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Raúl Alfonsín: the torch of democracy

President of the Argentines and radical renovator, Dr. Alfonsín was a statesman who founded the democratic principles of dialogue and consensus. And Never Again, the cry for human rights we still build.

Raúl Alfonsín

Let's think about a society without respect for institutions or rights. One that came from years of authoritarianism and, also, from ignorance of the minimum republican forms.   In 1983 Raúl Alfonsín faced the difficult task of re-educating in democratic values a country devastated economically and culturally   .   To this end, moral reform, so expensive to his admired Hipólito Yrigoyen, project its spirit on “democracy is eaten, healed, educated”, an independent and national democracy, a democracy as a program of change in the mentality that a compatriots   . Today that we enjoy progress in civil rights, in the Green Tide Wave, or that no one can think of a violent solution against a constitutional regime, we owe it to Dr. Alfonsín”   The mission of leaders and leaders is to raise ideas and projects, avoiding self-referentiality and personalism. Orient and open roads. Generate consensus. Call for collective ventures. Responsibly assume the burden of decisions. Follow ideas, not men, it's my message to young people. Men pass, or fail, ideas remain and turn into torches of democratic politics,” said brave in his last speech Alfonsín, in 2008, in front of officials and politicians at Casa Rosada who criticized him seconds before.   “The only former president who could walk the streets,” was heard on the day of his death,   a politician who put the ethics of conciliation on the national agenda. And the Argentines in the streets thanked him with eternal recognition, Father of Democracy.  

Raúl Alfonsín was born on March 12, 1927 in Chascomús, province of Buenos Aires. Son of a traditional family in the area, Galician, Welsh and Malvinese blood flowed in his veins. He entered the General Military Lyceum San Martín at the insistence of his mother, Ana Maria Foulkes, and had as comrades several repressors who would then try for crimes against humanity, Galtieri and Anaya.   He studied law at the National University of La Plata and there he began his militancy in the Radical Civic Union during the first presidency of Perón, in a line close to Ricardo Balbín's antioligarchic speech   “A party that ideally aims beauty, goodness and justice for its homeland,” he quoted the poet Almafuerte early, “has in itself the substantial conditions of humanity. He rejects atomification... his own adversaries are not his adversaries; he has the universality of consciences... his triumph will not be a burst, but a series. It's in the future”   These are the years in which his passions for tango, milonga and football, where he became a “strong and skillful” scoreboard in Deportivo Chascomús.   After marrying the young bride, Maria Lorenza Barreneche, with whom he was going to have six children (Ricardo one of them, current ambassador to Spain), begins an ascending political career while practicing the profession in the city of Buenos Aires, and successively the elected councilor and provincial deputy.   National deputy during the presidency of Illia, and president of the party in Buenos Aires province, stands out for his social proposals. After the 1966 coup d'état, he went underground and was arrested for condemning a new interruption of the democratic order.  

  By 1970 he founded the Movement for Renewal and Change, which, in the face of Balbinist government, promotes a line close to French social democracy, committed to civil liberties, although without so much emphasis on social rights, and with a focus on democratic values, in those violent times of the urban guerrillas and nascent State Terrorism.   Supported by the party and the young militants, particularly university students in Franja Morada, there is even talk of an alliance with Marxist sectors led by Agustín Tosco, Alfonsín drafted one of his main documents in 1973, “The Fundamental Contradiction”,”   Yrigoyen called on the people to fight against the minority defenders of privilege... at present the fundamental problem of the Argentines remains the same. Minorities defending the privilege willing to do everything in order to maintain their prerogatives, face the majority of the Argentine people... democracy or military dictatorship, social justice or privileged minorities, liberation or dependence, people or anti-people. This is the fundamental contradiction in the Argentine Republic of today   ”, a baseline diagnosis to be overcome in its future government program. This text added to the reflections of “Why, Dr. Alfonsín? ” (1987), and the articles gathered in “Political Memory” (2009), may be their lasting contributions to national thought.

  “We are going to raise the political ban among those who do politics with concrete facts,” said bravo Alfonsín to journalist Moncalvillo in Humor 1981 magazine, in the middle of the dictatorship, “Martínez de Hoz's politics is as if a neutron bomb has fallen On the other hand, beings are alive but it's undone all around us. The productive apparatus of the Nation... - nor to speak - of the very serious problem of the disappeared, which deserves a response from the government   ”, the doctor who worked as a lawyer ad honorem ended, presenting   habeas corpus   by the families of disappeared persons, and in the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights. Died Balbín in 1981, Alfonsín consolidates the undisputed leader of radicalism and opposes the Malvinas War, one of the few with former President Frondizi, in which he sustains an attempt by the military to perpetuate himself in power. Argentina's tragic defeat accelerates electoral times, “to recover our democracy we did not have to take the Bastille,” he would later regret the lack of cohesion and social conviction in his years as president, and the zero hour of Argentine democracy is shaping to his palate. iacute; n”   Argentinians, we're all going to own the country again. Argentina will be your people. Democracy is born and Argentines are reborn... no one is wrong. Let the electoral struggle not confuse anyone: there are no two peoples. We are one... this will be the time of power for democracy” said Alfonsín's speeches and closed with the Preamble of the Argentine Constitution   -the same carving in his vault of La Recoleta “Let us try to strengthen the democracy that starts by raising the flags of the national union because we need all Argentines to overcome our problems,” he said on the night of October 30, barely knew his victory with 51%, “we we yearn to form a government of national unity”   And since that night we never again lost faith in democracy as an institution and builder of citizenship.  

