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History of Argentina

The history of Argentina is divided by historians into four main sections: the pre-Columbian time, or early history (up to the 16th century), the colonial period (roughly 1516 to 1810), the independence wars and the early post-colonial period of the nation (1810 to 1880) and the history of modern Argentina from around 1880.

The beginning of prehistory in the present territory of Argentina began with the first human settlements on the southern tip of Patagonia around 13,000 years ago. The written history began with the arrival of Spanish chroniclers with the expedition of Juan Diaz de Solis in 1516 to Rio de la Plata river, which marks the beginning of Spanish domination in this region. In 1776 the Spanish Crown established the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, an umbrella of territories from which, with the Revolution of May 1810, began a process of gradual formation of several independent states, including that carried the name United Provinces of Rio de la Plata. With the declaration of independence on July 9, 1816 and the military defeat of the Spanish Empire in 1824, a federal state was formed in 1853-1861, known today as the Republic of Argentina.

Pre-Columbian era

The area now known as Argentina was relatively sparsely populated until the period of European colonization. The Diaguita of northwestern Argentina lived on the edges of the expanding Inca Empire; the Guarani lived farther east and north east. In the North were the Quechua peoples, and Patagonia was inhabited by other tribes known as Tehuelches.

Spanish colonial era

Europeans first arrived in the region with the 1502 voyage of Amerigo Vespucci. The Spanish navigator Juan Diaz de Solis visited the territory which is now Argentina in 1516 and in 1536 the Spaniards founded a small settlement. Spain established a permanent colony on the site of what would later become the city Buenos Aires in 1580, as part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Settlers initially arrived primarily overland from Peru.

The natural ports on the Rio de la Plata estuary could not be used because all ships were meant to be made through the port of Lima, a condition that led to contraband becoming the normal means of commerce in cities such as Asuncion, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo.

The Spanish raised the status of this region by establishing the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata in 1776. This short-lived viceroyalty comprised today's Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, as well as much of present-day Bolivia.

Buenos Aires became a flourishing port only after the creation of the Viceroyalty, as the revenues from the Potosi, the increasing maritime activity in terms of goods rather than precious metals, the production of cattle for the export of leather and other products, and other political reasons, made it gradually become one of the most important commercial centers of the region.

The viceroyalty was, however, short-lived due to lack of internal cohesion among the many regions of which it was constituted and to lack of Spanish support. It collapsed when Napoleon successfully invaded Spain and overthrew the Spanish monarchy.

The failed British invasions of the Rio de la Plata in 1806 and 1807 had also boosted the confidence of the colonists after they had successfully stood up against a stronger invading army without receiving military support from their metropolis.

War of independence

News of the French Revolution and the American Revolutionary War brought liberal ideas to Latin America. After the French seized power in Spain, Buenos Aires formed its own junta on May 25, 1810 and invited the other provinces to join. Two states emerged in what is now Argentina:

1810 - United Provinces of South America

1815 - Liga Federal

Other provinces through the reluctance of some factions and the centralist tendencies of the more radical activists delayed a combined State. Meanwhile, Paraguay declared its independence in 1811.

Military campaigns led by General Jose de San Martin between 1814 and 1817 gave more strength to the factions that supported the independist movements. In 1820 Liga Federal was crushed by forces of the United Provinces of South America and Portugal armies from Brazil and its provinces absorbed into United Provinces of South America. Argentines revere San Martin, who campaigned in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, as the hero of their national independence. On July 9, 1816, a Congress gathered in Tucuman (the Congress of Tucuman) and finally issued a formal declaration of independence from Spain. Bolivia declared itself independent in 1825, and Uruguay was created in 1828 as a result of the Argentina-Brazil War.

The United Kingdom officially recognized Argentine independence in 1825, with the signing of a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation on February 2; the British charge d'affaires in Buenos Aires, Woodbine Parish, signed on behalf of his country.

Following the defeat of the Spanish, centralist unitarios waged a lengthy conflict against federalists to determine the future of the nation. The dominant figure of this period was the federalist Juan Manuel de Rosas, who is portrayed under diferents angles by the diverse historiographic flows in Argentina: the liberal history usually considers him a dictator, while revisionism support him on the grounds of his defense of national soveregnity. He ruled the province of Buenos Aires from 1829 to 1852 while acting as a caretaker of the external relations for the whole country, which lacked any other form of federal government. Rosas was far more concerned with establishing his own dominance in Buenos Aires than with any principled federalism. He developed a paramilitary force of his own, La Mazorca ("the Corncob"), which earned the federalists the derogatory nickname of mazorqueros, while they preferred to be known as The Holy Federation. This feared band was also nicknamed mas horca ("more gallows"), which is a homophone of La Mazorca in Spanish.

General Justo Jose de Urquiza, a defecting federalist supported by Uruguay and Brazil, defeated Rosas during the battle of Caseros. Argentine national unity was at least nominally established, and a constitution promulgated in 1853. The constitution was strongly defended in moving oratory by the patriot and Franciscan Mamerto Esquiu, after whom one of the country's departments is named.

During the early part of this period, Argentina was largely a country of Spanish immigrants and their descendants, known as criollos. Some of them gathered in Buenos Aires and other cities, others living on the pampas as gauchos. Descendants of African slaves were present in significant numbers, but most eventually merged with the general population. Indigenous peoples inhabited the mountainous northwestern and the southern regions.

