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Fernando de la Rúa: 1937—: Politician, Lawyer

Joined Union Civica Radical

A native of Cordoba, de la Rúa was born on September 15, 1937, and studied law at the University of Cordoba. After joining the Union Civica Radical (UCR), Argentina's most traditional party at age 26, he took an advisory post in the Ministry of the Interior as one of the youngest members of Dr. Artier Illia's radical government. Later in 1973 he campaigned unsuccessfully for vice president as the running mate of Ricardo Balbín. In 1983 de la Rúa won election to the Senate from the city of Buenos Aires during the presidency of Juan Perón and survived an era of political chaos that threatened civil war.

De la Rúa came of age politically during the downfall of the Peróns. When Juan Perón died, his wife Isabel —then vice president—supplanted him and became president. She managed to suppress uprisings with a hard-handed right-wing backlash. On March 24, 1976, when a military coup ended her presidency, death squads began engineering the disappearance of thousands of citizens. In the upheaval, de la Rúa lost his senate post. He took his family to safety outside Argentina and, for seven years, taught at universities in Mexico, the United States, and Venezuela.

De la Rúa returned from self-imposed exile in 1983. Late in the decade, at a time when Argentina agonized under a military junta and weathered defeat by Britain in the Falkland Islands war, the mild-mannered attorney campaigned for the presidency. He lost to flamboyant Carlos Saul Menem, a Perónist Party strongman who took office in 1989. De la Rúa was elected to the senate, where he served for six years. In 1996 he was elected mayor of Buenos Aires, one of the largest urban centers in the Southern Hemisphere. In three years of office, he distinguished himself by expanding the subway, improving street lighting and garbage collection through privatization, and netting a budget surplus.

At a Glance . . .

Born Fernando de la Rúa on September 15, 1937, in Cordoba, Argentina; married Inés Pertiné; three children. Education: law degree from the University of Cordoba. Politics: Union Civica Radical Party.

Career:Ministry of Interior, Argentina, adviser, 1963-66; senator, 1973-76; university professor, 1976-83; senator, 1983-89; mayor, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1996-99; president of Argentina, 1999-01.

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