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Argentina Seeks Mental Exams for Politicians

September 12, 2002|From Times Wire Services

BUENOS AIRES — Argentine politicians, blamed by voters for leading the country into its worst economic crisis, would have to undergo psychiatric tests to ensure that they are mentally fit to hold office if a bill before Congress is approved.

Sen. Jorge Capitanich, a former Cabinet chief, has submitted a bill that would require all congressional and presidential candidates to take mental and physical exams, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The bill, which may be debated as early as this week, would also require aspiring leaders to present any criminal records and proof they have paid taxes in a country where half such potential revenues are lost to evasion.

Politicians are increasingly the target among voters fed up with a recession now in its fifth year. It is not unusual for lawmakers to be insulted or spat on in public.

As March presidential elections approach, the most common popular street slogan is "Get Rid of Them All!" Soaring poverty and unemployment have sparked food riots during the last year and forced four presidents from office since December.

On Tuesday, the government partially eased a 9-month-old banking freeze, allowing savers to withdraw billions of pesos. Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna announced that beginning Oct. 1, Argentines would be allowed to withdraw some of the money from accounts that had been frozen in December to stem a run on banks.

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