quran readings closed the ceremony, which included a speech by Anibal Bakir, the head of the local Islamic Center.
“Although he professes the Catholic religion, he will rest alongside my brother,” the daughter of ex-leader Zulemita Menem said before the ceremony.
Menem, Jr died in a helicopter crash in 1995 which his mother, Zulema Yoma, long claimed was a terrorist attack and which Menem himself later blamed on the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.
Coming from a Muslim family, Menem then converted to Catholicism in order to pursue a political career, the Constitution stipulating that the president was to follow this faith.
During his first term, he amended the Constitution in 1994 to remove this requirement while shortening the term from six to four years and allowing only one consecutive re-election.
President Alberto Fernández has decreed three days of mourning over the death of his 90-year-old Peronist politician colleague.
Menem has been in poor health in recent months and has been hospitalized several times. He was undergoing hospital treatment for a urinary tract infection which resulted in a heart attack.
His body was on display in Congress, where he served as a senator until his death, before being buried Monday in an Islamic cemetery in western Buenos Aires.
In a nod to Menem’s controversies and style, the late president was buried with a song by his late friend and singer Cacho Castaña, aptly enough ‘At Mi Manera‘- the crooner version of’ My Way ‘by Frank Sinatra.
“He died as he lived”
Menem was known for his political about-face which saw him implement free market policies, privatizations, and a political alliance with the United States. A charismatic hedonist, he departs from the generalist nationalist, populist and leftist politics of the Peronist movement.
He was president from 1989 to 1999, during which time he introduced the controversial monetary policy aimed at pegging the peso to the US dollar.
Even more controversially, he pardoned military leaders who were tried for crimes against humanity during the brutal military dictatorship of 1976-1983 – a decision later overturned by another Peronist president, Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) .
“The most serious thing he did was forgive the murderers of our children and the persecution of mothers,” said Hebe de Bonafini, the outspoken chairman of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo humanitarian group, which bears the name from the place where they started to demonstrate. to demand responses to the disappearances of their children during the dictatorship.
However, reactions have been mixed, with Fernández praising Menem’s “support for democracy” and former President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) calling him a “good person”.
Others were less flattering.
“He died as he lived: unpunished,” said a statement from Memoria Activa, a group of family members of the victims of the 1994 attack on the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires. .
Menem was tried for covering up the attack, which left 85 people dead, but was acquitted.
His presidency has been tarnished by multiple accusations of corruption and scandals. But while Menem has been investigated in several cases, he has never served a prison sentence.
In 2001, Menem was remanded in house custody for a case of arms smuggling to Croatia and Ecuador, but was released a few weeks later under a Supreme Court ruling and eventually released. .
He was sentenced in 2018 to three years in prison for embezzlement, but his parliamentary immunity protected him from going to jail.
– TIME / AFP