Carlos Saúl Menem was born in Anillaco, Argentina, on July 2, 1930, one of four sons of Saúl and Mohibe Akil Menem, who were Syrian immigrants. His father, a merchant, sent all his sons to college. Carlos Saúl attended the National University of Córdoba, in Argentina’s second city. He earned a law degree in 1955 and became a passionate Peronist.
In 1966, he married Zulema Yoma. They had two children, Zulema Menem and Carlos Saúl Jr., and were divorced in 1991. In 2001, he married Cecilia Bolocco. They had a son, Máximo, and were divorced in 2011. Carlos Saúl Jr. was killed in a helicopter crash in 1995.
Besides his daughter, Zulema Menem, and his son Máximo Menem Bolocco, survivors include another son, Carlos Nair Menem and a brother, Eduardo.
Mr. Menem was briefly jailed when Perón was overthrown in 1955. He later joined the Justicialist Party, successor to the Peronist Party. In 1973, after returning from exile, Perón seized power again. Mr. Menem, leading his provincial party, was elected governor of La Rioja Province.
Perón died in 1974 and was succeeded by his third wife, Isabel Martínez de Perón, who was deposed in 1976 by a junta that also ousted and imprisoned Mr. Menem for several years. In 1983, after the junta collapsed, Mr. Alfonsín was elected president, and Mr. Menem was again elected governor of La Rioja Province. He was re-elected in 1987.
In 1989, as Argentina’s economy went into steep decline, Mr. Menem was elected president, despite wide uncertainty about what he stood for. Analysts said that his popularity, like Perón’s, lay in his personal appeal, rather than in any programs, which he did not detail.
“Menem is a sort of Reagan,” a prominent Peronist told The Times during the campaign. “He’s a great communicator with a dozen basic ideas, who has a great instinct for handling people, but has little interest in detailed programmatic ideas. The result is inevitably some ambiguities, but this doesn’t worry his followers.”