Ex-economy minister of Argentine dictatorship dies

Buenos Aires, Mar 16 (EFE).- The first economy minister of the last Argentine dictatorship, Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, died Saturday in Buenos Aires, official sources said. He was 87.

Martinez de Hoz was tried for the kidnapping and extortion of textile manufacturers Federico and Miguel Gutheim and was under house arrest since 2010, the official news agency Telam said.

The one-time minister of the dictatorship lived in a downtown luxury residence in the Argentine capital and will be buried at Memorial Cemetery, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Buenos Aires.

Born to an important family of landowners, Martinez de Hoz held his first public office as economy minister of the northern province of Salta in the late 1950s, and after the coup d'etat in 1962 was made agriculture and livestock minister by President Jose Maria Guido.

While in office as economy minister during the last military dictatorship (1976-1981), he promoted free-market, deregulatory policies that quadrupled Argentina's foreign debt and significantly harmed domestic industry.

The economic program promoted by Martinez de Hoz also spurred large transfers of capital abroad and the loss of purchasing power by Argentina's middle and lower classes.

After the nation's return to democracy in 1983, Martinez de Hoz was jailed for collaborating with the dictatorship, but then-President Carlos Menem pardoned him in 1990.

An Argentine court overturned the pardon in 2006 and reopened the case against him for the kidnapping of Federico Gutheim and his son Miguel.

Martinez de Hoz was placed under house arrest in 2010, and unsuccessfully tried several times to have the sentence revoked "for health reasons."

His last appeal was rejected this past December.