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Argentina Modern History

When the first elections were held in Argentina after the 1943 coup, one of the coup makers, Juan Domingo Perón, whose Peronist movement came to characterize Argentine politics. In 1955 Peron was deposed by the military and fled, but was able to return in 1973 when he was also elected president. The situation in the country became increasingly polarized and in 1976 the military seized power. The dictatorship fell after Argentina failed in 1982 to attempt to conquer the Falkland Islands from the British, the junta fell and democracy was reinstated. At the beginning of the 1990s, the country entered an acute economic crisis that also affected politics. A recovery began in 2003 after Néstor Kirchner was elected president. He was succeeded in 2007 by his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who sat in power in the fall of 2015.

The military regime that took power in 1943 dissolved the political parties and introduced censorship of the media. It emphasized nationalism, industrial development and social reform. Partly inspired by Italian fascism, the junta advocated a social system where the overall issues would be handled by a political elite, but where the individual would have a great influence over his professional life. But the military was divided and little equipped to lead the country.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Argentina. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Colonel Juan Domingo Perón, who was involved in organizing the coup in 1943, gained strong support from the unions but aroused dissatisfaction with the military that seized him in the fall of 1945. Perón was released following mass protests and he won the presidential election that had been announced until 1946.

Contemporary History of ArgentinaAs president, Perón improved the situation of the poor, gave women the right to vote and nationalized industries. A strong trade union movement, CGT, with close ties to the Peronist Party (PJ) was built up. Peron's politically active wife Eva (Evita) Duarte de Perón became an almost sacred symbol of this policy.

Foreign companies were nationalized and the state took control of foreign trade. The domestic market industry expanded and workers' real wages rose, but agriculture was neglected and the economy became imbalanced. Trade unions, business organizations and other interest groups entered into pacts with the state instead of trying to push through political changes and there was little room for any opposition. As the economy deteriorated, the regime became increasingly authoritarian.

Perón was re-elected in 1951 and changed policy by resisting wage demands, supporting agriculture and trying to attract foreign capital to the country. Through this and the rising oppression, he lost many former followers. The wife, who was probably his strongest political asset, died of cancer in 1952. Three years later, Perón was deposed in a coup and forced into exile.

The Peroni movement was banned and the following decade the power switched between military regimes and weak democratically elected governments. During the latter part of the 1960s, militant leftist ideas gained more followers in universities and workplaces. Strikes and demonstrations were common and political violence increased. The military announced elections, in which the Peronist Party was also allowed to participate.

Peron returns

The 1973 presidential election was won by the peronist Héctor José Cámpora. He left shortly afterwards to have Juan Perón return from his country flight in Spain and take part in a new election. The aged and ill Perón was elected president that year with his new wife, María Estela ("Isabelita") Martínez de Perón, as Vice President. Perón renounced the violence in his name in the country but could not resolve the crisis. A short year later, Perón passed away and his politically inexperienced wife became president.

The Peroni movement was divided into a right and a left flank. With Perón's death, the split became total. Extreme groups took up arms against each other and the country was haunted by kidnappings and murders while the economy continued to deteriorate.

Military coup and "the dirty war"

In 1976, the military seized power. Juntan, with General Jorge Videla as president, banned political and union activities and all opposition was defeated. The "dirty war" (la guerra sucia) harmed victims in all social groups. Those suspected of left-wing terrorism or left-wing sympathies were abducted, tortured, murdered or "disappeared". Others were murdered because they had assets that the military wanted to seize. For seven years, according to prudent estimates, 10,000 to 30,000 people were killed. The abuses brought international criticism and the so-called crazy mothers protested with danger to their lives to find out what had happened to their relatives. Many Argentines fled to other countries.

At the same time, Juntan's neoliberal economic policies led to corruption, currency speculation and a rapidly growing foreign debt. Discontent with the regime rose. In March 1981, Army Chief General Roberto Viola took over as President. He promised a dialogue with the political parties about a return to democracy. But the military leadership then replaced Viola.

General Leopoldo Galtieri, who took office as president in December 1981, gave an order in April 1982 to occupy the British Falkland Islands. Argentines and Britons had, for a couple of centuries, quarreled over these South Atlantic islands. The war raised patriotic yore at home, but in June Argentina was forced to capitulate and Galtieri resigned. Over 900 people were killed in the war, of which 655 were Argentinians. The defeat paved the way for a return to democracy. Elections were announced in October 1983.

