Argentina History – The Return of Democracy

The most significant and unexpected political fact of the presidential elections of 1983, which marked the return of democracy, was the victory of R. Alfonsín, of the Unión Cívica Radical, who overtook, for the first time since 1946, the traditional Peronist opponent in consultations without bans. Alfonsín had led a campaign with a democratic-liberal content, centered on a theme that his opponents had considered irrelevant to the fate of the consultation: the restoration of the rule of law and the need to pursue the responsibilities of the military during the dictatorship. Becoming president, Alfonsín initiated the transition to democracy on the basis of a ‘national pact’ with the major parties. The opening of trials against some members of the juntas from 1976 to 1983 led, among other sentences, the life sentence of Videla. Subsequently, robust pressure, which resulted in revolts by the armed forces, imposed a more conciliatory address on the government which in May 1987, with the law of “ due obedience ”, effectively exonerated the middle cadres of the army, causing protests from the movements for the defense of human rights. The economic difficulties (strong increase in inflation, which reached 5000% in 1988, and in the public deficit) and the consequent adoption of austerity measures with Plan Austral triggered violent waves of protest and wage demands, also promoted by the Peronist Confederación general de trabajo. For Argentina democracy and rights, please check

After Alfonsín’s mandate expired, the 1989 elections assigned the victory to CS Ménem, ​​leader of the Partido Justicialista. Ménem set up an effective anti-inflationary policy, managing to achieve in the short term the result of making Argentina reliable for foreign investments. At the same time, however, the growing unemployment and the great inequality of wealth ended up destroying, in large sectors of civil society, the confidence in the interventions of the new Peronism. In fact, denying the promise made during the election campaign of a productive revolution based on the increase of wages and the relaunch of industrial activities, Ménem promoted, starting from 1990, a series of liberal-inspired measures, completely different from traditional Peronist interventionism. The interpreter of government policy was the Minister of Economy, D. Cavallo, who continued the work of privatization of public enterprises and tax reform and fought hyperinflation by imposing a fixed exchange rate between the peso and the US dollar. Towards the military juntas, Ménem immediately showed a conciliatory attitude that earned him criticism from his own supporters: with two successive amnesty measures, numerous senior officers were released, including former presidents Videla and Viola and Admiral E. Massera, already sentenced to life imprisonment.

The drastic reduction in the rate of inflation and in the foreign debt allowed the renewed granting of international loans and the inflow of capital in a country now completely open to the market economy. At the same time, and thanks to the support of the United States, Argentina gained a role in the ‘new world order’ that emerged with the end of bipolarism, through participation in United Nations initiatives (sending a naval team to the Arabian Gulf, participation in missions for the maintenance of peace in the Balkans) and re-established diplomatic relations with Great Britain, interrupted since 1982 (although the question of sovereignty over the Falkland-Malvinas Islands had not yet found a definitive solution), which paved the way for commercial agreements with the ‘European Union. The successes in the financial field, the new victories of the Partido Justicialista in the administrative elections and in those for the partial renewal of the Chamber of Deputies pushed Ménem to support a constitutional reform project in order to remove the veto on the re-election of the president. The joint forces of Partido Justicialista and Unión Cívica Radical arrived at the new fundamental text in 1994. So in May 1995 Ménem was able to be re-elected president, prevailing over the candidate of the center-left coalition Frente del País Solidario, which nevertheless obtained a good success, clearly exceeding in the number of votes the Unión Cívica Radical. The emergence of a new opposition force showed that the monetary stabilization achieved by the Peronist government was no longer sufficient, for various reasons, to guarantee the consent of the electorate. First of all, the government reacted by accelerating privatization, strengthening private banks and further cutting public spending to the serious currency crisis that hit Mexico in 1994 and which Argentina had suffered like all Latin American countries. But on the one hand these measures had not prevented a reduction in the inflow of foreign capital, on the other hand they had aggravated the social costs of the reforms: in 1995 the unemployment rate had exceeded 15%, while 46% of the population lived beyond below the poverty line and 40% of national income was concentrated in the hands of 10%. Secondly, the rapid process of deregulation of the government-imposed economy had not followed a new orientation of public spending towards basic education, health and rural communities severely impoverished by the new economic course. At the same time, the overvaluation of the currency undermined the export of industrial products, leading to the loss of traditional market outlets, such as Brazil, and fueling the trade deficit. The approval, in 1996, of a public administration reform law that authorized the privatization of other state-owned enterprises, the further reduction of public spending and the increase in the tax burden contributed to further undermining the popularity of the government. also affected by the involvement of some ministers in financial scandals. The crisis was clearly manifested in the partial legislative elections of October 1997, which marked the clear victory of the center-left Alliance, composed of the Frente del País Solidario and the Unión Cívica Radical, and the loss of the absolute majority in the lower house for the Partido Justicialista. In the meantime, the question of the lack of punishment of those responsible for the military dictatorship returned to the fore following some initiatives by the Spanish judiciary, which issued international arrest warrants against Galtieri and Massera for their involvement in the disappearance of hundreds of Iberian citizens. Urged by these events, in 1998 the Parliament revoked the amnesty law of ‘due obedience’ (the revocation was in reality purely symbolic, disappeared born in captivity had been given or given up for adoption to military families), a crime not covered by the amnesty measures and for which the Argentine law does not provide for a statute of limitations. In the presidential elections of October 1999, the center-left Alliance won the majority of votes, and radical Fernando de la Rúa became president. But the attempts of the new junta to bring Argentina out of the economic crisis, culminating in the entrusting of the Ministry of Economy with special powers to D. Cavallo and in the launch of a very heavy austerity plan, have had no effect. The country has accumulated 132 billion dollars of public debt, unemployment has reached 20% affecting over 2.5 million people;

Argentina democracy

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