Nestor Kirchner, who served as the President of Argentina from 2003 to 2007, has died of a heart attack. He was 60.
Kirchner had been beset with heart trouble and only last month underwent an angioplasty procedure.
When Kirchner was elected President, Argentina was in the midst of a debt crisis and he is largely credited for restoring Argentinians confidence in the economy although many of the measures (such as the devaluation of the peso) were introduced by his predecessor Eduardo Duhalde.
Instead of seeking a second term his wife Cristina Fernandez ran in his place and was elected. Unsurprisingly, Kirchner yielded enormous power in Fernandez's government. It was believed that Kirchner was going to run for the presidency in 2011 thus alternating power between him and his wife.
Kirchner was a close ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (and this continues under Fernandez's administration). Writing about Kirchner on The Huffington Post, Robert Naiman draws our attention to an interview Kirchner did with Oliver Stone from his recently released documentary
South of the Border. Kirchner recounts a discussion he had with President George W. Bush. He told Stone that Bush had told him the best way to grow the American economy was to go to war.
Frankly, I find that statement hard to believe. Kirchner did not speak English and, despite his best efforts, Bush struggled with Spanish. In the absence of hearing Bush's side of the story, methinks something got lost in translation.
However, unlike Chavez, Kirchner had a strong affinity for Israel. Argentina also has the largest Jewish community in Latin America. The two countries have enjoyed stronger relations since the terrorist attack against a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in July 1994. It is widely believed that Hezbollah carried out the attack. While in office, Kirchner publicly condemned Iran, Hezbollah's sponsor, for the attack.
Unlike Chavez and other Latin American leaders like Bolivia's Evo Morales and Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Kirchner would not have an audience with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he visited Latin America in January 2007. This stand against Iran has continued under Fernandez. Consequently, Ahmadinejad skipped Argentina when he visited Latin America again in November 2009. And unlike Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, Argentina has not broken off diplomatic relations with Israel. So there's something to be said for being the boat that sails against the current.