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A return to Peronismo

Argentina: A return to Peronismo

In the May 1989 elections, the Frente Justicialista de Unidad Popular (FREJUPO) electoral alliance, headed by Carlos Saúl Menem and comprising his own PJ grouping, the Partido Demócrata Cristiano (PDC) and the Partido Intransigente (PI), secured 49% of the votes cast in the presidential ballot and a majority of seats in the electoral college. The Peronists were also victorious in the election for 127 seats (one-half of the total) in the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies). The worsening economic situation compelled Alfonsín to resign five months early, and Menem assumed the presidency in July.

In early 1990 the Government introduced a radical economic readjustment plan, incorporating the expansion of existing plans for the transfer to private ownership of many state-owned companies and the restructuring of the nation’s financial systems. However, public disaffection with the Government’s economic policy was widespread. Failure to contain the threat of hyperinflation led to a loss in purchasing power, and unrest increased. In January 1991 Antonio Erman González resigned as Minister of the Economy following a sudden decline in the value of the austral. He was succeeded by Domingo Cavallo.

In October 1989 the Government pardoned 210 officers and soldiers who had been involved in the dirty war, as well as the governing junta during the Falklands conflict (including Gen. Galtieri) and leaders of three recent military uprisings (including Lt-Col Aldo Rico and Col Mohamed Ali Seineldín). Public concern about the apparent impunity of military personnel further increased after a second round of presidential pardons in late 1990.

Peronist success in gubernatorial and congressional elections held during 1991 was widely attributed to the popularity of Domingo Cavallo, who implemented the Convertibility Plan, which linked the austral to the US dollar at a fixed rate of exchange. This Plan led to a reduction in inflation, and impressed international finance organizations sufficiently to secure the negotiation of substantial loan agreements. In October the President ordered the removal of almost all of the remaining bureaucratic apparatus of state regulation of the economy, and in November the Government announced plans to accelerate the transfer to private ownership of the remaining public sector concerns. Agreements for the renegotiation of repayment of outstanding debts with banks and governments followed in 1992. The October 1993 elections to renew 127 seats in the Chamber of Deputies were won convincingly by the PJ.

In late 1993 the President and the UCR agreed on a framework for constitutional reform, which included the possibility of re-election of the President for one consecutive term, a reduction in the presidential term (to four years), the abolition of the presidential electoral college, the delegation of some presidential powers to a Chief of Cabinet, an increase in the number of seats in the Senado (Senate) and a reduction in the length of the mandate of all senators, and a reform of the procedure for judicial appointments. Following the convening of a Constituent Assembly in May 1994, a new Constitution was promulgated in August.

Menem’s campaign for re-election in 1995 concentrated on the economic success of his previous administration and, despite the increasingly precarious condition of the economy, he secured a first round victory in May. The Frente del País Solidario (Frepaso—a centre-left alliance of socialist, communist, Christian Democrat and dissident Peronist groups) won the largest share of the 130 contested seats in the Chamber of Deputies at concurrent legislative elections and significantly increased its representation in the Senate (as did the Peronists), largely at the expense of the UCR.

Meanwhile, the Government’s ongoing programme of economic austerity provoked violent opposition, particularly from the public sector. In March 1995 the Government presented an economic consolidation programme aimed at avoiding devaluation and supporting the ailing banking sector, which had been adversely affected by the financial crisis in Mexico in late 1994. In July 1996 Cavallo was dismissed as Minister of the Economy following months of bitter dispute with the President and other cabinet members.

Industrial and social unrest increased in 1996–97, owing to discontent with proposed labour reforms, as well as reductions in public expenditure and high levels of unemployment. General strikes, organized by the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT), the Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina(CTA) and the Movimiento de Trabajadores Argentinos, received widespread support. In October 1996 relations between the Government and the trade unions deteriorated following the submission to the Congress of controversial labour reform legislation. In December Menem introduced part of the reforms by decree, although a court declared the decrees to be unconstitutional in the following month. In May 1997 police clashed with thousands of anti-Government demonstrators who had occupied government buildings and blockaded roads and bridges. In July some 30,000 people demonstrated in the capital to protest against the high level of unemployment, then estimated at more than 17%.

At the mid-term congressional elections in October 1997 the UCR and Frepaso (united in the Alianza por el Trabajo, la Justicia y la Educación—ATJE) increased their representation while the PJ lost its overall majority in the Chamber of Deputies.

Citation: A return to Peronismo (Argentina), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. Retrieved 15 December 2017 from http://www.europaworld.com/pub/entry/EE000246

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