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Peronist Governor in Province Rocked by Scandal Loses Re-election Bid

December 2, 1991

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Election returns Monday showed the governor of a poor rural province had lost a bid for re-election in a blow to the ruling Peronist party, which had held the post for 40 years.

Gov. Ramon Saadi received 36 percent of the vote in Sunday’s balloting in Catamarca province. He was defeated by former Catamarca Gov. Arnoldo Castillo of the Radical Civic Union, who tallied 48 percent.

The race had drawn attention because of the grisly, unsolved murder last year of a 17-year-old girl, Maria Soledad Morales. Her naked body was found in a ditch near her home in September 1990 in San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca.

The town of 90,000 is in the Andes foothills 800 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.

She had been scalped and beaten brutally. An autopsy indicated she had been raped and died of a cocaine overdose she may not have taken voluntarily.

A key suspect turned out to be the son of a political ally of Saadi, congressman Angel Luque, prompting allegations of a coverup. Saadi has denied impeding the investigation.

President Carlos Menem, also a Peronist, forced Saadi to step down earlier this year, and eventually ran his own candidate against him.

Anticipating defeat, Saadi - whose father governed Catamarca before him and whose sister is a senator - also ran on a slate of candidates for the lower house of congress. He won.

Overall, the ruling party strengthened itself in the midterm elections, which began Aug. 11.

Starting with 103 deputies following Menem’s May 1989 election, the Peronists now have about 116 seats, according to unofficial government tallies. Allied parties raise that total to about 150 - well more than needed for a majority in the 254-seat chamber.

The Peronists have a majority in the senate, which was not up for re- election; and wound up with 13 governors in Argentina’s 23 provinces.

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