Raul Alfonsín


  Argentina's first concrete democratic government  

Raúl Alfonsín's presidency can be analyzed from various points of view, a government supported by real democracy as it had never been seen in Argentine history, founded on political intentionality of respect for institutions, individual rights and liberalism, in principle. An alternative is the historic one that will indicate moments of strong acceptance, the so-called democratic spring until 1985, then the economic and political turbulence resulting from the Southern Plan, and which end with the triumphant return of Peronism renewed in 1987, and finally the decline irrepressible with hyperinflation, social chaos, organized looting? and advance surrender of power to Carlos Menem on 8 July 1989.   Another way to deal with the description would be through the axes that went through the six years of management, among which we can highlight the human rights agenda, and its concomitant military issue, economic management and foreign policy.  

  In the area of human rights, President Alfonsín immediately decreed the Trial of the Juntas, and the guerrilla leaders, “the two demons” for crimes against humanity   . It was the first time in the history of humanity that a people managed to try their dictators, and subversives, with their own civil courts. The notion of exemplifying punishment on the heads and an attempt at national pacification prevailed. In reality, the result was an increase in civil society's claims for justice, partly as a result of the detailed and devastating report of CONADEP (National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons), even with a television version of heart-breaking testimonies of former disappeared detainees, and which began to play against the government.   Five senior chiefs received sentences, some of life imprisonment, and were held in prison, while courts throughout the country began to open cases against the subordinates.   In 1986, the Law of Punto Endale was enacted, which does not make up uniformed members of all forces, many of them involved in torture and appropriation of minors “compatriots: happy Easter! The mutineers have deposed their attitude. As appropriate, they will be arrested and brought to justice. It is a group of men, some of them heroes of the Falkland War, who took this wrong position and who have reiterated that their intention was not to provoke a coup d'état (...) To avoid bloodshed, I instructed the army commanders not to proceed to repression, and today we can all thank God; the house is in order and there is no blood in Argentina,” the president would say on Easter Sunday of 1987 for the “carapintada” uprising that would result in the Law of Due Obedience, and that did not prevent new uprisings in 1988, in January and December, and 1990.   The gesture of incipient liberalism was extinguished in the government that promoted the Divorce Law, Shared Parental Rights, the Anti-Discrimination Law and the Second National Pedagogical Congress, and there was a notorious conservative turn, which was crowned with the repressive National Security Council, after the attempt to the tablada barracks were opened in 1989.  

“We must help the birth of the new union, which will have material and economic power, but must have, fundamentally, human content.   The new union must be organized from the bottom up, stating its roots in the grassroots and inside the Republic,” cried Dr. Alfonsín before a stunned Congress of the Nation in 1983, in an economic program that will attempt to refound the bases of Argentine work. Simultaneously, it proposes an economic plan similar to President Illia's nationalism in a world that had changed,   and with a country that bore severe foreign debt that eroded GDP (Alfonsín had the historic chance to declare “odious,” or illegitimate, debt contracted by the national state during the dictatorship, since in 1984 he had the support of the United States and other countries Latin Americans. It did not), and a productive apparatus destroyed as I had described it 1981. No measure worked, obstructed by Peronism and entrepreneurship, while trade unions regrouped,   and they fought the government harshly with thirteen general stops, a hostility that could not be disarmed when President Alfonsín joined trade unionists into the government.   However, these protests are based on a free fall in the domestic economy, wages well below inflation, and implementation of neoliberal plans of the International Monetary Fund, Plan Austral and Plan Primavera, which left no respite with a population suffering from power outages and shortages. During that government, state modernization programs begin, with oil company YPF in the first place, and that after the decade would inspire menemist privatisations. The rhetoric of the inefficiency of the State was also imposed, moving away definitively from the statist, national and popular matrix held by his own party in the work of his master Yrigoyen, protected by the”   democratic convergence in order to redefine the areas and competences of the various State administrations, the economic system and social security, a convergence which associates political forces of different origins into common objectives, without affecting their individuality”   , which included the transfer of the capital of the Nation to Viedma-Carmen de Patagones, at the beginning of Patagonia “As a political and territorial unit, the Nation settled in the precarious domination of one group over others, and not in the desired articulation of all in a common system of coexistence”, said the president in the famous Discourse of Parque Norte in 1985, inspired by the intellectuals of the Esmeralda Group, including Juan Carlos Portantiero and Beatriz Sarlo, and not so far from that of 1973 which proposed to overcome the antinomies,   “Argentina was always a country where intransigence, beyond that necessary to preserve principles, was considered a virtue, where the expression “not transar” multiplied in the motto of the most varied signs and where to negotiate was considered a treason”, the disciple of intransigents like Alem, or Yrigoyen himself, would finish off.  

