At 86, Argentine ex-leader eyes reelection -- and immunity

Buenos Aires (AFP) - Argentine ex-president Carlos Menem announced Saturday he is running for parliament again at age 86, a move that could enable him to continue to dodge prison time over a string of criminal convictions.

President from 1989 to 1999 and a senator since 2005, Menem has been convicted of arms trafficking and corruption, but has so far escaped prison time thanks to his parliamentary immunity.

If elected, Menem -- who announced his candidacy in the country's October elections on Twitter -- would be 91 by the end of his four-year term.

Menem was once wildly popular, leading Argentina through a period of rapid economic growth in the 1990s and titillating Argentines with his fondness for fast cars and women half his age.

But his popularity plummeted as his key economic policies unraveled after his tenure, culminating in a devastating 2001 crisis that triggered riots in the streets.

In 2013 he was sentenced to seven years for trafficking arms to Croatia and Ecuador, a sentence that was upheld by Argentina's top criminal court this week.

He was also convicted in 2015 of corruption for masterminding the illegal overpayment of high-ranking officials' salaries.

Laura Alonso, head of Argentina's anti-corruption office, told MDZ radio that Menem should not be allowed to seek reelection in light of his criminal record.

"I hope for two things: for the courts to uphold the convictions, and for Mr Menem not to stand for public office again," she said.