The rural economy at this time was based almost entirely on animal husbandry (cattle and sheep). While Argentina's fertile lands were ideal for the cultivation of cereal crops, the country lacked a large enough labor force to support an arable sector. As a consequence, capital-intensive economic activities such as livestock raising dominated domestic production. Meanwhile Indians continued to menace the Southern frontier. As Borges wrote, Argentina had achieved its independence from Spain, but the Spanish conquest of Argentina was still incomplete. Economically, Fernand Braudel (1984, p. 413 Atlas of the World, vol. III of Civilization and Capitalism (1979)), claims that Argentina exchanged Spanish masters for a new dependence on British capital as the end of Spanish rule was followed by heavy investment by the City of London, in 1824-1825.

The emergence of modern Argentina

Two forces combined to create the modern Argentine nation in the late 19th century: the introduction of modern agricultural techniques and integration of Argentina into the world economy. Foreign investment and immigration from Europe aided this economic revolution. Investment, primarily British, came in such fields as railroads and ports, but the foreign owners expected to retain control. The migrants who worked to develop Argentina's resources, especially the western pampas, came from throughout Europe, just as in the United States.

By 1859, the unity of Argentina was largely secured, although it would be two decades more before the centralists completed their victory over the federalists. In 1862, the National Assembly selected the liberal politician Bartolome Mitre as president; in 1868, he was succeeded by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

During this period , the War of the Triple Alliance was fought by Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay against Paraguay. In the following decade, General Julio Argentino Roca established Buenos Aires's dominance over the pampas (a military operation known as Conquest of the Desert) and the unitarios victory over the federalists; in 1880, Roca became president.

The years from 1880 to 1929 brought Argentina increased economic prosperity, mainly by way of export-led growth. The economy was increasingly oriented towards export of agricultural commodities, particularly goods like beef and wheat, while the growth of domestic industry remained hindered by imports of cheap manufactured products. While international demand for Argentine agricultural goods was central to economic development, equally important was the inflow of foreign capital, particularly from Great Britain. At that time, Argentina received some of the highest levels of foreign investment in Latin America. In the midst of this economic expansion, the Law 1420 of Common Education of 1884 guaranteed universal, free, non-religious education to all children.

In the late 19th century and early 20th Argentina temporarily resolved its border disputes with Chile with the Puna de Atacama Lawsuit of 1899, the Boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina and the 1902 General Treaty of Arbitration.

Roca's government and those that followed were aligned with the Argentine oligarchy, especially the great land owners. In 1890, while Argentina was strongly affected by the Long Depression, members of the Radical Civic Union engaged themselves in the Revolution of the Park, a failed uprising against the presidency of Miguel Juarez Celman (National Autonomist Party). Though it failed in its main goals, the revolution forced Juarez Celman's resignation and marked the decline of the elite of the Generation of '80.Clarin. Yrigoyen, de la Ley Saenz Pena al Golpe de Estado.

In 1904, Alfredo Palacios, a member of Juan B. Justo's Socialist Party (founded in 1896), became the first Socialist deputee of Argentina, as a representant of the workers' neighborhood La Boca of Buenos Aires. He helped create many laws including the Ley Palacios against sexual exploitation, and others regulating child and woman labor, working hours and Sunday rest.

In 1912, President Roque Saenz Pena, one of the most progressive among the conservatives, established universal, secret and obligatory male suffrage with the Law 8,871.

Yrigoyen's administration and the Radicals

Conservative forces dominated Argentine politics until 1916, when the Radicals, led by Hipolito Yrigoyen, won control of the government through the first national elections made at universal suffrage. 745,000 citizens were allowed to vote, on a total population of 7,5 millions , of which 400,000 abstained themselves Felipe Pigna, Los Mitos de la Historia Argentina, 3, 2006, ed. Planeta, p.38. Yrigoyen, however, only obtained 45% of the votes, which did not allow him a majority in Parliament, where the conservatives remained the first force. Thus, on 80 draft laws proposed by the executive, only 26 were voted by the conservative majority. The moderate agricultural reform was refused by the Parliament, as well as a tax on interests and the creation of a Bank of the Republic (which was to have the missions of the current Central Bank).

Despite this conservative opposition, the Radical Civic Union (UCR), with their emphasis on fair elections and democratic institutions, opened their doors to Argentina's expanding middle class as well as to social groups previously excluded from power. Yrigoyen's policy was to "fix" the system, by enacting necessary reforms which would enable the agroindustrial export model to preserve itself. It alterned moderate social reforms with repression of the social movements. In 1918, an estudiantine movement started at the University of Cordoba, which eventually led to the University Reform, which quickly spread to the rest of America. In May '68, French students recalled the Cordoba movement.

The Tragic Week of January 1919, during which the Argentine Regional Workers' Federation had called for a general strike after a police shooting, ended up in 700 killed and 4,000 injured. General Luis Dellepiane marched on Buenos Aires to re-establish civil order. Despite being called for by some to initiate a coup against Yrigoyen, he remained loyal to the President, at the sole condition that the latter would allow him a free hand on the repression of the demonstrations. Social movements thereafter continued in the Forestal British company, and in Patagonia, where Hector Varela headed the military repression, assisted by the Argentine Patriotic League, killing 1,500.

