One of the fascinating personalities of Argentina is disgraced former president Carlos Menem. President from 1989-1999, Menem's tenure saw (among other things) the taming of Argentina's 5,000% inflation, the pegging of the peso to the dollar, the privatization of state industries, and terrorist bombings of several Jewish cultural sites. He was wildly controversial: he has been implicated in or accused of corruption, an arms export scandal, whitewashing the investigations into the bombings, hidden Swiss bank accounts, bad hair (of this he is guilty) and no doubt horrifying halitosis. After he left office his dollar/peso peg collapsed and destroyed the Argentine economy, and such a critical mass of people in his government met weird, inexplicable deaths that some people will not even refer to Menem by name. Then, during the last presidential election, Menem dropped out before the vote because he was about to be trounced by Kirchner, thus depriving Kirchner of an electoral mandate.
Which will help explain this funny playground moment: despite being trounced in recent congresstional elections, Menem scored a minority party sentorial seat via Argentina's weird electoral rules, and yesterday he was sworn in. President Nestor Kirchner also attended the swearing in (his sister won an election; shocker) but, as Menem went around shaking hands, Kirchner looked away, clasped his hands and knocked on wood three times for luck. Classic.