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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Menem languishes in gilded cage
Supporters of Carlos Menem demonstrate outside the court
Carlos Menem still has a lot of support in Argentina
By Claire Marshall in Buenos Aires

For Argentinians, the reality that their flamboyant former president, Carlos Menem, has suffered the indignity of being arrested on suspicion of illegal arms dealing is still sinking in.

Television channels are continuously re-playing footage of the ex leader being led from the courtroom to a police helicopter, and being flown to house arrest in a suburb of the capital, where he will have to stay for the duration of the investigation.

However, for Mr Menem himself, the reality is not as harsh as it sounds.

Sultry cellmate

Country house in Don Torcuato where Menem is under house arrest
The House in the suburb of Don Torcuato has all modern conveniences
The 70-year-old, famed for his love of the high life, is continuing in the style to which he has become accustomed - staying at a friend's plush residence, with visitors free to come and go.

At his side is his new wife, former Chilean beauty queen Cecilia Bolocco.

As a legal formality, Ms Bolocco is acting as a guarantor that her husband will not flee the country.

Behind an armed police guard at the gate, elegant gardens sweep up to a balconied white villa, which boasts a pool and a sports area.

His supporters have hung a banner opposite the entrance to the house, saying "Menem President 2003".

People's views

The new Mrs Menem, beauty queen Cecilia Bolocco, with Carlos Menem (AP Photo)
Mrs Menem is present to ease the incarceration
Ana, aged 53, who lives just one block away, says she will be a "Menemista until she dies" and is very happy that the former president is staying in her neighbourhood.

As far as she is concerned he is not really under arrest, just relaxing and enjoying the air.

Married couple Elvida and Jorge live down the road. They both think Thursday's arrest was very bad, because when Menem was in power people had jobs and credit.

They both said that they would vote him back in to office even after this growing arms dealing scandal.

Mr Menem has been accused of being the head of an "illicit association" which sold thousands of tons of armaments to Ecuador and Croatia in the early 1990s, breaking a UN arms embargo.

It is unclear how long the investigation will take, however it is thought that formal charges will be brought against the former president within 10 days.

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See also:

07 Jun 01 | Americas
Menem under house arrest
07 Jun 01 | Americas
Profile: Carlos Menem
07 Jun 01 | Americas
How arms scandal emerged
06 Jun 01 | Americas
Menem protests his innocence
26 May 01 | Americas
Menem marries his beauty queen
01 May 01 | Americas
Menem ordered to answer arms charge
06 Jan 01 | Americas
Why men envy Menem
28 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Argentina
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