Kirchner, Néstor Carlos

Kirchner, Néstor Carlos nāˈstôr kärˈlōs kērchˈnâr [key], 1950–2010, Argentinean politician. A native of Patagonia, he was a lawyer and left-wing Peronist and, after two brief imprisonments, was in private practice during the 1976–83 military dictatorship. Elected mayor of his native Río Gallegos in 1987, he ran for the governorship of Santa Cruz prov. in 1991 and won. He was reelected in 1995 and 1999. In 2003 the relatively unknown Kirchner mounted a campaign for the Argentinean presidency, securing the office after he narrowly lost the first round and the unpopular former president Carlos Menem withdrew from the runoff. Kirchner became the first native of Patagonia to be elected Argentina's president.

In office Kirchner negotiated improved terms for Argentina's burdensome debt and benefited from an improving economy; at the same time, railroads, telecommunications companies, and some other firms were nationalized. He also ended the amnesty that had protected members of the military accused of human-rights abuses during the dictatorship. In 2007 he declined to run for another term and declared his support for the presidential candidacy of his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who won the subsequent election. He remained influential behind the scenes both in the government and Peronist party. In 2009 Kirchner was elected to the National Congress but placed second in the proportional balloting; he had run in an attempt to rally voter support for his wife's presidency and his party. He was named secretary-general of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) in 2010, but died suddenly six months later.

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