On the other hand, Yrigoyen's administration enacted the Labor Code establishing the right to strike in 1921, implemented minimum wages laws and collective contracts. It also initiated the creation of the Direccion General de Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF), the oil state company, in June 1922. Radicalism rejected class struggle and vouched for social conciliation.

Meanwhile, the Radicals continued Argentina's neutrality policy during World War I, despite the United States' urge to push them into declaring war to the Triple Alliance. Neutrality enabled Argentina to export goods to Europe, in particular to Great Britain, as well as to issue credit to the belligerent powers. Germany sank two Argentine civilian ships, Monte Protegido on April 4, 1917 and the Toro, but the diplomatic incident only ended with the expulsion of the German ambassador, Karl von Luxburg. Yrigoyen organized a Conference of Neutral Powers in Buenos Aires, to oppose the United States' attempt to bring American states in the European war, and also supported Sandino's resistance in Nicaragua.

In September 1922, Yrigoyen's administration refused to follow the cordon sanitaire policy enacted against the Soviet Union, and, basing itself on the assistance given to Austria after the war, decided to send to the USSR a 5 millions pesos assistance.

The same year, Yrigoyen was replaced by his rival inside the UCR, Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear, an aristocrat, who defeated Norberto Pinero's Concentracion Nacional (conservatives) with 458,457 votes against 200,080. Alvear brought to his cabinet personalities belonging to the traditional ruling classes, such as Jose Nicolas Matienzo at the Interior Ministry, Angel Gallardo at Foreign Relations, Agustin P. Justo at the War Ministry, Manuel Domecq Garcia at the Marine and Rafael Herrera Vegas at the Haciendas. Alvera's supporters founded the Union Civica Radical Antipersonalista, opposed to Yrigoyen's party.

During the early 1920s, the rise of the anarchist movement, fueled by the arrival of recent emigres and deportees from Europe, spawned a new generation of left-wing activism in Argentina. The new left, mostly anarchists and anarcho-communists, rejected the incremental progressivism of the old Radical and Socialist elements in Argentina in favor of immediate action. The extremists, such as Severino Di Giovanni, openly espoused violence and 'propaganda by the deed'. A wave of bombings and shootouts with police culminated in an attempt to assassinate U.S. President Herbert Hoover on his visit to Argentina in 1928.

In 1921, the counter-revolutionary Logia General San Martin was founded, and diffused nationalist ideas in the military until its dissolution in 1926. Three years later, the Liga Republicana (Republican League) was founded by Roberto de Laferrere, on the model of Benito Mussolini's Black shirts in Italy. The Argentine Right found its major influences in the 19th century Spanish writer Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo and in the French royalist Charles Maurras. Also in 1922, the poet Leopoldo Lugones, who had turned towards fascism, made a famous speech in Lima, known as "the time of the sword", in presence of the War Minister and future dictator Agustin P. Justo, which called for a military coup and the establishment of a military dictatorship.

Yrigoyen was re-elected in 1928, defeating the Antipersonalistas' candidate, Leopoldo Melo, who was also supported by the Confederation of the Right-wings, formed after a gathering organised by Julio Argentino Roca, Jr..

The Infamous Decade of the 1930s

In 1929, Argentina had the world's 4th highest per capita GDP. These years of prosperity ended with the Crash of 1929 and the ensuing worldwide Great Depression. In 1930, a military coup, supported by the Argentine Patriotic League, forced Hipolito Yrigoyen from power, and replaced him by Jose Felix Uriburu. Support for the coup was bolstered by the sagging Argentine economy as well as a string of bomb attacks and shootings involving radical anarchists, which alienated moderate elements of Argentine society and angered the conservative right, who had long been agitating for decisive action by the military forces.

The military coup initiated the period known as the "Infamous Decade", characterised by electoral fraud, persecution of the political opposition (mainly against the UCR) and generalised government corruption, against the background of the Great Depression.

The Roca-Runciman Treaty passed between Argentina and Great Britain, which greatly favoured the British economy, was strongly denounced by the leftist FORJA, headed by Arturo Jauretche and other opponents to Marcelo Alvear's decision, in 1934, to end with the UCR's absentionist stance towards Agustin Pedro Justo's military regime (1932-1938).

The collapse of international trade led to industrial growth focused on import substitution, leading to a stronger economic independence. At the same time, increasing political conflict arose, with confrontation between right-wing fascists and leftist radicals, with military-oriented conservatives controlling the government. Though many claimed the polls to be fraudulent, Roberto Ortiz was elected president in 1937 and took office the next year, but due to his fragile health he was followed by his vice-president Ramon Castillo.

World War II

The civilian government appeared to be close to joining the allies, but many officers of the Argentine armed forces (and ordinary Argentine citizens) objected due to fear of the spread of communism. This was a major factor contributing to the military coup of 1943.

Due to a particularly high proportion of Italian origin, Argentina has had strong links with Italy for a long time. Italy had been run by Mussolini since the nineteen-twenties. As a result, Argentines were more in touch with anti-Communist propaganda and were kept more aware of persecutions and atrocities in the Soviet Union. This resulted in a much more anti-communist public opinion than in other Latin American countries. Many Argentines were therefore concerned about joining the allies, who supported Stalin in order to fight Hitler. German intelligence cells operating in Argentina succeeded in infiltrating the army officer corps and nurturing sympathy towards the axis powers.