The return of democracy

The Radical Party (UCR) and its candidate Raúl Alfonsín, who criticized both the military dictatorship and the war, won the presidential election. For the first time since it was formed, the Peronist Party was defeated, partly because of some members' contact with the military.

Expectations of the new democracy were high. Most senior officers were forced to retire, a national commission investigated the military's abuse, and several former generals were sentenced for crimes against humanity. The military, which was still a factor of power, opposed this. From 1986 to 1987, amnesty laws were issued that prevented the examination of the guilt of lower officers. Later, convicted junta leaders were also granted amnesty.

At the same time, the new government opened up to the outside world, not least the neighboring countries, among other things, a border dispute with Chile was resolved. But the economy deteriorated, foreign debt was soaring and inflation plummeted. The union CGT organized strikes against government policy. The government has now initiated the privatization of unprofitable state industries. Growth improved, but the budget deficit and inflation continued to rise.

The peronist Carlos Menem won the presidential election in 1989, but the victory seemed more due to dissatisfaction with the UCR government than any confidence in the peronists. Menem talked about "popular market economy", promised a "production revolution" and played on patriotic strings in the traditional Peronist spirit. At the same time, the economy was close to collapse, creating social unrest.

Alfonsín introduced an emergency permit and resigned five months before the planned change of power.

Menem led Peronism to the right. The market reforms gave some success to the price of increased unemployment and poorer social protection networks. He was accused of having contacts with the mafia which made big gains on privatization policy.

In 1991 a drastic currency reform was implemented and the following year the exchange rate of the Argentine peso was tied to the US dollar. Despite austerity policies and social concerns, Menem and the Peronists won the 1995 election.

Economic crisis

The 1997 parliamentary election was a success for an alliance between the Radical Party and Frepaso (an association of various left-wing parties) whose candidate Fernando de la Rúa won the 1999 presidential election. to hard savings. In order to obtain loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government made unpopular cuts in 2001, but that did not help. Later that year, a debt crisis triggered even more drastic measures. Hundreds of thousands of people went on strikes and protests. New corruption revelations increased dissatisfaction with politicians.

When restrictions on bank withdrawals were introduced, it gave new impetus to the protests. In December, the crisis culminated with riots in the streets and looting of shops. Peronist groups and former members of the intelligence service were accused of organizing some of the riots. 27 people lost their lives in the riots and de la Rúa resigned. After a few confused weeks, when several temporary presidents succeeded each other, on New Year's Day 2002, Parliament appointed the peronist Eduardo Duhalde as new president.

One of his first measures was to release the person's connection to the dollar, which in practice meant a devaluation. The intention was to speed up exports, but the devaluation meant that even imported goods became more expensive, as did bank loans that had been taken in dollars. Dissatisfaction was soon also directed at Duhalde. In January 2003, the government agreed with the IMF on a new economic package which meant that Argentina could postpone the repayments on the national debt. The economy began to recover, but according to unofficial data, more than 60 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.

Néstor Kirchner wins the election

At the same time, the divisions among the Peronists became increasingly clear. Three Peronists ran in the April 2003 presidential election: Carlos Menem, Néstor Kirchner, former Santa Cruz governor, and Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, president for a short term in 2001. In the first round, Menem got just over 24 percent of the vote against 22 percent for Kirchner. Prior to the second round of elections in May, Kirchner led all opinion polls. Menem then chose to jump off, which meant Kirchner won. The parliamentary elections at the end of the same year also became a success for the Peronist Party.

In May 2003, Kirchner took office as president. The Peronists had a majority in Congress, but far from all factions supported the government. Kirchner now began to build a power base outside his own party. He distanced himself from the market-oriented policy and promised to improve the living conditions of the population. Wages in the public sector were increased, as were pensions.

Kirchner forced some 40 senior officers to retire, which was seen as a way to get rid of militants who could be suspected of human rights violations (see Political system). In 2004, the president apologized to the victims for the abuses committed during the dictatorship. Kirchner had a strong support in public opinion and was well-aided by the rapid economic recovery.

Ahead of the 2005 congressional elections, an open power struggle broke out between the president and Duhalde. Kirchner's faction The victory front (FpV) in some constituencies contested the official candidates of the Peronist Party, which was appointed by Duhaldes faction. The victory front received 39 percent of the vote, while Duhale's list received just over 9 percent.

In 2003-2005, the government was able to show good growth figures, but poverty was widespread and government spending increased faster than revenue. Energy shortages, large food price increases and several corruption scandals led to Kirchner's brilliance falling.

