Gov. Mark Sanford's mistress is a 43-year-old divorced mother who works for an agricultural company and lives in a trendy neighborhood, Argentine media reported today.
La Nacion newspaper in Buenos Aires identified Sanford's lover as Maria Belen Chapur, a mother of two sons who lives in the fashionable district of Palermo. Other news outlets reported her last name as Shapur.
She is said to be an attractive and well-educated professional who speaks English, Portuguese and Chinese, the Clarin and Terra Noticias news services reported. She lives in an upscale apartment building near a zoo, a large park and the U.S. Embassy. She is said to have attended St. Catherine's, a well-regarded private school.
After six days of speculation about his whereabouts, Sanford emerged Wednesday and confessed to having a year-long affair with a woman he met in Argentina eight years ago. Sanford did not identify the woman but told reporters she had two boys.
Sanford grew teary-eyed during the press conference and he said he had spent the past week crying in Argentina and trying to get his "heart right."
Celebrity gossip website TMZ today quoted Buenos Aires bar owner Carlos Soto as saying he saw the governor and his mistress having a good time last week. The owner of Guido's Bar told TMZ the two were "all over each over" in his establishment, "kissing, holding hands and drinking wine."
Media crews are reportedly camped outside her apartment, but Chapur has yet to speak with reporters.
Several media outlets reported that Chapur works for Bunge y Born, a multi-national agribusiness with deep roots in Argentina. Bunge y Borne is now known as Bunge Limited, based in White Plains, N.Y.
But Stewart Lindsay, a spokesman for Bunge Limited, said Chapur has never worked for the company. He said the confusion may stem from published race results from a 2005 marathon in which Chapur ran alongside Bunge workers with whom she is friends. "But she is not an employee and has never worked there."
Sanford drew national attention after he drove off in a law enforcement vehicle last week and disappeared. His aides and his wife initially said they had no idea where he was, adding that the governor had pulled vanishing acts in the past when he needed time to clear his head.
Sanford's aides later indicated that he had taken time off to hiking along the Appalachian Trail. They stuck to that story for two days until a reporter caught up with the governor Wednesday as he stepped off a plane at the Atlanta airport.
Sanford admitted he had been in South America. At an afternoon press conference, he offered a broader explanation, confessing that he had an extramarital affair and had misled his staff about a secret trip he took last week to be with the woman.
Sanford said he met his mistress eight years ago, though he didn't say where. They struck up a conversation, became friendly and decided to stay in contact via e-mail. "It started on a very casual basis - run things by each other," he said. He felt as if he had found a confidant. "We developed a remarkable friendship over those eight years. About a year ago, it sparked into something more than that."
Felipe Noguera, a political consultant in Argentina, said the affair has not attracted great attention in Buenos Aires, likely because many people are preoccupied by the upcoming mid-term legislative elections. Affairs of the heart and other personal peccadillos also seem to attract less attention in Argentina than in the United States, where philandering has torpedoed so many political careers, he said. "That is more of an American phenomenon, like sitcoms or soap operas," he said.
Translation from La Nación
Below is a translation from a story the Argentinean newspaper La Nacion
United States governor reveals that he has an Argentinean lover;(He) was missing for five days
... In the local media, she was identified as Maria Belen Chapur, a [fresh, vigorous, well preserved] woman of Buenos Aires of 43 years, divorced for several years. She lives in an apartment in the neighborhood of Palermo. She has two sons from her previous marriage. She works for farming and livestock business/company. She maintains excellent physical state doing many sports.