Argentina Between 1958 and 1975

Argentina Between 1958 and 1975

Frondizi revealed an extraordinary political ability juggling from 1958 to 1962 among the pitfalls coming from all sides: from the military, divided between coup leaders who wanted power and legalists in favor of government constitutionality; by the Peronists and the Communists, who attacked its economic policy and the lack of social reforms; by entrepreneurs, unhappy with credit restrictions; from his own party Unión Cívica Radical Intransigente(UCRI), which accused him of not keeping to the electoral platform based on the planned state economy. Frondizi made every effort to restore the national economy through a policy of severe austerity and obstinate search for balance. In March 1961, after much hesitation, he returned control of the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) to the unions, in fulfillment of a specific commitment, and in the following April he dismissed his Finance Minister (in office since 1958) Alvaro Carlos Alsogaray, a well-known economist and tenacious advocate of private initiative. It also reinstated the many privileges that had been taken away from the Church by Perón, incurring criticism from the Peronists and the left. Abroad, especially in the USA, Frondizi’s policy met with broad consensus, concretized in loans, capital investments, credits. The Alliance for Progress and the International Monetary Fund worked to support his attempt to balance the state budget and to tackle inflation. Regarding the oil policy, Frondizi, despite having advocated a nationalistic policy in the past, believed that it was necessary to abandon the monopoly and concluded agreements with North American, English and Dutch companies for greater exploitation of the product in the north and south of the country (Patagonia) and in the Comodoro Rivadavia area; massive oil and gas pipelines were also built. Production in the space of a few years was more than doubled and the control of the market remained with the YPF (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales), which reserved the right to purchase all the product obtained from foreign companies.

However, at the end of 1961, the economic crisis always appeared acute: the heavy deficit in the trade balance was justified by citing the poor wheat harvest, which had reduced exports, and the increase in imports of raw materials as well as machinery for the industrial increase. 1962 recorded two important events that marked the destiny of Frondizi. The first concerned the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States (decided by the Punta del Este conference on January 22-31). The author, together with five other nations, abstained from voting the resolution against Cuba; but the attitude of the Argentine delegation, in favor of a compromise solution, displeased left-wing extremists and the military for opposite reasons, who demanded and obtained the dismissal of the foreign minister and the severance of relations with Havana. The second event concerned theFrente justicialista readmitted into the political arena after seven years of hiding: in the regional elections of March 1962 the Peronists obtained a surprising victory, collecting 35% of the total votes and nine governorates out of fourteen provinces.

The military rose up and forced Frondizi to block the way to power for the Peronists, while the unions promoted a general strike. For many days the Argentina was in chaos. Frondizi, pressed from all sides, refused to adhere to the demands of the military; but a coup d’etat (March 29) dragged him from the presidential palace into exile on the islet of Martín García. He was replaced by the President of the Senate José Maria Guido who from 30 March 1962 to 12 October 1963 governed the country supported by the military who had promoted the coup. The cancellation of the March elections and the dissolution of the congress provoked the intervention of the military legalistaswho, under the orders of gen. Juan Carlos Onganía, seized power (21 September 1962), however, promising free elections for the middle of 1963. The president Guido, who remained in office, fought against Peronism which tried to organize itself, first as a party of Unión popular and then as Frente national popular, coalition of parties of various tendencies. The government, convinced that Perón had been leading his movement since his exile in Madrid, waiting for more propitious times, then issued a decree that invalidated the votes of any party formed by Peronists. They responded by voting blank ballots in the July 7, 1963 elections, which turned out to be devoid of any real meaning.

