Argentina: Page 2 of 8
by the Civic Union. With the resignation of Mitre, the Civic Union became the Radical Civic Union (UCR). Although the Coup d'état failed, Celman resigned from the presidency, starting the decline of the PAN. Conservative élites dominated Argentine politics until 1912, when President Roque Sáenz Peña enacted universal male suffrage and the secret ballot. This allowed the UCR to win the country's first free elections in 1916. President Hipólito Yrigoyen enacted social and economic reforms and extended assistance to family farmers and small businesses. Argentina stayed neutral during World War I.
The second administration of Yrigoyen faced a huge economic crisis, influenced by the international Great Depression. The military made a coup d'état and ousted him from power, which began the Infamous Decade. José Félix Uriburu led the military rule for two years. Agustín Pedro Justo was elected with electoral fraud, and signed the Roca-Runciman Treaty. Roberto María Ortiz and Ramón Castillo stayed neutral during World War II. Britain supported the Argentine neutrality, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor the United States requested all of South America to join the Allied Nations. Castillo was finally deposed by the Revolution of '43, a new military coup that wanted to end the electoral fraud of the last decade. Argentina declared war to the Axis Powers a month before the end of World War II in Europe. The minister of welfare of the military, Juan Perón, became highly popular among workers. He was fired and jailed, but a massive demonstration forced his liberation. Perón ran for the presidency in 1946, and won by 53.1%.
The Argentine military, as has been the tendency in other Latin American countries, were considerably more influential in former times. Starting in 1930 and throughout the 20th century, democratic governments were more often than not interrupted by military coups (see History of Argentina). The terrible consequences of the last dictatorship destroyed the military image as the moral reserve of the nation and opened the way to transform them to into today's armed forces.
Juan Perón created a political movement known as Peronism. Taking advantage of the import substitution industrialization and the European devastation left by the immediate aftermath of World War II, he nationalized strategic industries and services, improved wages and working conditions, paid the full external debt and achieved nearly full employment. The economy, however, began to decline in 1950. His wife Eva Perón was highly popular and played a central political role, mostly through the Eva Perón Foundation, where she developed an unprecedented social assistance to the most vulnerable sectors of society in Argentina. Also provided assistance to countries of South America and she brought food and clothing to Europe, during the European Tour of Eva in 1947. The Female Peronist Party, as women's suffrage was granted in 1947. However, her declining health did not allow her to run for the vice-presidency in 1951, and she died of cancer the following year. The military began to plot against Perón in 1955, and bombed the Plaza de Mayo in an ill-fated attempt to kill him. A few months later, Perón resigned during a new military coup, which established the Revolución Libertadora. Perón left the country, and finally settled in Spain.
The Dirty War
Pedro Eugenio Aramburu proscribed Peronism and banned all manifestations of it. Peronism, however, did not disappear, as Peronists kept being organized in informal associations. The 1949 amendment of the Constitution was repealed, restoring the one of 1853; but the elections for the Constituent Assembly obtained a majority of blank votes because of the Peronist proscription. Arturo Frondizi from the UCR became popular by opposing the military rule, and got elected in the following elections. The military, however, was reluctant to allow Peronism to influence the new government, and allowed him to take power on condition he stayed aligned with them. The military frequently interfered on behalf of conservative, agrarian interests however, and the results were mixed. His policies encouraged investment to make the country self-sufficient in energy and industry, helping reverse a chronic trade deficit for Argentina. His efforts to stay on good terms with both Peronists and the military, without fully supporting either one, earned him the distrust and rejection of both. Frondizi lifted the Peronist proscription, leading to a Peronist victory in several provinces, rejected by the military. A new coup ousted him from power, but a swift reaction by José María Guido (president of the Senate) applied the laws related to power vacuums and became president instead of the military. The elections were repealed and Peronism proscribed again. Arturo Illia was elected in 1963 but, despite prosperity, his attempts to include Peronists in the political process resulted in the armed forces retaking power in a coup in 1966. The Argentine Revolution, the new military government, sought to rule in Argentina indefinitely.
The new military Junta appointed Juan Carlos Onganía as president. He closed the Congress, banned all political parties and dismantled all student unions and many worker unions. Popular discontent led to two massive protests in 1969, the Cordobazo in Córdoba and the Rosariazo in Rosario. In May 1970, the Montoneros kidnapped and executed the former de facto president, Aramburu. There was a public outcry against this crime. Onganía was replaced by Roberto M. Levingston in June 1970.
The Montoneros and the People's Revolutionary Army (ERP), commenced Guerrilla warfare against the military, ultimately resulting in 6,000 casualties. This, in turn, led to the military reacting with the Dirty War, in which 10,000 people "disappeared", including some guerillas.
In March 1971, Levingston was then replaced by Alejandro Agustín Lanusse, who began negotiations to return to democracy and end the proscription of Peronism. Initially, he sought to allow Peronism but not the return of Juan Perón himself (who was living in Spain) with an agreement stipulating presidential candidates reside in Argentina as of 25 August. Thus, the Peronist candidate was not Perón but Héctor José Cámpora, who won the elections by the 49.59%.