After the 1943 coup, Pedro Pablo Ramirez Machuca became dictator. He had been attached to the Kaiser's army 1911-13, had a German wife, and had later been attached to Mussolini's army 1930-2. Ramirez sympathised with the axis powers but did not declare war. Argentina's largest neighbour, Brazil, had already entered the war on the allied side in 1942.

In 1944 Ramirez was replaced by Edelmiro Farrell, an army officer of Irish-Argentine origin who had spent two years attached to Mussolini's army in the twenties. Initially his government continued to maintain a neutral policy. Towards the end of the war, Farrell decided it was in the interests of Argentina to be attached to the winning side. Like several Latin American states, Argentina made a late declaration of war against Germany with no intention of providing any military forces.

During World War II, 4,000 Argentines went abroad to volunteer for the British armed forces and Canadian armed forces. Over 600 Argentine volunteers served with both the Royal Air Force and the Canadian Air Force, mostly in the 164 Argentine-British RAF squadron. Many but not all were from the Anglo-Argentine community. Many members of the Anglo-Argentine community also volunteered in non-combat roles, or worked to raise money and supplies for British troops.

Before the war, Argentina had been a popular destination for Jewish refugees. Argentina is now one of the countries with the highest Jewish populations.

At the end of the war many Nazis were able to escape to Argentina and disappear into the population with false identities. In 1945, thousands of blank passports were sent to Germany to allow the entry of Germans wishing to avoid capture.

The rise of Juan and Eva Peron (1945-1955)

In 1946, general Juan Peron became president, with ideology which was dubbed as peronism. His popular wife Eva Peron played a political role until her death in 1952.Barnes, John. Evita, First Lady: A Biography of Eva Peron. New York: Grove Press, 1978. Peron established censorship by closing down 110 publications between 1943 and 1946. During Juan Peron's rule, the number of unionized workers and government programs increased. In foreign policy, Peron had isolationist beliefs that the political and economic influences of other nations should be kept out of Argentina. Peron expanded government spending. The peso lost about 70% of its value from early 1948 to early 1950; inflation reached 50% in 1951. Opposition members were imprisoned and some of them tortured.Feitlowitz, Marguerite. A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture. Oxford University Press, 2002. Juan Peron rid himself of many important and capable advisers, while promoting patronage. A coup (Revolucion Libertadora) led by Eduardo Lonardi deposed him in 1955. He went into exile, eventually settling in Francoist Spain.

The Revolucion Libertadora (1955-1958)

In Argentina, the 1950s and 1960s were marked by frequent coups d'etat, low economic growth in the 1950s and high growth rates in the 1960s. Argentina faced problems of continued social and labor demands. Argentine painter Antonio Berni's works reflected the social tragedies of these times, painting in particular life in the villas miseria (shanty towns).

Following the Revolucion Libertadora military coup, Eduardo Lonardi held power only briefly and was succeeded by Pedro Aramburu, president from November 13, 1955 to May 1, 1958. In June 1956, two Peronist generals, Juan Jose Valle and Raul Tanco, attempted a coup against Aramburu, criticizing an important purge in the army, the abrogation of social reforms and persecution against trade-union leaders. They also demanded liberation of all political and labor activists and the return to the constitutional order. The uprising was quickly crushed: General Valle and other members of the military were executed, and twenty civilians were arrested at their homes and their bodies thrown in the Leon Suarez dumping ground.

Along with the June 1955 Casa Rosada bombing on the Plaza de Mayo, the Leon Suarez massacre is one of the important events that started a cycle of violence. Pedro Aramburu was later kidnapped and executed for this massacre, in 1970, by Fernando Abal Medina, Emilio Angel Maza, Mario Firmenich and others, who would later form the Montoneros movement.Julio A. Troxler, a "revolutionary Peronist", was one of the few men who escaped the massacre. All the others were dumped in Leon Suarez, in Buenos Aires Province. Rodolfo Walsh noted Troxler's testimony in Operation Massacre. In 1973, under Campora's government, Troxler became Buenos Aires police chief, but was assassinated by the Triple A during Isabel Peron's government. Rodolfo Walsh was murdered after Videla's 1976 coup.

In 1956, special elections were held to reform the constitution. The Radical Party under Ricardo Balbin won a majority, although 25% of all ballots were turned in blank as a protest by the banned Peronist party. Also in support of Peronism, the left wing of the Radical Party, led by Arturo Frondizi, left the Constitutional Assembly. The Assembly was severely damaged by that defection and was only able to restore the Constitution of 1853 with the sole addition of the Article 14 bis, which enumerated some social rights.

Presidency of Frondizi (1958-1962)

Frondizi, UCRI's candidate, won the presidential elections of 1958, obtaining approximately 4,000,000 votes against 2,500,000 for Ricardo Balbin . From Caracas, Peron supported Frondizi and called upon his supporters to vote for him, as a means toward the end of prohibition of the Peronist movement and the re-establishment of the workers' social legislation voted during Peron's leadership.

On one hand, Frondizi appointed Alvaro Alsogaray as Minister of Economy to placate powerful agrarian interests and other conservatives. A member of the powerful military dynasty Alsogaray, Alvaro, who had already been Minister of Industry under Aramburu's military rule, devalued the peso and imposed credit control.

On the other hand, Frondizi followed a laic program, which rose concerns among the Catholic nationalist forces, leading to the organization, between 1960 and 1962, of the far-right Tacuara Nationalist Movement.

