Argentina: Menem smuggling acquittal overturned

Reversing a September 2011 decision by a lower court, on March 8 Argentina's federal Criminal Appeals Court found former Argentine president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) guilty of "aggravated smuggling" in the government's clandestine sales of 6,500 tons of arms to Ecuador and Croatia from 1991 to 1995. The court also convicted former defense minister Oscar Camilión, former colonel Diego Palleros and nine others in the scheme to smuggle arms to the two countries during a time when international agreements banned the sales. Menem claims he didn't know the ultimate destination of the arms when he signed the three secret decrees authorizing the shipments.

The crime carries a sentence of four to 12 years, but Menem currently enjoys immunity as a senator for La Rioja province. The former president, a close ally of the US during his time in office, is also facing a possible trial on charges of impeding the initial investigation into a July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires; at least 85 people died in the terrorist attack. (AFP, March 8, via

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 10.