BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Uruguayan investigators were examinining the cell phones and computer of a high-ranking Argentine government economist on Wednesday, seeking a motive for his death during an international summit meeting.
Ivan Heyn's body was found in his hotel room during the Mercosur summit when a hotel maid tried to restock the minibar on Tuesday. Police said he had apparently just taken a shower, and that his belt had choked off his air supply, but there were no signs of violence or evidence that anyone else had been in the room, and no suicide note was found.
Police were tentatively treating the hanging as a suicide, but with no apparent motive, his friends seemed baffled. He had been in a great mood only hours earlier, telling jokes, making plans and celebrating the birthday of Argentina's foreign minister during a gathering at the ambassador's residence, La Nacion newspaper reported.
President Cristina Fernandez eulogized her deputy foreign commerce secretary Wednesday, saying that the 34-year-old Heyn was like a son and that word of his death had left her feeling unable to breathe. She called him a "brilliant economist" whose personal suffering as a result of Argentina's 2001 financial crisis turned him into a tireless activist for economic justice.
Heyn's father lost the family business and house in the collapse and abandoned Argentina for Spain. Heyn decided to stay, and put himself through college by weaving bracelets to sell in the streets, the president said. He earned an economics degree at the University of Buenos Aires and rose quickly through the ranks at the Economy Ministry, part of a phalanx of young ministers promoted by Fernandez for her second term.
Heyn had been president of the Buenos Aires student's union and active in La Campora, a youth movement loyal to Fernandez, where he became a friend of Maximiliano Kirchner, the president's son.
He also served as president of the Old Puerto Madero Corporation, a joint private-public venture that managed development of a booming section of downtown Buenos Aires, and represented Argentina's public pension system on the board of the Aluar aluminum company.
Uruguay's top police spokesman, Inspector Jose Luis Roldan, told The Associated Press that Heyn's phones and notebook were being probed for clues. Roldan told Diarios y Noticias, an Argentine news agency, that the hotel's video recordings also were being studied to confirm that Heyn was alone in his 10th floor room at the Radisson Hotel, which was under tight security for the summit.
The hotel's security chief, Alejandro Gonzalez, said Heyn was alone in the room, and neither made nor received calls on the hotel phone, Argentina's Ambito Financiero newspaper reported.
Fernandez had named Heyn to his post only days before his death. She announced the creation of the job on Dec. 10, during the inauguration of her second term, as key to protecting Argentina's economy against global financial pressures.
The president quoted Ambito Financiero's speculation that perhaps Heyn had intended to kill himself on Dec. 20, the tenth anniversary of the country's economic collapse, and suggested that the young economist was a martyr in a much larger cause.
"It may not be coincidence that perhaps his decision yesterday in Montevideo was taken 10 years after the 2001 crisis," a time when his fate was forged by the losses his family suffered, the newspaper wrote.
Heyn, Fernandez said, "was like thousands of other young Argentines, who are often criticized just because they're young, honest and distance themselves from the practices that have done so much damage to our politics and country."
Associated Press Writers Raul O. Garces in Montevideo and Almudena Calatrava in Buenos Aires contributed to this report.