The Tacuara, the "first urban guerrilla group in Argentina" Daniel Gutman, Tacuara, historia de la primera guerrilla urbana argentina, engaged in several anti-semitic bombings, in particular following Adolf Eichmann's sequestration by the MOSSAD in 1960. During the visit of Dwight Eisenhower to Argentina, in February 1962 (Eisenhower had been until 1961 President of the United States), the Tacuara headed nationalist demonstrations against him, leading to the imprisonment of several of their leaders, among whom Joe Baxter Baxter, Jose Luis entry at the Dictionary of Irish Latin American Biography .

1962 coup and Guido's interim

However, Frondizi's government ended in 1962 with intervention yet again by the military, after a series of local elections were won by the Peronist candidates. Jose Maria Guido, chairman of the senate, claimed the presidency on constitutional grounds before the deeply divided Armed Forces were able to agree on a name.

Presidency of Illia (1963-1966)

In new elections in 1963, neither Peronists nor Communists were allowed to participate. Arturo Illia of the Radical People's Party won these elections; regional elections and by-elections over the next few years favored Peronists.

On the other hand, the Tacuara were outlawed by Illia in 1965, some of its members ultimately turning to the Peronist Left (such as Joe Baxter) while other remained on their far-right positions .

The Revolucion Argentina (1966-1973)

Along with worker unrest, this led to another coup in June 1966, misnamed as the Revolucion Argentina, which established General Juan Carlos Ongania as de facto president, supported by several leaders of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), among whom the general secretary Augusto Vandor. This led to a series of military-appointed presidents.

While preceding military coups were aimed at establishing temporary, transitional juntas, the Revolucion Argentina headed by Ongania aimed at establishing a new political and social order, opposed both to liberal democracy and Communism, which gave to the Armed Forces of Argentina a leading, political role in the economic rationalization of the country. The political scientist Guillermo O'Donnell named this type of regime "authoritarian-bureaucratic state" Guillermo O'Donnell, El Estado Burocratico Autoritario, (1982), in reference both to the Revolucion Argentina, the Brazilian military regime (1964-1985), Augusto Pinochet's regime (starting in 1973) and Juan Maria Bordaberry's regime in Uruguay.

Ongania's Minister of Economy, Adalbert Krieger Vasena, decreed a freeze of wages' increase and a 40% devaluation, which strongly affected the state of the Argentine economy, in particular of the agricultural sector, favorizing foreign capital. Vasena suspended collective labour conventions, reformed the hydrocarburs law which had established a partial monopoly of the Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF) state enterprise, as well as passing a law facilitating expulsions in case of fault of payment of rent. Finally, the right to strike was suspended and several other laws reversed progress made concerning labor laws through-out the preceding years.

The workers' movement divided itself between Vandoristas, who supported a "Peronism without Peron" line and advocated negotiation with the junta, and Peronists, themselves divided.

In July 1966, Ongania ordered the violent dislodge of five faculties of the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) in Argentina on July 29, 1966 by the Federal Police, an event known as La Noche de los Bastones Largos ("The Night of the Long Police Sticks"). The faculties had been taken by the students, professors and graduates (members of the autonomous government of the university) who opposed the military government's measure of intervening the universities and revoke the regime of the 1918 university reform. The university repression led to the exile of 301 university professors, among whom Manuel Sadosky, Tulio Halperin Donghi, Sergio Bagu and Risieri FrondiziMarta Slemenson et al., Emigracion de cientificos argentinos. Organizacion de un exodo a America Latina .

End of May 1968, General Julio Alsogaray dissented from Ongania, and rumors spread about a possible coup d'etat, Algosaray leading the conservative opposition to Ongania. Finally, at the end of the month, Ongania dismissed the leaders of the Armed Forces: Alejandro Lanusse replaced Julio Alsogaray, Pedro Gnavi replaced Benigno Varela, and Jorge Martinez Zuviria replaced Adolfo Alvarez.

On 19 September 1968, two important events affected Revolutionary Peronism. On one hand, John William Cooke, former personal delegate of Peron and ideologist of the Peronist Left, as well as a friend of Fidel Castro, died from natural causes. On the other hand, a small group (13 men and one woman) who aimed at establishing a foco in Tucuman Province, in order to head the resistance against the junta, was captured Oscar R. Anzorena, Tiempo de violencia y utopia (1966-1976), Editorial Contrapunto, 1987, p.48 . Among them, Envar El Kadre, then a leader of the Peronist Youth.

In 1969, the CGT de los Argentinos headed social movements, in particular the Cordobazo, as well as other movements in Tucuman and Santa Fe. While Peron managed a reconciliation with Augusto Vandor, head of the CGT Azopardo, he followed, in particular through the voice of his delegate Jorge Paladino, a cautious line of opposition to the military junta, criticizing with moderation the neoliberal policies of the junta but waiting for discontent inside the government . Thus, Ongania had an interview with 46 CGT delegates, among whom Vandor, who agreed on "participationism" with the military junta, thus uniting themselves with the Nueva Corriente de Opinion headed by Jose Alonso and Rogelio Coria.

In December 1969, more than 20 priests, members of the Movimiento de Sacerdotes para el Tercer Mundo , marched on the Casa Rosada to present to Ongania a petition pleading him to abandon the eradication plan of villas miserias (shanty towns).

