"The sudden death of Néstor Kirchner is a great loss, not only to Argentina but to the region and the world. Kirchner took office as president in May 2003, when Argentina was in the initial stages of its recovery from a terrible recession. His role in rescuing Argentina's economy is comparable to that of Franklin D Roosevelt in the Great Depression of the United States. Like Roosevelt, Kirchner had to stand up both to powerful moneyed interests and to most of the economics profession, which was insisting that his policies would lead to disaster. They were proved wrong, and Kirchner right.
In September of 2003, the battle came to a head when Kirchner temporarily defaulted to the IMF rather than accept its conditions. This was an extraordinarily gutsy move – no middle-income country had ever defaulted to the IMF; only a handful of failed or pariah states like Iraq or Congo. That's because the IMF was seen as having the power to cut off even trade credits to a country that defaulted to them.
No one knew for sure what would happen. But the IMF backed down and rolled over the loans. Argentina went on to grow at an average of more than 8% annually through 2008, pulling more than 11 million people, in a country of 40 million, out of poverty. The policies of the Kirchner government, including the central bank targeting of a stable and competitive real exchange rate, and taking a hard line against the defaulted creditors – were not popular in Washington or among the business press. But they worked.
Kirchner also earned respect from human rights organisations for his willingness to prosecute and extradite some of the military officers accused of crimes against humanity during the 1976-1983 dictatorship – reversing the policies of previous governments. Together with his wife, current president Cristina Fernández, Néstor Kirchner made an enormous contribution in helping to move Argentina and the region in a progressive direction. These efforts have not generally won him much favour in Washington and in international business circles, but history will record him not only as a great president but also as an independence hero of Latin America."
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