Week 2, group blogs, Argentina Political Outlook

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Written by: Nicole Tocci, Divya Kalb and Rachel Benkeser


In Argentina, the political instability of the past, especially during the episode of state terrorism in the last military dictatorship, has instituted a common yearning for democracy among the citizenry of all classes, further institutionalizing democracy and thus making the possibility of future military coups obsolete.


On December 10, 1983, Raul Alfonsin of the Radical party took office in the first election since the military dictatorship of 1970s and was the first non-Peronist to win election since the birth of Peronism. Alfonsin was handed a government in shambles where democracy had not been a consolidated institution since the 1920s. Following the predictions of economist Samuel P. Huntington, it would be assumed that the development of political institutions in Argentina would take a back seat to the development of social and economic institutions (Peruzzotti). This, however, was not the case in Argentina. By the economic collapse of 2001, democracy had weathered several storms in Argentina and still survives today. A democratic plateau has been reached and it is now rather difficult to see Argentina falling from her seat.


Argentina’s re-birth as a democratic nation in the 1980s can be attributed in large part to the political crisis that shook the country during the military dictatorship of the previous decade. As great of a tragedy as it was with state terrorism resulting in an estimated thirty thousand deaths and even more tortured, the military dictatorship of the 1970s pushed Argentina forward in its development. As a paradox of plenty country, having to work very little to obtain great riches, it appears as if cataclysmic events are necessary to mobilize the citizenry and evoke change. Following this model, there are two big turning points in Argentine history: the election of Alfonsín, thus ending the military dictatorship, and the 1989 hyperinflation episode.


The end of the military dictatorship produced a citizenry who were for the first time united regardless of class in the struggle to obtain the freedoms they were previously denied. The movement toward seeking justice for the atrocities of the dictatorship lead by such public figures as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo helped the investment in democracy by calling for accountability—something only democratic institutions can provide. And their call was answered in part by the governmental publication of the report “Nunca Más.” The same call for accountability occurred following the 1989 economic collapse when Cavallo was ousted from office. Despite Menem’s move away from judicial independence and the accountability movement as he expanded the Supreme Court size from six to nine and stacked the court in his favor, the pressure the public placed on the judiciary exemplifies the movement of the country as a whole toward the process of believing in institutions.


The closest the Argentine democracy has come to tumbling from its pedestal was in 2000 when a series of five presidents went through office in a matter of weeks (Bowman Lecture). The calls in the streets were “show them all to the door,” but the governmental officials were shown to the door not through coup, rather through political election when Duhalde gracefully stepped down and declined to run for office (Gelpern, After Argentina).


The continual emphasis on political stability first displayed in the investment of dollars throughout the 1980s and 1990s as well as through the actions of individuals like Duhalde have lead Argentina to a position of democratic stability. In 2006, not even half a century from the last military coup, President Kirchner is capable of standing in front of the military and in an Army Day speech telling them “I do not fear you (Herald).” In light of this statement from the President, and the overall lack of politicization of the military, the odds of a coup in the next five years are slim to none. After several transitions between political parties of the presidency, it can be assumed that democracy is an institution in Argentina and that the people are invested in political transitions through election.


The Argentine people have simply invested faith into a continued democratic system, exemplified by the progression since the last coups. Governmental leadership in recent years continues to gain stability, and the threat of a coup has now become out the question. To change the way things are done, you now must work within the system and not around it or by destroying it all together. The people give consensus through their faith in a democratic system, to entrust the power of the nation to the president and the institutions through the election, and thus this can no longer be bypassed by an outside political force.  



Works Cited


Bowman, Kirk. May 31, 2006. Lecture at University of El Salvador.


Falcoff, Mark. “Argentina has seen the past—and it works (for now).” Latin American

Outlook. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Jan. 2004.


Gelpern, Anna. “After Argentina.” Policy Briefs in International Economics. Institute for

International Economics. Sept. 2005.


Gelpern, Anna. “What Iraq and Argentina might Learn from Each Other.”


Peruzzotti, Enrique. “The Nature of the New Argentine Democracy. The Delegative

Democracy Argument.” The Journal of Latin American Studies. Feb. 2001.


Romero, Luis Alberto. A History of Argentina in the Twentieth Century. Pennsylvania

State University Press. 2002.

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