Cloumnist Mariano Caucino used the opportunity to praise Frondizi in El golpe contra Frondizi y una oportunidad perdida Infobae 29.03.2016. This is intriguing because he highlights the admiration that current President Mauricio Macri has expressed for Frondizi. Which makes me curious about the ways that Frondizi's image is being used in the present-day context. The politics of history is always intriguing.
|Arthur Frondizi on the cover of Time (Mar. 30, 1962 edition)|
Juan Perón's government was overthrown in 1955 by a military coup that billed itself as the "Revolución Libertadora." They established a military government that was briefly headed by General Eduardo Lonardi and then by General Pedro Eugenio Aramburu. (Aramburu was later kidnapped and assassinated by urban guerrillas from the pro-Peronist Montoneros group in 1971.)
In 1958, the military government transferred power to an elected civilian government headed by Frondizi. Frondizi was a member of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) and in 1946 was elected to Congress as a national deputy for the UCR, which despite its name had become the main political vehicle of the Argentine oligarchy which was intensely anti-Perón. Frondizi was the vice-presidential candidate in 1951 in which Ricardo Balbín was the unsuccessful presidential candidate. In the twists and turns that make politics and history so fascinating, both Frondizi and Balbín would make practical alliances with Juan Perón.
The UCR was very supportive of the 1955 coup. As were the Socialist Party and the Soviet-line Communist Party, which makes for a whole other story. In the excellent theatrical film Eva Perón (1996), Frondizi is shown taking part in the coup planning. That would be this one, BTW, whose screenplay was written by Argentine political theorist José Pablo Feinmann:
Felipe Pigna writes in his biographical article Arturo Frondizi El Historiador (n/d; accessed 03/30/2016):
Tras el bombardeo por la aviación naval de la Plaza de Mayo producido el 16 de junio de 1955, Frondizi fue detenido por la policía peronista por sospechárselo co-responsable de la conspiración. La quema de las iglesias provocada por grupos de peronistas la misma noche del 16, pareció ser el límite y la señal de largada del golpe cívico-militar en ciernes del que el radicalismo era una de las piezas clave. Frente al peligro, el gobierno peronista resolvió liberalizar el uso de los medios de comunicación que estaban monopólicamente bajo su control. En estas especiales circunstancias, Frondizi se dirigió por primera vez por radio al pueblo argentino el 27 de julio de 1955.The burning of churches was not some fit of secularism. Peronism had and has to this day a clear Catholic component. The current Pope was even affiliated with a Peronist group in the 1970s, albeit a rightwing one. (Peronism is complicated!)
El 16 de septiembre de 1955 un golpe de estado, conocido como la Revolución Libertadora, derrocó a Perón, y el radicalismo, junto con otras fuerzas políticas como el socialismo democrático, se sumó al gobierno a través de una junta consultiva.
[After the bombardment of the Plaza de Mayo by naval planes which occurred the 16th of June, 1955, Frondizi was detained by the Peronist police under suspicion that he shared responsibility for the conspiracy. The burning of churches by groups of Peronists the same night of the 16th, it appeared to be the end and the signal for the start of the civil-military coup in the making of which radicalism [the UCR] was one of the key pieces. Facing the danger, the Peronist government resolved to liberalize the use of the communications media that had been under its [the government's] control. In these special circumstances, Frondizi spoke to the Argentine people for the first time by radio on the 27th of July of 1955.
On September 16, 1955, a coup d'état, known as the Revolución Libertadora, overthrew Perón. And radicalism [the UCR], together with other political forces like democratic socialism [the Socialist Party] joined the government via a consultative junta.]
But the Catholic hierarchy in Argentina has also had a deeply reactionary side. And reactionary Church officials also supported the coup. As the newspaper La Prensa reported at the time on the bombardment of the Plaza (Perón y el bombardeo del 16 de junio de 1955 El Historiador, quoting La Prensa 17.06.1955):
Era la primera capital de Sudamérica en ser bombardeada por sus propias fuerzas armadas. Los aviones atacantes, punta de lanza de un alzamiento en varios puntos del país, llevaban en sus colas una “V” y una cruz que señalaban “Cristo Vence”.Cristo Vence, "Christ victorious, was the slogan of the reactionary Catholics. Horacio Verbitsky's four-volume history of the Argentine Catholic Church is titled Cristo vence.
[It was the first capital of South America to be bombarded by its own armed forces. The attacking planes, the tip of the spear of a rebellion in various places in the country, bore on the tails a "V" and cross which was marked "Cristo Vence."]
The Time magazine cover from the time of Frondizi's own overthrow as President shows Juan Perón looming in the background. It's an appropriate image for the dilemma of governance in Argentina from 1955 to 1974. Peronism was the most popular political movement in Argentina. But Peronism was banned from formally participating in elections or even operating and organizing openly. The Revolución Libertadora even tried to suppress the tango and the milongas, the popular dance clubs that were central to the tango scence, because the oligarchy associated tango with (in their eyes) dangerous low-class Peronist populism.
