May 26, 2001

Argentina's former president weds Chilean beauty queen

                 LA RIOJA, Argentina (AP) -- Former Argentine President Carlos
                 Menem married Chilean beauty queen Cecilia Bolocco on Saturday
                 in a low-key ceremony in Menem's home province of La Rioja.

                 The couple wed in a 25-minute civil ceremony in the government mansion
                 in La Rioja, the capital of the province of the same name. It is about 625
                 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital.

                 Decked out in a brown suit and tie with a yellow shirt, Menem exchanged
                 vows with the former Miss Universe, who was wearing a white silk
                 wedding suit with a cutaway jacket and knee-length skirt, diamond
                 earrings and a silver butterfly clips in her hair.

                 The two exchanged rings and kissed briefly to the applause of the 150 guests
                 gathered at the ceremony, among them former Cabinet colleagues of the
                 70-year-old Menem and friends from the business and entertainment worlds.

                 After the ceremony they came out to the steps of the mansion, where they
                 greeted the thousands of locals. Bolocco, 36, clutched a bouquet of white roses
                 in her left hand and a rosary in her right.

                 Speaking to reporters, Menem said he was delighted with the reception the
                 couple received.

                 "I am very happy but especially with the people here, who have shown such
                 affection for us," he said.

                 Bolocco, who won the Miss Universe crown in 1987 and now is the host of a
                 Chilean television show, will take the name Cecilia Carolina de Menem.

                 The couple met in 1999 when Bolocco interviewed the then-Argentine president
                 on her television program. Menem sang and danced the tango with her.

                 Leaving the ceremony, Bolocco said she was "very proud to bear the family
                 name of someone who has done so much for this country."

                 Later Saturday, the couple were to hold a wedding party in a local sports stadium
                 where up to 1,000 guests were expected to turn out.

                 Saturday's wedding is the bright spot in what has been a dismal few weeks for the
                 former president.

                 Earlier this month Menem was called to give evidence in a case involving an
                 alleged illegal arms sales in 1991 and 1995.

                 Menem stands accused of organizing the illegal arms sales, which has already
                 led to the preventive imprisonment of his former defense minister and his former
                 brother-in-law and advisor Emir Yoma.

                 On Thursday, Menem's legal situation worsened when a judge ruled that Menem
                 could leave the country only after receiving permission.

                 Press reports have said the couple originally planned a much more lavish
                 ceremony but that Argentina's difficult economic situation and Menem's judicial
                 problems caused them to change plans.

                 Menem, who served two terms as president from 1989 to 1999, has one
                 daughter, Zulema Eva, from his first marriage with Zulema Yoma. The couple
                 also had a son, Carlos Facundo, who died in a helicopter crash in 1995.

                 Bolocco was also married to American Michael Jung; they had no children.

                   Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.