Argentina Between 1989 and 1999

After the presidency of R. Alfonsín, who had managed the return to democracy in Argentina without, however, being able to cope with the economic crisis of the country, nor to adopt an attitude of firm intransigence towards military power, the elections of 1989 had assigned the victory to the Peronist CS Menem, leader of the Partido Justicialista (PJ). Menem set up a strictly anti-inflationary economic policy, achieving the result of making the Argentina a reliable country for foreign investment. 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 liberal recipe of the new Peronism.

Despite having promised in the election campaign a productive revolution based on the increase of wages and the relaunch of industrial activities, since 1990 Menem promoted a series of economic measures of liberal inspiration and distant from traditional Peronist interventionism. The standard bearer of the government’s economic policy was the minister of the economy, D. Cavallo, appointed in January 1991, who continued the work of privatization of public enterprises and tax reform already initiated by the minister AE González, and fought hyperinflation by guaranteeing the convertibility of the peso and imposing a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar.

Compared to the military, Menem immediately showed a conciliatory attitude, which earned him criticism from his own supporters. With two successive amnesty measures (the second, in December 1990, preceded by the umpteenth military uprising), numerous senior officers were released, including generals J. Videla and R. Viola and Admiral E. Massera, already condemned to prison. life imprisonment following trials that had incontrovertibly demonstrated the atrocities committed during the dictatorship. The drastic reduction of the inflation rate and of the foreign debt allowed the renewed granting of international loans (blocked in 1989from the IMF, International Monetary Fund) and favored the massive influx of foreign capital into a country now completely open to the market economy. At the same time, and with the support of the United States, the Argentina it gained its own role in the ‘new world order’ that emerged with the end of bipolarism, through participation in UN-sponsored initiatives (sending a naval team to the Persian Gulf, participation in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans). Furthermore, diplomatic relations with Great Britain, interrupted by 1982, were re-established (although the question of sovereignty over the Falkland-Malvinas Islands had not yet found a definitive solution), which paved the way for trade agreements with the EU.

The undoubted successes in the financial field strengthened the position of the PJ in the administrative elections and those for the partial renewal of the Chamber of Deputies of September 1991 and October 1993, encouraging Menem to support a draft constitutional reform to remove the provisions that prohibited the re-election of the president. A parliamentary agreement reached with the UCR (Unión Cívica Radical) through the mediation of Alfonsín made possible the election of a Constituent Assembly in November 1994, which gave the majority on the PJ with 37, 8 % of the vote, while the ‘UCR received only 19, 9%. Significant was the statement as a third party, with 12, 5 % of the votes, the Frente Grande, a center-left coalition in the election campaign had denounced the increasing level of corruption within the institutions and had opposed the revision of the Constitution. The joint forces of PJ and UCR arrived in August 1994 at the new fundamental text, which provides for the possibility of re-election of the president (whose mandate has been reduced from six to four years), brings the number of senators from 48 to 72 (with a term limited to six years) and establishes an autonomous government for the capital with a directly elected mayor.

In May 1995 Menem was then re-elected president with 49, 9 % of the vote, against 29 % of JO Bordón, candidate of a center-left coalition, the Frente del País Solidario (F Repaso), and just 17 % achieved by H. Massaccesi, of the UCR. The concomitant legislative and provincial elections assigned the victory to the PJ, but also marked the clear rise of the F REPASO against the UCR, a sign that the particular Argentine bipolarism, tendentially inclined to a growing consociativism in the management of power, was crumbling with the emergence of a new opposition force. For Argentina 1996, please check

On the other hand, the monetary stabilization obtained by the Peronist government, for a series of reasons, no longer seemed sufficient to guarantee the consensus of the electorate. First of all, the Argentina it had suffered, like all Latin American countries, from the very serious currency crisis that hit Mexico in December 1994 and to which the Argentine government had reacted by accelerating privatizations, strengthening private banks, and further cutting public spending. But these measures, if they had not prevented a reduction in the inflow of foreign capital, had vice versa aggravated the social costs of the reforms: in the summer of 1995 the unemployment rate had exceeded 15 %, 46 %.% of the population lived below the poverty line, while 10 % enjoyed 40% of national income. Secondly, the rapid process of deregulation of the economy imposed from above was not followed by 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 did not even reward the export of industrial products and fueled the trade deficit. Finally, the publication of ever more numerous testimonies on the crimes committed during the period of the military dictatorship increased the detachment in public opinion towards a president who, in the name of national reconciliation, had granted amnesty to the main perpetrators at the beginning of his first term. of these crimes and of the dictatorship itself.

The approval in February 1996 of a public administration reform law that authorized the government to privatize new state-owned enterprises, further reduce public spending and increase the tax burden further undermined the popularity of the government, whose strength was already undermined by the involvement of some ministers in financial scandals. In June 1996, in the municipal elections of Buenos Aires, the radical candidate won, followed by that of the left; during the summer the CGT (Confederación General de Trabajo) Peronist took part in two strikes against the new economic measures; in October Menem was forced to a large reshuffle of military leaders, opposed to further cuts to the defense budget. But the government 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 F REPASO and the UCR and meant for the PJ the loss of the absolute majority in the chamber. low. The Alliance led by GF Meijide, who already in October 1995 in the federal district of Buenos Aires had managed to prevail over the Peronist candidate in the elections for a seat in the Senate, in fact obtained 48,35, 7% of the PJ. The question of the lack of punishment of those responsible for the military dictatorship returned to the fore following the initiatives of the Spanish judiciary, which in March and October 1997 issued international arrest warrants against L. Galtieri and E. Massera respectively for their involvement in the disappearance of hundreds of Iberian citizens in Argentina in the period 1976-83. In March 1998, Parliament overturned the amnesty laws of 1986 and 1987 by a large majority(purely symbolic revocation, because it has no retroactive effects and therefore practical consequences for the soldiers who had benefited from these measures). Furthermore, in June 1998, November 1998, and January 1999 respectively, General Videla, Admiral Massera and General Bignone were arrested on charges of child abduction (during the period of the military dictatorship at least 500 children, children of desaparecidos, were born in captivity to then be sold or given up for adoption to military families), a crime not covered by amnesty measures and for which Argentine law does not provide for a prescription. In the presidential election of October 1999the candidate of the center-left Alliance, the radical Fernando de la Rúa, won 48.5 % of the votes.

Argentina Between 1989 and 1999