But the Peronist movement remained active. And Perón backed Frondizi in the 1958 election, in an agreement negotiated by his close collaborator Rogelio Frigerio, which included a development program amenable to the Peronists. His willingness to cooperate with Perón led to a split in the UCR, with Frondizi's faction becoming the Unión Cívica Radical Intransigente (UCRI). The other faction, the UCR del Pueblo (UCRP), was led by Ricardo Balbín.
Frondizi's Minister of Finance from 1958-1960 was Aldo Ferrer, one of Argentina's most distinguished economists who passed away earlier this month.. (The department was actually called the Ministry of "Economía y Hacienda" [Economy and Budget]). Javier Lewkowicz wrote in an obituary article on him (Faro para la heterodoxia económica Página/12 09.03.2016):
Ayer falleció el economista Aldo Ferrer. Vivió 88 años durante los cuales ocupó diversos cargos en la función pública, escribió libros célebres de la economía argentina, contribuyó a crear la escuela de pensamiento económico latinoamericana del estructuralismo, formó discípulos y se brindó a compañeros y amigos a quienes transmitió hasta sus últimos días su pasión y compromiso de lucha por una Argentina soberana. La comunidad política y académica manifestó su pesar por la enorme pérdida para el pensamiento nacional.Frondizi initially promoted a developmental policy to promote Argentine national energy and guard Argentine national sovereignty. In a 1954 book, Petróleo y Política, he had criticized the behavior of the extractive industries and advocated putting the control of Argentina's oil and gas resources under the control of the state-owned YPF company (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales).
[The economist Aldo Ferrer died yesterday. He lived 88 years during which he occupied various posts in public service, wrote celebrated books about the Argentine economy, contributed to creating the Latin American school of economic thought of structuralism, won disciples and made himself available to comrades and friends to whom he transmitted his passion until his last days and commitment to fight for a sovereign Argentina. The political and academic community expressed its pain for the enormous loss for the national thought.]
But Frondizi was only able to pursue his preferred developmental policy for a year or so. Under increasing pressure from the oligarcy, the military and the Church hierarchy, he defaulted to the kind of policies generally acceptable to the IMF and the United States. In a program identified with with economist Álvaro Alsogaray, who, in Felipe Pigna's words "con su famosa frase 'hay que pasar el invierno' orientó la política económica a promover las exportaciones, limitar el proceso de industrialización y liberalizar las restricciones impuestas a las importaciones disminuyendo considerablemente la capacidad expansiva de la industria nacional" ("with his famous phrase, 'you have to get through the winter" oriented economic policy to promote exports, limit the process of industrialization and liberalize the tariff restrictions on imports, considerable diminishing the capacity of national industry to expand").
If Mauricio Macri identifies with Frondizi's presidential policies, it's surely this version rather than the initial national-development orientation of Frondizi's government.
By the 1960 election, Perón was no longer backing Frondizi. And although Frondizi strove to maintain good relations with Washington, he was also reluctant initially to cut off relations with Castro's new regime in Cuba. When the always-US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) met in Argentina in early 1961, Frondizi invited Ché Guevara to come to Argentina and confer with him soon afterwards. Even though he eventually gave in to US pressure to break relations with Cuba, his early support for Cuban sovereignty in the face of American pressure made the military even more suspicious of him. When Peronists did very well in elections in Buenos Aires province in early 1962 after Frondizi's government had loosened restrictions on their electoral participation, the military moved to oust Frondizi in March, no longer confident he would sufficiently protect the oligarchy and conform to military demands.
This was the continuing dilemma of the oligarchy and the military during this period until Perón's return to Argentina in 1974. They couldn't rule effectively without allowing the Peronists to fully participate in elections. And they were too afraid of Peronism to allow it.
In the New York Times' not-very-adequate obituary for Frondizi (Arturo Frondizi, Argentine Chief In Time of Austerity, Dies at 86 04/19/1995), Robert McG. Thomas, Jr.wrote:
Taking office at a time of economic distress, he again put pragmatism first, this time above his own political popularity, imposing a series of austerity measures to curb inflation and attract foreign investment, primarily to the country's ailing oil industry.Impoverishing large numbers of people, giving up your country's chances for sovereign economic development, reduction of the standard of living of "the poor and middle classes," aka, the large majority, for the Times in 1995, that was a sign of "put[ing] pragmatism first." Awesome.
His measures, including a currency devaluation, would eventually be credited with laying the groundwork for an economic resurgence, but the immediate effect was to put a serious burden on the poor and middle classes.
The result was an almost constant series of strikes, demonstrations and clashes with the police, requiring the intervention of the military.
His undoing, however, was not his economic measures, but keeping a political promise to lift the ban on Peronist candidates and parties.
When the Peronists won a series of congressional elections in early 1962, the military, which had also become alarmed after learning that Dr. Frondizi had met secretly with Che Guevara, an emissary of the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, withdrew its support, forcing Dr. Frondizi's resignation that March.