Meanwhile, Ongania implemented corporatism policies, experimenting in particular in Cordoba, underneath Carlos Caballero's governance. The same year, the Movement of Priests for the Third World issued a declaration supporting Socialist revolutionary movements, which lead to the Catholic hierarchy, by the voice of Juan Carlos Aramburu, coadjutor archbishop of Buenos Aires, to proscribe priests from making political or social declarations.

Various armed actions, headed by the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion (FAL), composed by former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, occurred in April 1969, leading to several arrests among FAL members. These were the first left-wing urban guerrilla actions in Argentina. Beside these isolated actions, the Cordobazo uprising of 1969, called forth by the CGT de los Argentinos, and its Cordobese leader, Agustin Tosco, prompted demonstrations in the entire country. The same year, the People's Revolutionary Army (ERP) was formed as the military branch of the Trotskyist Workers' Revolutionary Party, kidnapping and killing Argentinians.

The last of the military presidents de facto, Alejandro Lanusse, was appointed in 1971 and attempted to re-establish democracy amidst an atmosphere of continuing Peronist worker protests.

Juan and Isabel Peron return from exile

On March 11, 1973, Argentina held general elections for the first time in ten years. Peron was prevented from running, but voters elected his stand-in, Dr. Hector Campora, as President. Campora defeated his Radical Civic Union opponent. Campora acceded to his functions on May 25, which was saluted by a massive popular gathering of the Peronist Youth movement, Montoneros, FAR and FAP (Fuerzas Armadas Peronistas) in the Plaza de Mayo. Campora assumed a strong stance against right-wing Peronists, declaring during his first speech: La sangre derramada no sera negociada ("Spilled blood will not be negotiated"). Cuban president Osvaldo Dorticos and Chilean president Salvador Allende were present at his inauguration, while William P. Rogers, U.S. Secretary of State, and Uruguayan president Juan Bordaberry, could not attend, blocked in their car by demonstrators. Political prisoners were liberated on the same day, under the pressure of the demonstrators. Campora's government included progressive figures such as Interior Minister Esteban Righi and Education Minister Jorge Taina, but also included members of the labor and political right-wing Peronist factions, such as Jose Lopez Rega, Peron's personal secretary and Minister of Social Welfare, and a member of the P2 Masonic lodge.Miguel Bonasso, El Presidente que no fue. Los archivos occultos del peronismo , Planeta, Buenos Aires, 1997. Peron's followers also commanded strong majorities in both houses of Congress.

Hector Campora's government followed a traditional Peronist economic policy, supporting the national market and redistributing wealth. One of Jose Ber Gelbard's first measures as minister of economics was to augment workers' wages. However, the 1973 oil crisis seriously affected Argentina's oil-dependent economy. Almost 600 social conflicts, strikes or occupations occurred in Campora's first month.

Amidst escalating terror from right and left alike, Peron decided to return and assume the presidency. On June 20, 1973, two million people waited for him at Ezeiza airport. From Peron's speaking platform, camouflaged far-right gunmen, some of them from the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance , fired on the masses, shooting at the Peronist Youth movement and the Montoneros, killing at least thirteen and injuring more than three hundred (this became known as the Ezeiza massacre).Horacio Verbitsky, Ezeiza, Contrapunto, Buenos Aires, 1985. Campora and vice-president Solano Lima resigned on July 13. Deputy Raul Alberto Lastiri, Jose Lopez Rega's son-in-law and also a P2 member, was then promoted to the Presidency to organize elections. Campora's followers such as Chancellor Juan Carlos Puig and Interior Minister Esteban Righi were immediately replaced by Alberto J. Vignes and Benito Llambi, and the ''Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo' (ERP - People's Revolutionary Army) declared a "dissolved terrorist organization". On September 23, Peron won the elections with 61.85% of the votes, with his third wife, Maria Estela Isabel Martinez de Peron, as vice-president.

Peronist right-wing factions won a decisive victory and Peron assumed the Presidency in October 1973, a month after Pinochet's coup in Chile. Violent acts, including by the Triple A, continued to threaten public order. On September 25, Jose Ignacio Rucci, CGT trade-union's Secretary General and one of Peron's friend, was assassinated, allegedly by the Montoneros. The government resorted to a number of emergency decrees, including the implementation of special executive authority to deal with violence. This allowed the government to imprison persons indefinitely without charge.

Peron died on July 1, 1974. His wife succeeded him in office, but her administration was undermined by economic downfall (inflation was skyrocketing and GDP contracted), Peronist intra-party struggles, and growing acts of terrorism by insurgents such as the ERP and paramilitary movements. Montoneros, led by Mario Firmenich, cautiously decided to go underground after Peron's death. Isabel Peron was removed from office by the military coup on March 24, 1976.

The Dirty War

Following the coup against Isabel Peron, the armed forces formally exercised power through a junta led consecutively by Videla, Viola, Galtieri and Bignone until December 10, 1983. These de facto leaders termed their government programme "National Reorganization Process".

