Sunday, May 11, 2014

Perón 1973 and the dark shadow of José López Rega

This is a video of Juan Domingo Perón from December 1973, just a few months before his death. Perón was at this time serving as Argentine President. Here he is speaking to the labor confederation CGT. He surveys the history of Argentine industrial development since his Presidency in the 1940s and 1950s and of the labor movement.

At around 17:30, he tells a story about a man in an audienceonce complaining that the workers were always looking to make more money. Perón says he responded, "You don't?" ("Tu no?")

He also talks in this speech about national debt problems involving the "hermanitos del Norte" ("little brothers in the North"), meaning the United States. He was also devaluing the Argentine peso at the time and explains his reasoning.

Archivo histórico - Perón en la CGT (diciembre de 1973) - (versión completa) TV Pública argentina 09.05.2014:

The video also has a reminder of the dark side of Perón's second turn at the Presidency at that time (1973-4). At just pass 1:00, we see an introduction of José López Rega (1916-1989), the Minister of Social Welfare, who was anything but a social-worker sort. Also known as El Brujo, the Warlock. The nickname had to do in part with his professed attraction for paranormal beliefs and practices. During the second Presidency of Juan Perón (1973-74) and that of Isabel Perón (1974-76), El Brujo became a powerful figure behind the scenes, extremely so during Isabel's term.

And in particular, he became head of the death squad known as the Triple A, from its name Alianza Anticomunista Argentina. Argentine justice is still trying to run down criminals who operated as part of the Triple A. See, for instance: Irina Hauser, El fantasma de la Triple A Pagina/12 11.05.2014; Los Juárez y la Triple A Pagina/12 22.05.2012.

President Cristina Fernández just this weekend made a tribute at the dedication of a monument to Padre Carlos Mugica, who was murdered by the Triple A in 1974. (Cristina, más papisa que nunca: "Nadie más permita dividir al pueblo de Dios" Diario Perfil 10.05.2014; Martín Granovsky, “Que nadie más permita dividir al pueblo de Dios” 11.05.2014) Gronovsky suggests that the appearance was also an attempt by Cristina to support reforms support by Argentine Pope Francis I/Jorge Bergoglio in reforms of the hierarchy that the conservative Argentine Church isn't entirely thrilled about.

TV Pública argentina·reports in Visión 7 - Cristina encabeza homenaje al Padre Mugica 10.05.2014:

This is a Spanish-language documentary by journalist Román Lejtman, Documenta - Lopez Rega, el brujo de Perón YouTube date 10/06/2011:

Thomas McGann's article for the Juan Perón entry in the Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite (2012) gives a good summary of that period:

While in exile Perón had wooed the left-wing Peronists and had supported the most belligerent labour unions. Once returned to power, however, he formed close links with the armed forces and other previously opposition right-wing groups. When he died in 1974, he left to his widow and successor as president an untenable situation. Isabel Perón failed to obtain the firm support of any power group, not even the labour unions. Terrorist activity and political violence increased. On March 24, 1976, the armed forces took power, removed Isabel Perón from office, and set up a military junta.
Peronism is one of the most complicated political movements to understand that I know of. The current President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is a left Peronista and part of the Peronista Partido Justicialista. She pursues the kind of policies the Social Democrats in Europe might be pursuing if they weren't so dominated by corporate 'hos. Carlos Menem, the President who successfully pushed the neoliberal reforms of the 1990s that led to a eurozone-type disaster in 2001, was also a Peronista from the Partido Justicialista. Go figure.

As one might imagine, the exact role of Perón himself in the crimes of López Rega and the Triple A is disputed. Perón died on July 1, 1974. According to historian Ernesto Salas, "La ofensiva terrorista de la Triple A comenzó a hacerse sentir fuertemente en la segunda mitad del año [1974]" ["The terrorist offensive of the Triple A began to make itself strongly felt in the second half of the year {1974}"]. (Historian Ernesto Salas, Review of Organizaciones Político-Militares por Carlos Flaskamp Lucha Armado en la Argentina 1/1 2005)

As José Pablo Feinmann writes in La última hora de la Triple A Diario Perfil 31.12.2006 (reprinted o Feinmann website and on the website López Rega, la cara oscura de Perón Libreria Santa Fe n/d), the Triple A's origins can be traced to the assassination of José Ignacio Rucci, Secretary-General of the labor confederation CGT which the video above shows Perón addressing with López Rega nearby. This was in September 1973 about the same time Perón was elected President and Isabel Vice President. Rucci was an ally of Perón. The general assumption is that Rucci was assassinated by the Montoneros, one of the left Peronista guerrilla groups to which McGann alludes. But the actual persons who committed the murder have never been definitively identified publicly. (See Adriana Meyer, La eterna discusión sobre la causa Rucci Pagina/12 19.12.2012; Horacio Verbitsky, Lo que no pudo ser Pagina/12 27.04.2014)

According to Feinmann's account, this is when López Rega began pushing for a death squad to rein in the leftist Peronist guerrillas that would not submit themselves to Perón's orders. But he makes clear that Perón opposed the creation of a death squad and said so publicly at the time. But he also said in that statement, "Muchas veces me han dicho que creemos un batallón de la muerte como el que tienen los brasileños, o que formemos una organización para-policial para hacerle la guerrilla a la guerrilla" ("Many times I've been told that we should create a death batallion like the Brazilians have, or that we should form a para-political organization to act as guerrillas against the guerrillas"). Although Perón sais that he intended to stay with the rule of law, the question is obvious: why didn't he get whoever was making that suggestion out of his government? And as Feinmann notes, it was fairly obvious at the time that López Rega was the most likely to be making that suggestion.

Feinmann argues that Perón kept the homicidal tendencies of his long-time confidant López Rega in check during the short remainder of his lifetime. But he knew what López Rega intended. He also knew that his wife and Vice President Isabel was politically inexperienced and very much under López Rega's influence. So it's unquestionably a dark side of Perón's own legacy that he arranged such a lineup that would continue after his death.

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