A difficult start for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

His wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was named Segerfrontan candidate in the October 2007 presidential election. She clearly won 45 percent of the vote, ahead of Elisa Carrió of the center-left Alliance Citizens Coalition and Roberto Lavagna, Kirchner's former finance minister. At the same time, the Kirchner faithful forces were strengthened in the congressional elections.

Fernández de Kirchner promised to prioritize the fight against poverty and unemployment. However, many Argentinians assumed that her husband retained his influence behind the scenes.

However, she got off to a difficult start. The decision to sharply increase export taxes on soy, wheat and meat in early 2008 triggered a conflict between the government and four farmer organizations that showed their dissatisfaction by setting up roadblocks around the country. In many places this led to a shortage of food and food prices rose rapidly. The government claimed that the money was needed for social programs for the poor and to combat inflation, but a majority of Argentines nevertheless supported the peasants' protests.

The conflict with the peasants dragged on over time. When the congress voted in July 2008 on the tax increases, the president's proposal won by a marginal margin in the Chamber of Deputies but lost in the Senate since Vice President Julio Cobos voted no. After that, Cobos was transformed into one of the government's toughest critics.

Although the economy was growing, the country was struggling with financial difficulties, some of which had their roots in the crisis in the early 1990s, but the global financial crisis that took off in the fall of 2008 compounded the problems. As real wages fell, support for the president fell. The congressional election, which would have been held in October 2009, was preceded in June of that year. The president justified this because the government needed to concentrate on overcoming the economic crisis and not wasting time on a long election campaign.

In the electoral movement, the Kirchner faithful factions of the Peronist Party met their fiercest opposition from a bourgeois alliance, Union-PRO, led by the right-wing Peronist Fransisco de Narváez. The victory front lost its majority in both chambers of Congress. In the election to the Chamber of Deputies, Néstor Kirchner was also defeated by de Narváez. The second largest representation in the Chamber of Deputies was a loosely cohesive mid-left alliance led by Elisa Carrío.

During the five months remaining until the new congress was to take effect, the president sought to enforce as many new laws as possible. A decree introduced a new child allowance for poor families and 100,000 new jobs would be created through public projects. In addition, a controversial law was passed that increased the state's influence over the media.

When the new Congress took office in December 2009, the opposition took control of all parliamentary commissions in the Chamber of Deputies, but it was weakened by the fact that it was so fragmented.

In 2010, the economy began to recover. It enabled the government to invest in new social reforms, which in turn gave the president a boost in public opinion. Speculation that Néstor Kirchner would run in the 2011 presidential election came as a shame when he died in a heart attack in October 2010.

The President is re-elected

In June 2011, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that she would stand for re-election. The political scene had changed again: the economy grew by almost 10 percent and by 2010 export earnings had increased by almost a third. However, inflation created problems and government finances ended up at minus.

Fernández de Kirchner was re-elected as president in October 2011 with almost 54 percent of the vote. In the congressional elections, which were held simultaneously, the government gained its own majority in both chambers, with the Radical Party as the largest opposition party.

When the economy began to tighten again in 2012, criticism against the government grew. It was fueled by speculation that the government was planning political reforms that would allow the president to run for re-election. Trade unions that had previously supported the president, as well as dissatisfied with low wages, were turned against the government. The president also lost supporters among the middle class. She tried to recapture the initiative by playing on nationalist sentiments on the issue of the Falkland Islands (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

The victory front suffered a setback in the congressional elections in October, but still became the largest party in both chambers. Second place came the Radical Party. Even that PRO made a good choice, as did a new Peronist faction The Renewal Front (FR) (see Political system).

Old debt to US hedge funds (which the government called gambling funds) continued to create problems for the government, and several international credit rating agencies considered Argentina to be "limited state bankruptcy" at the end of July / August.

The country's assets in foreign currency continued to decline. In the fall of 2014, the sum was down to $ 30 million, which is said to correspond to six months of imports. Low prices for the country's raw materials exacerbated the economic problems. However, lower oil prices, as well as a currency exchange with China, meant that the problems eased somewhat by the end of 2014. Import restrictions led to a shortage of spare parts for industry and certain consumer goods.

Shift of power

The presidential election on October 25, 2015 appeared to be a fairly open deal between three candidates: Daniel Scioli, governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, and Man of the Victory Front, Sergio Massa, who had previously been Fernández de Kirchner's cabinet manager who was running for the newly formed United for a new alternatives (UNA) and Mauricio Macri, from Republican Proposal (PRO).

Scioli won the first round, but lost by barely a margin against Macri in the second. The election was also a setback for the Victory Front, which lost its majority in Congress.

 
 

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