The return of Peronism to power saw violent disputes between its internal factions: right-wing union leaders and left-wing youth from Montoneros. The return of Perón to the country in June 1973 generated an armed conflict, the Ezeiza massacre. Overwhelmed by political violence, Cámpora and his vice-president resigned, promoting new elections so Perón could become president. Perón was elected, with his wife Isabel as vice-president. Before Peron took office the Montoneros murdered the union leader José Ignacio Rucci, with close ties to Perón. Perón expelled them from Plaza de Mayo and from the party, and they became once again a clandestine organization. José López Rega organized the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (AAA) to fight against them and the ERP. Perón died in July 1974. His wife succeeded him. The AAA maintained operations against the guerrillas, which increased their power. The Operativo Independencia stopped a guerilla attempt to capture and secede territories of Tucumán from Argentina. A decree ordered the military to "annihilate the subversion". The military made another coup d'état, in March 1976.
The National Reorganization Process closed the Congress, removed the members of the Supreme Court, and banned political parties, unions, student unions, etc. It also intensified measures against the ERP and the Montoneros, who had kidnapped and murdered people almost weekly since 1970. The military resorted to the forced disappearance of suspected members of the guerrillas, and began to prevail in the war. The losses of Montoneros by the end of 1976 were near 2000. The Junta tried to increase its popularity with the Beagle conflict and the 1978 FIFA World Cup. As of 1977, the ERP was completely defeated. Montoneros was severely weakened, but launched a massive counterattack in 1979. It was defeated, ending the guerrilla threat, but the military Junta stayed in government. Leopoldo Galtieri launched the Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de Malvinas), attempting to annex the islands, but within two months Argentina was defeated by the United Kingdom which considered the islands to be part of its own overseas territory. Galtieri left the government because of the military defeat, and Reynaldo Bignone began to organize the transition to democratic rule, with the free elections in 1983.
In the 1983 electoral campaign Alfonsín called to national unity, restoration of democratic rule and prosecution of those responsible for the dirty war. He established the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) to investigate the forced disappearances. The CONADEP generated a report detailing 340 centers of illegal detentions and 8961 forced disappearances. The 1985 Trial of the Juntas sentenced all the heads of government of those years. Alfonsín aimed then to the military of lower ranks, but the discontent among the military and the risk of a new coup increased. To please them, he issued the full stop law, which established a deadline for new trials. This did not work as intended, and the Carapintadas mutinied, forcing the law of Due Obedience that exempted the military that followed orders from superior ranks. This reduced public support for the government, as well as an economic crisis that led to an hyperinflation. The Peronist Carlos Menem won the 1989 elections, but riots caused by the economic crisis forced Alfonsín to resign, handing government to Menem.
Carlos Menem led a change in Peronism, which declined its usual politics and embraced neoliberalism instead. A fixed exchange rate established in 1991, the dismantling of protectionist barriers, business regulations and several privatizations normalized the economy for a time. His victories at the 1991 and 1993 elections led to the 1994 amendment of the Argentine Constitution, which allowed him to run for a second term. He was reelected, but the economy began to decline in 1996, with higher unemployment and recession. He lost the 1997 elections, and the UCR returned to the presidency in the 1999 elections.
President Fernando de la Rúa sought to change the political style of Menem, but kept his economic plan regardless of the growing recession. He appointed Domingo Cavallo, who had already been minister of economy during the presidency of Menem. The social discontent led to the appearance of piqueteros and huge blank votes in the 2001 legislative elections. A huge capital flight was responded to with a freezing of bank accounts, generating further discontent. Several riots in the country led the president to establish a state of emergency, received with more popular protests. The huge riots in December finally forced De la Rúa to resign.
Eduardo Duhalde was appointed president by the Legislative Assembly, and derogated the fixed exchange rate established by Menem. The economic crisis began to end by the late 2002, under the management of the minister of Economy Roberto Lavagna. The death of two piqueteros caused a political scandal that forced Duhalde to call to elections earlier. Carlos Menem got the majority of the votes, followed by Néstor Kirchner. Kirchner was largely unknown by the people, but would maintain Lavagna as minister. However, Menem declined to run for the required ballotage, which made Kirchner the new president. Following the economic policies laid by Duhalde and Lavagna, Kirchner ended the economic crisis, getting fiscal and trade surpluses. However, he distanced from Duhalde once getting to power. He promoted as well the reopening of judicial actions against the crimes of the Dirty War. During his administration, Argentina restructured its defaulted debt with a steep discount (about 66%) on most bonds, paid off debts with the International Monetary Fund and nationalized some previously privatized enterprises. He did not run for a reelection, promoting instead the candidacy of his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The presidency of Cristina Kirchner began with a conflict with the agricultural sector, caused by an attempt to increase the taxes over exports. The conflict was taken to the Congress, and vice-president Julio Cobos gave an unexpected tie-breaking vote against the bill. The government waged several controversies with the press, limiting the freedom of speech. Néstor Kirchner died in 2010, and Cristina Fernández was reelected in 2011.
Same-sex marriage in Argentina has been legal since July 22, 2010. A bill for legalization was approved on