Latin America

Nestor Kirchner

Reuters reports:

Argentine shares and bonds rose on Wednesday after the death of political heavyweight and former President Nestor Kirchner removed from the 2011 election campaign a contender seen as unfriendly to markets.

A market holiday in Argentina muted local prices, but investors immediately bid higher Argentine credit-related and equity-related assets trading in global markets following the news Kirchner, 60, husband to current President Cristina Fernandez, died suddenly on Wednesday…

“Sincerely, for Argentina and from a market perspective there is nothing better than knowing that Kirchner will be out of the presidential race of next year. For years his confrontational, resentful style towards investors, companies and bond holdouts deprived Argentina of much-needed capital,” said Roberto Sanchez-Dahl, who oversees $1.1 billion in emerging market debt for Pittsburgh-based Federated Investment Management.

Rationally or not, I can’t help thinking that anyone whose death provoked this sort of reaction among the financial and corporate elite must have done something right.

And as I wrote in 2003, shortly after he became president, Kirchner deserved credit for:

–Annulling a decree that prohibited Argentine officers accused of human rights crimes from being extradited and declaring that Congress should abolish amnesties for military officers who tortured and murdered leftist opponents during the 1976-1983 “Dirty War.”

–Opening sealed government documents relating to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires which killed 86 people. The investigation of the bombing had stalled under previous governments.

–Ordering a probe into official cover-ups of exiled Nazis’ links to Argentina’s government after World War II. The country became a refuge for German war criminals, partly due to the fascist sympathies of then President Juan Perón.

In the case of the Jewish community center massacre, Argentine prosecutors in 2006 formally charged the Iranian government and Hezbollah in the attack, and called for the arrest of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and seven others. The Iranian government, of course, has refused to extradite Rafsanjani or anyone else. The following year, Kirchner refused to join other leaders in greeting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a Latin American tour.

As I wrote at the time:

I’m sure I could find much to dispute with Kirchner, not least his lavish praise for [Hugo] Chavez, but at least– unlike some other “leftists”– he draws the line at embracing a man who protects people almost certainly responsible for the mass murder of Jews as Jews.

There was a time when this was the minimum you could expect from those who identified themselves with the Left. Not anymore.