Carlos Soria, Argentina Governor, Dies Of Gunshots

01/01/2012 04:20 pm ET | Updated Mar 02, 2012

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Carlos Soria, a career Argentine politician who for 21 days realized his dream of governing the western Argentine province of Rio Negro, died Sunday of gunshots to the head. Police were questioning his wife about the circumstances.

Soria, 62, had just taken office on Dec. 10 after winning by a landslide as part of the ruling Front for Victory coalition that backs President Cristina Fernandez.

A party stalwart who came up through the more conservative branches of Peronism and served as Argentina's intelligence minister under President Eduardo Duhalde, Soria sparred with Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina during the tumultuous economic crisis of 2002, and had spent the last eight years as mayor of the provincial town of General Roca.

Soria was born in 1949 to a fervent follower of Gen. Juan Domingo Peron who was twice imprisoned for his support of the strongman president and eventually left politics to set up a small grocery store in General Roca. Soria earned a law degree in 1973 and then followed his father's legacy.

Soria headed a congressional commission investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires and later, as regional security minister for Buenos Aires, oversaw a hunt for bodies of victims of the country's 1976-1983 dictatorship.

As Duhalde's intelligence minister, he was accused of providing false testimony in a probe of the videotaped deaths of two protesters in during the 2002 crisis, when the government was barely hanging on to power amid widespread social unrest. Soria wasn't held responsible for replacing rubber bullets with lethal ones, but acknowledged wanting to give the protesters a lesson, "to set an example intended to restore the authority of the state."

Duhalde initially supported Kirchner but they later became bitter enemies, and Fernandez accused Soria in 2002 of spying on her husband.

With the Kirchners firmly in power in Buenos Aires, Soria spent two terms as mayor of his hometown. Eventually, Fernandez and Soria put their rift behind them ahead of his gubernatorial victory last year, when he beat a Radical Party rival 49 percent to 36 percent. "We need Cristina Fernandez as president. She's the huge umbrella that covers us all," he said then.

Susana Freydoz was being questioned by police Sunday to determine whether the shots were fired by accident or intentionally. Their heirs include Martin, who replaced Soria as mayor of General Roca, and three other children: German, Carlos and Emilia.

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Michael Warren can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/mwarrenap

(This version CORRECTS inaugurated Dec. 10.)

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