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Menem was also supremely flexible as a politician, beginning his career as a self-styled disciple of Gen. Juan Domingo Peron, who founded the populist movement that bears his name and placed the economy largely under state control. Menem, who served two terms as president between 1989 and 1999, transformed the country — but in the opposite direction.

“I don’t know if I’m going to get the country out of its economic problems, but I’m sure going to make a more fun country,” Menem once said. He relished the company of celebrities, hosting the Rolling Stones and Madonna in Buenos Aires, and memorably shrugged off criticism after receiving a red Ferrari as a gift from an Italian businessman in 1990.

“It is mine, mine and mine,” Menem, an auto racing fan, said in front of television cameras. “Why would I donate it?”

Later, he reluctantly agreed to auction off the car for $135,000, with the proceeds going to state coffers.

The son of Syrian immigrants whose family owned a winery, Menem was a folksy, three-time governor of northwestern La Rioja Province, noted for shoulder-length hair and muttonchop sideburns when he came to international prominence.

He won the Peronist Party nomination and surged to victory in 1989 presidential elections, capitalizing on economic and social chaos in Argentina. The country was mired in 5,000% annual inflation and the poor were sacking supermarkets to obtain food.

Under Menem, the economy registered strong growth, inflation dropped to single digits and the peso, the national currency, enjoyed unprecedented stability as it was pegged to the U.S. dollar. The long hair and sideburns were gone and the flashy clothes replaced by imported, hand-made suits.

The core of Menem’s recovery plan, masterminded by energetic Harvard-educated Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo, was the withdrawal of the state from the economy.

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Menem removed controls on prices and interest rates. He sold the state-owned phone company, airlines, race tracks, steel mills and the oil giant YPF, then South America’s largest company. He cut the state payroll and encouraged foreign investment. He curbed once-powerful labor unions that formed the backbone of the Peronist movement and were angered by state payroll cuts that eliminated jobs.

In foreign affairs, Menem withdrew Argentina from the Non-Aligned Movement, a Cold War-era structure that had espoused independence from the United States and — less so — the Soviet Union, and forged strong ties with Washington.

Argentine troops participated in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq and joined U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti and the former Yugoslavia.

During Menem’s tenure, Argentina was the scene of deadly bombings — against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and a Jewish center in 1994. Argentina accused Iran of involvement; Iran denied it. Menem was later tried for the alleged cover-up of those responsible for the attack on the Jewish center, but was found not guilty in a trial in 2019.

As president, Menem prevailed in disputes with the Argentine military, whose 1976 coup had led to the extrajudicial killings and disappearances of tens of thousands of people. He trimmed armed forces spending and abolished the highly unpopular military conscription system.

He dismayed human rights groups by granting a pardon to former military junta members serving sentences of up to life in prison for crimes connected to the disappearance of Argentine dissidents during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. The pardon was extended to former guerrillas in what Menem described as a process of national reconciliation.


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Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York AG Won’t Accept Cuomo’s Proposal for Independent Probe Into Sexual Harassment Claims

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The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Sunday that she has not accepted a statement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offering that she and the chief judge of New York’s Court of Appeals appoint an attorney to investigate the sexual harassment claims against him from at least two former female members of his administration.

“To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” James said in a statement. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral.”

Cuomo’s office released a statement earlier on Sunday asking James and Janet DiFiore, chief judge of New York’s Court of Appeals, to jointly appoint an independent lawyer to investigate the harassment allegations from Lindsey Boylan, the former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo, and Charlotte Bennett, another former aide to the governor.

James and DiFiore should jointly select “an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report,” said Beth Garvey, special counsel to the governor.

That public report would be exclusively controlled by the attorney conducting the review, Garvey said.

James on Sunday called on Cuomo, a third term Democrat, to issue an executive order putting her exclusively in charge of the probe, saying it would empower her to issue subpoenas, enforceable in court.

“While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law,” James said in a statement. “The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”

Boylan, a Democrat running for Manhattan borough president, in a post published on the website Medium last week, accused Cuomo of making inappropriate remarks, and allegedly touching and kissing her without consent. She said he would go out of his way to “touch me on my lower back, arms, and legs,” compare her to one of his rumored former girlfriends, and once suggested that they should “play strip poker” on a flight from an event in October 2017.

Bennett, a former executive assistant and health policy adviser to Cuomo, accused the governor of sexually harassing her, including asking inappropriate questions.