Conservative adjustments in President Alfonsín's thought caused him to lose the livelihood of the independent voters who brought them to power,   beyond that we can discuss profound consistency with their conciliation ethics.     This led to perhaps the best Argentine foreign policy since the twenties, with the Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Chile, signed on 23 October 1984, which ended without arms a centuries-old conflict, ratified by the popular vote; the signing of numerous international treaties on human rights, which have been incorporated into the constitution since 1994; the firm policy against apartheid South Africa; participation in the Cartagena Group for the renegotiation of foreign debt; Argentina's collaboration in the support group for Contadora, aimed at promoting peace in Central America, the repatriation of scientists and the creation of Mercosur.   In addition, a firm stance on imperialist advances, although it was conditioned by the staggering domestic economy. 3620% annual inflation, 47.3% poverty, 17.5% indigence, at the end of his term, liquefied Alfonsín's political capital as well as the national currency.


  Dr. Alfonsín, statesman  

In the first part of the 1990s, Alfonsín observed the dangerous decline in radical party voters, and reluctant, plans a rapprochement with President Menem, which would be the origin of the so - called”   Pact of Olives” of 1994. Menem gets the long-awaited re-election and Alfonsín introduces into the Constitution some mechanisms that counterbalance presidentialism, such as the head of cabinet or strict regulations for the use of executive decrees, plus third and fourth generation rights, which relate to solidarity.   However, the goal of conciliation fails, Alfonsín is seriously questioned in his own party, and takes refuge in his Argentine Foundation for Freedom of Information, from where he publishes new books of political analysis. In the decline of the Menemist government, it participates in the formation of the Alliance with Carlos Álvarez and Graciela Fernández Meijide, the political space of convergence that would catapult Fernando de la Rúa, a former conservative rival within radicalism, to the presidency of the Nation in 1999.   Recovered from a serious car accident in Rio Negro, Alfonsín maintains a subordinate position in the erratic management of President De la Rúa, holding the chairmanship of the Radical National Committee, and won a seat as a senator from the province of Buenos Aires in October 2001, although he would resign the following year. Appointed Vice President ex officio of the Socialist International, the former president accumulates honors in the country and the world, including a special one granted in defense of democracy and human rights by the Prince of Asturias Foundation of Spain.  

The institutional and social debacle of 2001 again projects Alfonsín's stature of statesman and promotes, in conjunction with provisional President Duhalde, the Law on Economic Emergency and the Reform of the Foreign Exchange Regime, which allowed us to get out of the terminal crisis.   The following presidency of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner put the radical leader in a critical position, especially in the discussion that arisen over the annulment of the Laws of End Point and Due Obedience   . His last action within the party was to support the failed candidacy of an extra supporter, Roberto Lavagna, who had been an official of his government, and also Duhalde - on his recommendation - and Néstor Kirchner, in the 2007 presidential election. The veteran radical leader suffered seeing his beloved party fragmented and faced. With health seriously weakened by lung cancer, Raúl Alfonsín died in Buenos Aires on March 31, 2009. Almost 80,000 people went to the funeral in the National Congress.

”   We have freedom, but we lack equality, we have real tangible democracy, but incomplete and unsatisfactory. It has not yet complied with some of its fundamental principles, has not yet built a floor that includes the desampaired and diminished”,   he ended up in his last speech in October 2008. Like Urquiza, like Alvear, he dreamed of a single country, ethically regenerated, pooled in wills. With the tapas of the newspapers in view, it is not difficult to accept that we are still distant from the democracy that the Father of Democracy dreamed of.


Sources: Alfonsín, R.   Political memory. Transition to democracy and human rights   . Buenos Aires: Fund for Economic Culture. 2009; Gargarella, R. Murillo, M. V. Pecheny, M. (comp)   Discuss Alfonsin.   Buenos Aires: 21st century. 2010; Giussani, P.   Why, Dr. Alfonsín?   . Buenos Aires: Planet. 1987; Aboy Carles, G.   The two frontiers of Argentine democracy. The redefinition of political identities from Alfonsín to Menem   . Rosary: Homo Sapiens. 2001;

Publication Date: 12/03/2021

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 democracia argentina 1983: Zero Year of Argentine Democracy
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