In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, Marxist-Leninist militias such as People's Revolutionary Army kidnapped and murdered people almost weekly. Everywhere they could, they bombed and burned businesses, and shot policemen. Using the kidnapping, bombing and assassination tactics adopted by the Montoneros and Trotskyist Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo (People's Revolutionary Army or ERP) as justification, the armed forces, among them the Batallon de Inteligencia 601 and SIDE, applied harsh measures against suspects. The "ideological war" doctrine of the Argentine military focused on eliminating the social base of insurgency. In practice that meant liquidating many middle class students, intellectuals and labor organizers, most of whom had few ties to the guerrillas. By the end of the 1970s, such tactics had suppressed the insurgents, but Argentina suffered terribly from the ends-justifies-the-means attitude adopted by the military (see also Theory of the two demons).

The costs of what the armed forces called the "Dirty War" were high in terms of lives lost and basic human rights violated. About 1,500 deaths may be attributed to various guerrilla attacks and assassinations. The 1984 Commission on the Disappeared documented the disappearance and probable death at the hands of the military regime of about 11,000 people, relatively few of whom were likely Montonero or ERP cadres. Human rights groups estimate that over 30,000 persons became "disappeared" (i. e. arrested and secretly executed without trial) during the 19761983 period; Still, others went into exile. The People's Revolutionary Army alone admitted it lost 5,000 militants.

Serious economic problems, mounting charges of corruption, public discontent and, finally, the country's 1982 defeat by the United Kingdom in the Falklands War following Argentina's unsuccessful attempt to seize the Falkland Islands all combined to discredit the Argentine military regime. Under strong public pressure, the junta lifted bans on political parties and gradually restored basic political liberties.

Beagle conflict

The Beagle conflict began to brew in the 1960s, when Argentina began to claim that the Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands in the Beagle Channel were rightfully hers. In 1971, Chile and Argentina signed an agreement formally submitting the Beagle Channel issue to binding Beagle Channel Arbitration. On May 2, 1977 the court ruled that the islands and all adjacent formations belonged to Chile. See the Report and decision of the Court of Arbitration.

On 25 January 1978 the Argentina military junta led by General Jorge Videla declared the award fundamentally null and intensified their claim over the islands. On 22 December 1978, Argentina started the Operation Soberania over the disputed islands, but the invasion was halted due to:

in part, on military concerns. In order to achieve a victory, certain objectives had to be reached before the seventh day after the attack. Some military leaders considered this not enough time due to the difficulty involved in transportation through the passes over the Andean Mountains.See Alejandro Luis Corbacho "Predicting the probability of war during brinkmanship crisis: The Beagle and the Malvinas conflicts" http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1016843 (p.45)

and in cite 46:

According to Clarin, two consequences were feared. First, those who were dubious feared a possible regionalization of the conflict. Second, as a consequence, the conflict could acquire great power proportions. In the first case decisionmakers speculated that Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil might intervene. Then the great powers could take sides. In this case, the resolution of the conflict would depend not on the combatants, but on the countries that supplied the weapons.

In December that year, moments before Videla signed a declaration of war against Chile, Pope John Paul II agreed to mediate between the two nations. The Pope's envoy, Antonio Samore, successfully averted war and proposed a new definitive boundary in which the three disputed islands would remain Chilean. Argentina and Chile both agreed to Samore's proposal and signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina, ending that dispute.

The democratic transition (from 1983 to today)

On October 30, 1983, Argentines went to the polls to choose a president; vice-president; and national, provincial, and local officials in elections found by international observers to be fair and honest. The country returned to constitutional rule after Raul Alfonsin, candidate of the Radical Civic Union , received 52% of the popular vote for president. He began a 6-year term of office on December 10, 1983. Five days later, he created the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP), led by Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato. However, it was also under Alfonsin's presidency that the December 24, 1986 [[:es:Ley de Punto Final|Ley de Punto Final]] ("Full Stop Law") was voted, granting amnesty to all acts committed before December 10, 1983. It would not be until June 2005's Supreme Court decision to overturn all amnesty laws that investigations could be started again [*].

During the Alfonsin administration, a Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina with Chile was signed and the roots of the Mercosur trade bloc were established.

In 1985 and 1987, large turnouts for mid-term elections demonstrated continued public support for a strong and vigorous democratic system. The UCR-led government took steps to resolve some of the nation's most pressing problems, including accounting for those who disappeared during military rule, establishing civilian control of the armed forces, and consolidating democratic institutions. However, constant friction with the military, failure to resolve endemic economic problems (inflation peaked at 3080%), and an inability to maintain public confidence undermined the effectiveness of the Alfonsin government, which left office six months early after Peronist candidate Carlos Saul Menem won the 1989 presidential elections.

The 1990s

As President, Carlos Menem launched a major overhaul of Argentine domestic policy. Large-scale structural reforms dramatically reversed the role of the state in Argentine economic life. Ironically, the Peronist Menem oversaw the privatization of many of the industries Peron had nationalized. A decisive leader pressing a controversial agenda, Menem was not reluctant to use the presidency's powers to issue "emergency" decrees (formally decretos de necesidad y urgencia) when the Congress was unable to reach consensus on his proposed reforms. Those powers were curtailed somewhat when the constitution was reformed in 1994 as a result of the so-called Olivos Pact with the opposition Radical Party. That arrangement opened the way for Menem to seek and win reelection with 50% of the vote in the three-way 1995 presidential race. Piquetero movement rose.

