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JULY 12, 2002

Reutemann will not seek Argentinian presidency

CARLOS REUTEMANN surprised the Argentine people Wednesday by reporting that he would not seek the presidency of the financially troubled country. The former Formula One driver was favored to win the upcoming elections, but has decided not to run. "I've always said I'm not a candidate," said the 60 year old. "I'm not a candidate for anything. It's a question of consistency, which I have always shown."

The announcement is a boost to former president Carlos Menem's bid to return to control. Menem, a rival of Reutemann, held the presidency from 1989 to 1999 and sees himself as the only man who can "save Argentina", but he has been unpopular in public opinion polls.

Reutemann is the governor of the Santa Fe province, and a member of the country's ruling Peronist Party. He has ranked among the country's most popular politicians in a time when the public has staged daily protests while watching the economy die and the unemployment rate skyrocket.

Menem and leftist Elisa Carrio are now the frontrunners for March's elections.