Hernan Etchaleco: Former Argentinean President released from prison

Carlos Menem, president of Argentina between 1989 and 1999, was released on Tuesday from his house arrest by order of the local justice, after five months of imprisonment. The ex -president is blamed for being responsible for the illegal sale of weapons to Equator and Croatia while in power.

The Federal Supreme Court of Justice nullified the preventive prison sentences against Menem and some close collaborators and ordered his immediate liberation. However, he will be kept under investigation for his participation in the "weapons scandal" and other allegations.

Menem signed four decrees between 1991 and 1995 to authorize the sale of weapons to Panama and Venezuel, but those shipments were detoured to Equator and Croatia , respectively, while those countries were restricted to purchase weapons by order of the United Nations. The ex-president was arrested in June on allegations of being the head of the operation.

In turn, President De la Rua expressed his acceptance of the decision of the courts in a statement. In addition, his speaker, Juan Pablo Baylac, stated after the news became public that the prison sentence of Menem had "awful" effects for the international reputation of the country. It is important to state that according to the last polls, both the former and current presidents are the lowest ranked politicians of Argentina.

At the same time, Ricardo Monner Sans, the lawyer who denounced the illegal operation, expressed his displeasure to the press. In a statement to different local newspapers, he blamed the courts for being "functional to power interests.” In his opinion, the ruling government backed the measure because it is looking for a major dispute within the opposition party, which is trying to resist Menem's ambitions to run for president in the 2003 elections.

The consequences of this decision are unpredictable. Since 1995, investigators collected enough evidence to charge Menem and his collaborators in the case. However, in a short and little substantial statement, in the opinion of many specialists, the major tribunal rejected research that provided unwanted results and affected the economic and political interests in Argentina.

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