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Argentina’s Economy Minister Dies After Six Days in Office

July 15, 1989

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Economy Minister Miguel Roig, who was designing an austerity program to end hyperinflation and Argentina’s worst recession in its 173-year history, has died of a heart attack. He was 68.

Roig died Friday afternoon in his apartment, only six days after taking office. The government news agency Telam said he left an event at the French Embassy, became ill en route to the Treasury Ministry and decided to go home.

His body lay in state at Government House, and burial was set for today.

In his brief tenure as economy minister, Roig devalued the currency by 54 percent and raised state-controlled utility prices by a minimum 200 percent.

Just before his death, Roig was trying to talk businessmen into voluntary price controls to help President Carlos Menem’s new government slow inflation.

Menem today named businessman Carlos Rapanelli to replace Roig, a retired vice president of the grain-trading company Bunge and Born. Rapanelli, 60, also a former executive with Bunge and Born, said he would continue Roig’s policies.

Roig was not a member of the Peronist Party, which took over the government on July 8, and his appointment added substance to Menem’s claims of forming a non-partisan government.

Argentina is gripped by economic chaos. Inflation in June was 114.5 percent, and projections for July are 200 percent or more. Unemployment stands at about 10 percent, and real wages have shrunk an estimated 60 percent.

Rapanelli is the the fifth economy minister since March 31, when Juan Sourrouille resigned because he could not stabilize the economy.

The Radical Civic Union lost national elections on May 14. While President Raul Alfonsin remained in office, two other economy ministers - Juan Carlos Pugliese and then Jesus Rodriguez, both national legislators - attempted to implement economic reforms, and failed.

The Menem government already has announced its intention to sell state-run companies, whose annual operating losses contribute heavily to the fiscal deficit and inflation.