Arturo Illía was elected candidate of the Unión cívica radical del pueblo (UCRP). The new president canceled contracts with oil companies and refused credits from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The national economy deteriorated but was momentarily supported by two exceptional wheat harvests in 1964 and 1965. Illía tried to curry favor with the Peronists, her tenacious opponents, by allowing the Unión popularparticipated in the congressional elections of 1965. The Peronists won 37% of the votes and won again in subsequent administrative and provincial elections, establishing themselves as the most powerful Argentine party. The military, considering Illía politically inept, decided to intervene and replaced him (June 28, 1966) with General Juán Carlos Onganía, who dissolved parliament, abolished political parties and replaced judges and governors. The powerful CGT split into two sections: the Orthodox Peronists and the Neo-Peronists, further to the left. The new government decreed the end of autonomy in the universities accused of welcoming Communists and Jews and closed 1,500 cooperatives founded by Jews, thus lending its side to the accusation of anti-Semitism. The politics of Onganía alienated him from the sympathies of the Church, of the intellectuals, students and trade unions but did not displease the high finance circles and foreign donors. In essence, the Onganía regime, which often resorted to violence, had many similarities with nationalist dictatorships. In 1969 the opposition to the government widened and turned into open hostility, with the formation of armed groups ready to resist government impositions. Thus developed the phenomenon of urban guerrilla based on coups, kidnappings, attacks. The unrest and terrorism, particularly in Buenos Aires and Córdoba, culminated in the assassination of the Peronist leader Augusto Vandor and of the former president gen. Aramburu. Onganía accentuated the authoritarian style of his government, but another military coup overthrew him (June 8, 1970), replacing him with gen. Levingston, who, however, unable to cope with the chaotic situation aggravated by the continuous strikes, he soon resigned and was replaced by gen. Alejandro Lanusse (March 25, 1971).

The inability of the military to resolve the nation’s political and economic problems played in favor of Peronism, of which the people remembered the social merits. From Madrid, the old dictator, who retained his prestige, maintained contact with the exponents of the various Argentine parties striving to unify his movement. A message to the nation (September 17, 1971) from President Lanusse announced general elections for March 10, 1973 and the consequent return of the country to constitutional normality. But that date marked the resounding electoral success of Peronism (half of the votes) which presented as candidate Hector Cámpora, most faithful lieutenant of Perón. The election campaign took place under the slogan “Cámpora in the presidency, Perón in power”. The return of Peronism, besides demonstrating the ineptitude of the military classes, it represented the disorientation of the masses in the face of the proliferation of political parties, divided into various tendencies. Nor should economic reasons be overlooked: inflation, the high cost of living, rationing of meat, rebellions and coups d’etat, which remained at the stage of intentions, without penetrating so deeply as to bring about any social change. For Argentina 2008, please check

The elections were preceded by a long period of unrest unmatched in Argentine history. The killers of gen. Sánchez, head of the Rosario repression, and Oberdan Sallustro, director of Argentine Fiat. The real state of war between terrorism and police forces also played in favor of Perón on whom hopes for a national pacification were now placed. A month after his inauguration (25 May) Cámpora went to Spain, from which he returned to Argentina together with Perón (20 June) which thus concluded his long exile. On July 13, 1973, the new president resigned, giving way to Perón, confirmed as president by a triumphal popular consultation. Perón’s young wife, Maria Estela Martínez, was appointed to the vice presidency of the republic. that in case of impediment of the elected president (he was approaching 78 years), he would have guaranteed the permanence in power of Peronism, from which the miracle of reviving a ruined and passion-torn country was expected. The singular event, defined as a “consensual coup”, had the approval of the military and the political opposition, sanctioning an existing state of affairs. On 1 July 1974 Juán Domingo Perón died suddenly and the supreme office of the state was assumed, as expected, by the vice president Maria Estela Martínez, Isabelita for the Argentines, who confirmed the Minister of Social Welfare and his personal advisor José as Secretary to the Presidency. López Rega, belonging to the conservative wing of the party and disliked by young Peronists. Two months after Perón’s disappearance, the split within the justice movement deepened, threatening to plunge the country into chaos. The “montoneros” guerrillas (left-wing organization that had contributed to the return of Perón) declared, on September 7, 1974, to resume the armed struggle against the government of Isabelita Martínez, accused of siding with the right-wing currents. By contrast, far-right teams named AAA (Acción Anticomunista Argentina) provoked bloody reprisals. Hundreds of people were murdered including (September 27) the former rector of the University, Silvio Frondizi, brother of the former president Arturo, and the Chilean general Carlos Prats (September 30), who took refuge in Argentina after the tragic end of Allende. On November 6, following the wave of violence, the government decreed a state of siege.

The first electoral consultations that took place after Perón’s death in the province of Misiones (April 14, 1975) were resolved with the success of the government coalition made up of Orthodox Peronists and followers of the former president Frandizi (45.87% of the votes), followed by the radical center party led by Ricardo Balbín (38.73%). This seemed to confirm a certain solidity of the regime, supported by the moderate right: the armed forces, the Church, the agrarians, without the opposition of the trade unions who saw all their requests accepted by the new president. In March 1976, however, President I. Perón was dismissed and General Videla assumed the presidency of the Republic. The new government is mainly made up of military personnel.

Argentina Between 1958 and 1975

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