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“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the New York Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Cuomo’s office has denied the allegations from both Boylan and Bennett. However, the Democratic governor released a statement on Sunday acknowledging that some of his interactions with women “may have been insensitive or too personal.”

The statement maintained that Cuomo has “never inappropriately touched anybody” and said the office would cooperate with an investigation.

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” Cuomo said.

“To be clear, I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.”

James said on Twitter that her office expects “to receive a referral with subpoena power to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, in line with our demands and New York state law. The referral would be made solely to the attorney general’s office.”

“This is not a responsibility we take lightly,” James added. “We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation.”

The White House has called on Cuomo to face an “independent review” over the sexual harassment allegations. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki described the allegations as “serious.”

“It was hard to read that story, as a woman,” Psaki said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The 63-year-old governor is facing increasing calls to resign following the sexual harassment allegations, that come at a time when he is facing intense scrutiny over how his state handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Epoch Times)

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Biden administration

Trump bashes Biden for rejoining WHO, Paris Climate Accord

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Former President Donald Trump slammed President Joe Biden Sunday for rejoining the World Health Organization and Paris Climate accord — and overpaying to do so.

“It is so sad,” Trump said about the US rejoining both organizations during remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference — after he pulled out during his term in the White House.

“They really are puppets for China,” he said of the WHO as the crowd booed.

“They called and they wanted us to stay in,” Trump said. “I said, ‘How much are we paying?’ ‘Approximately $500 million.’ ‘How much is China paying — a much larger, in terms of population, country?’ ‘Sir, they’re paying $39 million.’”

“I say ‘Why are we paying $500 million and they’re paying $39?’” Trump said. “I can tell you why. Because the people that made the deal are stupid.”

Trump also chided Biden for rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, calling the pact “very unfair and costly” to the US — and “without negotiating a better deal.”

“They wanted us back so badly,” he said. “I’ll tell you they wanted us. I was getting called from all of the countries. ‘You must come back into the Paris Accord.’ I said, ‘Tell me why? Give me one good reason?”

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The former president went on to highlight the double standard for America and developing countries in the deal, blasting Biden for not negotiating fairer terms upon rejoining.

“First of all, China doesn’t click in for 10 years,” Trump said. “Russia goes by an old standard which was not a clean standard.”

“But we get hit right from the beginning where is costs us hundreds of thousands and millions of jobs, it was a disaster, but they go back in. I could have made an unbelievable deal but I didn’t want to do that, surrendering millions of jobs and trillions of dollars to all of these other countries, almost all of them that were in the deal.

Trump continued, “what good does it do when we’re clean but China’s not, and Russia’s not, and India’s not.”

“They have favorable treatment,” he added “We don’t have favorable treatment.”

“[Biden] could have made a great deal– if they were going to go back in that’s fine– but they could have made a great deal. Instead they say, ‘we’re back in.’”

(NYP)

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Biden administration

Joe Biden administration defends its decision not to sanction Saudi Crown Prince

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The Biden administration defended its decision not to sanction Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally for his role in the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as the White House confirmed no more actions against the kingdom are imminent.

“The United States has not historically sanctioned the leaders of countries where we have diplomatic relations or even some where we don’t have diplomatic relations,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Behind the scenes there are a range of diplomatic conversations.”

Despite President Joe Biden’s comment Friday in an interview with Univision that “we’re going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday” — and a similar statement from at the White House on Saturday — the administration said it isn’t planning steps beyond the limited sanctions already announced against some Saudi officials.

“The recalibration of relations with Saudi Arabia began on January 20th and it’s ongoing,” the White House said in a statement. “The Administration took a wide range of new actions on Friday. The President is referring to the fact that on Monday, the State Department will provide more details and elaborate on those announcements, not new announcements.”

Psaki, in a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the administration has been “crystal clear at every level” about recalibrating the relationship with Saudi Arabia and about it’s plan to “turn the page from the last four years.”

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On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced what he called a new “Khashoggi Ban” policy, barring U.S. visas for 76 Saudi individuals who the U.S. said had threatened dissidents abroad.

That action came after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified version of an intelligence report that the Trump administration had withheld from the public. “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the intelligence agencies found.

Democratic lawmakers ramped up their calls for Biden to do more to hold the Saudi crown prince personally responsible. Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Fox that sanctions on Prince Mohammed should be considered “if we don’t see a change in behavior.”

The crown prince has said he accepts symbolic responsibility for the killing as the country’s de facto ruler. Saudi officials have said the murder was carried out by rogue agents who have since been prosecuted.

On Friday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said the government “completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.
(Livemint)

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