Argentina’s Culture of Corruption

Fittingly, perhaps, for the inhabitants of a large country, the Argentines do not do things by half-measures. When its Presidents are corrupt, they tend to be brazenly so. “Descarados” is the apt Spanish term; Britons of a certain age would have called them “bounders.” The most descarado of Argentina’s bounders, in modern times, was probably Carlos Saúl Menem, who ran the country, from 1989 to 1999, with a shamelessness that brings to mind Silvio Berlusconi. When a businessman gave him a brand-new red Ferrari as a present while he was in office, for example, Menem drove it proudly around the city. When he was questioned about it, Menem exclaimed, “It’s mine, mine, mine!”

Such antics are the stuff of great public theatre, if only they didn’t point to an appalling dearth of honesty in the highest elected public offices. Menem,

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