The 1995 election saw the emergence of the moderate-left FrePaSo political alliance. This alternative to the two traditional political parties in Argentina was particularly strong in Buenos Aires but lacked the national infrastructure of the Peronists and Radicals. In an important development in Argentina's political life, all three major parties in the 1999 race espoused free market economic policies. In October 1999, the UCR-FrePaSo Alliance's presidential candidate, Fernando de la Rua, defeated Peronist candidate Eduardo Duhalde. Having taken office in December 1999, De la Rua followed an IMF-sponsored program of government spending cuts, revenue increases, and provincial revenue-sharing reforms to get the federal fiscal deficit under control. De la Rua pursued labor law reform and business-promotion measures aimed at stimulating the economy and increasing employment.

The 2001 economic crisis

Towards the end of 2001, Argentina faced grave economic problems. The IMF pressed Argentina to service its external debt, effectively forcing Argentina to devalue the Argentine peso, which had been pegged to the U.S. dollar. On November 1, 2001, as people's fears that the peso would be devalued caused massive withdrawal of bank deposits and capital flight, de la Rua's Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo passed regulations severely limiting withdrawals, effectively freezing the peso-denominated assets of the Argentine middle class, while the dollar-denominated foreign accounts of the wealthy were shielded from devaluation. (The freezing of the bank accounts was informally named corralito.)...

The overall economy declined drastically during December 2001. The resulting riots led to dozens of deaths. The Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo resigned, but that did not prevent the collapse of De la Rua's administration. On December 20 de la Rua also resigned, but the political crisis was extremely serious, as a result of the previous resignation of the vice-president Carlos Chacho Alvarez in 2000. The president of the Senate became interim president until the National Congress elected, two days later, Adolfo Rodriguez Saa to finish De la Rua's term. But Rodriguez Saa resigned a week later on December 31, leaving the power to the president of the Chamber of Deputies (as the Senate was undergoing their annual renovation of its president) as interim.

Finally, on January 2, 2002, the National Congress elected the Peronist Eduardo Duhalde, a losing candidate in the most recent presidential election, as president. The peso was first devalued by 29%, and then the dollar peg was abandoned; by July 2002, the national currency had depreciated to one-quarter of its former value.

The recovery and the Kirchner era

President Duhalde faced a country in turmoil. His administration had to deal with a wave of protests (middle-class cacerolazos and unemployed piqueteros), and did so with a relatively tolerant policy, intending to minimize violence. As inflation became a serious issue and the effects of the crisis became apparent in the form of increased unemployment and poverty, Duhalde chose a moderate, low-profile economist, Roberto Lavagna, as his Minister of Economy. The economic measures implemented brought inflation under control.

After a year, Duhalde deemed his tasks fulfilled and, pressured by certain political factors, called for elections, which in April 2003 brought Nestor Kirchner, the left-of-centre Peronist governor of Santa Cruz, to power.

President Kirchner took office on May 25, 2003. He reshuffled the leadership of the Armed Forces, overturned controversial amnesty laws that protected members of the 1976-1983 dictatorship from prosecution, and kept Lavagna on as economy minister for most of his presidency. Kirchner's administration saw a strong economic rebound.

The 2007 general election took place in ten provinces in September and Kirchner's Front for Victory won in six provinces. Hermes Binner was elected governor of Santa Fe, defeating the Peronist Rafael Bielsa, Kirchner's former Minister of Foreign Affairs. Binner thus became the first Socialist governor in Argentina's history, and the first non-Justicialist to rule the rather wealthy Santa Fe province since 1983. Gano Binner y el socialismo saco al PJ de la Gobernacion de Santa Fe, Clarin, 3 September 2007 Center-left Fabiana Rios (ARI) became the first woman to be elected governor of Tierra del Fuego, while the right-wing Mauricio Macri was elected Mayor of Buenos Aires (a similar office to governor) in June 2007.

On December 10, 2007, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took over the presidency from her husband, after winning elections with 44% of the vote. She kept many of her husband's ministers, but implied that she would introduce changes to the country during her presidency. Fernandez says she will create a new ministry for science and technology to boost innovation, and stated that she would make "necessary corrections" to help the inflation problem in Argentina, and seek to promote foreign investment. In contrast with her husband's administration, which was seen as somewhat isolationist, Fernandez has shown interest in promoting better ties with the United States, Europe, and Brazil.

After proposing a new taxation system for agricultural exports, the Cristina Fernandez's Government had to face a severe lock out of the sector. The protest, which spread over 129 days, was quickly politicized and marked a inflection point in her administration. The system was finally rejected in the Senate by the opposite vote of the same Vice president.

See also

List of Presidents of Argentina

State-Church relations in Argentina

History of Argentine nationality

History of South America

History of Latin America

History of the Americas




Anzorena, Oscar R. Tiempo de violencia y utopia (1966-1976), Editorial Contrapunto, 1987, p. 48

Braudel, Fernand, 1984. The Perspective of the World, vol. III of Civilization and Capitalism (1979)

Carlos A.Floria and Cesar A. Garcia Belsunce, 1971. Historia de los Argentinos I and II; ISBN 84-599-5081-6

Tomas Eloy Martinez has written a number of books from the point-of-view of an Argentine journalist and intellectual affected by the entire Peron/Military period. A few have been translated into English .

Pigna, Felipe, Los Mitos de la Historia Argentina, 3', 2006, ed. Planeta

External links

History of Argentina - World History Database

U.S. State Department Background Note: Argentina

History World: History of Argentina

British Settlers in Argentina and Uruguaystudies in 19th and 20th century emigration

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