Argentina and Uruguay – Some Musings on Military Regimes

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The following mildly amusing picture, in several variations, had been taken during Isabel Peron’s meeting with union heads and various labor-related government officials. In the first row we can see Ricardo Otero (the Minister of Employment), Casildo Herrera (the Union Secretary-General), Lorenzo Miguel (the Minister of Social Affairs) and, finally, Lopez Rega (the Minister of Social Welfare, the originator of Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, a fan of spiritual fascism and so on).
This photo had been published and copied many times and is freely available to public.

Isabel Peron Campaigns During Argentine Presidential ElectionsLatin America had seen lots of Lopez Regas: politicians pushing pro-fascist ideas and trying to reanimate dead European ideas, whether for money or even because they truly believed in them. However, having to adapt to Latin-American ethnic and cultural peculiarities, they mostly shifted into mysticism. Observe: Miguel Serrano’s esoteric Hitlerism in Chile; obsessing with Orders in Peronism; nationalistic fascism with indigenistic basis still popular in Peru; Bolivian garciamezismo (which owns a lot to works and ideas of European neo-Nazis, such as Stefano Delle Chiaie, and Nazis, such as Klaus Barbie and Joachim Fiebelkorn).
The attitude towards such creatures in Latin America differed from one country to another. In Chile, for instance, they were soon viewed as marginal. Miguel Serrano never had many followers, and the only advocate of fascism in Pinochet’s junta, Gustavo Leigh, was quickly deprived of any real influence and then completely removed from politics. This served as an effective inoculation, and Chile didn’t contract a more serious form of fascism thereafter. Bolivia, Peru and Argentina, on the other hand, flirted with various stillborn models, and as a result not only don’t they have normal political, economic and legal freedoms, but even the most trivial things, like electricity supply and inflation control in these countries is sorely lacking.

1Now, this photo, although taken at the same meeting, is much less widely known – I had to dig it out of library archives in Argentina.
My first thought was “could this be a stroke?” Then I remembered that Isabel was an exalted woman, attracted to mysticism and disposed to go into trances. The photographer, it would seem, was in luck and took his picture at just the right moment. Lopez Rega, who knew this side of Peron quite well, didn’t balk at abusing it; he easily manipulated the weak, hysteria-prone president, in his attempt to grow in power and turn Argentina into a militarized, Italian fascism-based country. The army, however, did not approve of this. The officers, though corrupted by many years of lax discipline and Peronism, managed to hold on to some right-wing conservative ideas. They deposed Isabel and began drawing on Chilean experience (they even had their “Chicago Boys”-style group of finance advisors lead by Martinez de Hoz, strengthened by the latter’s friendship ties to the Rockefeller family). They almost managed to bail their country out of a protracted economic crisis (Buenos Aries was nicknamed “the capital of inflation” since the 1960s), and even began attracting investors. Unfortunately, soon thereafter they aborted those reforms and started following Peronist fascists again (instead of the neo-liberals). They were influenced by proletarians bemoaning the fate of their outdated factories, nationalists, traditionalists, Gringophobes and other similarly ill-advised groups. Later, the junta managed to shoot itself in the foot once more by becoming involved in the Falklands War. They were deposed and now Argentina is back to where it started – only much worse.
The last picture, alas, of much worse quality, shows Isabel Peron with Juan Maria Bordaberry, the Uruguayan dictator and the head of its junta. That was one of the most nonprofessional and ham-fisted military regimes of South America. Uruguayans strongly followed the European-fascist ideology too.

00Junta ruined everything they could in their attempt to build what they probably thought of as neo-liberalism and to reduce the governmental control over economics. They started out by loudly distancing themselves from Jorge Pacheco Areco, the last civilian president, who tried to fight inflation by controlling the prices and fixing the wages. As a result, instead of “freeing the economy”, they ended up with socialist semi-distribution economy; the interference of the government in the banking area swelled to almost 60%, in the infrastructure area (which the army was very much reluctant to pass into private hands) to 70% and even 80%. I could not even begin to say how they accomplished something much worse than what they endeavored to improve. When the junta was deposed, the civilian presidents, trading their military predecessors’ rhetoric to an openly socialist one, adroitly and swiftly pushed Uruguay to far left, raising their involvement in the banking area to 80%, while infrastructure was completely nationalized.
The only decent person in the Uruguayan junta was Alberto Demicheli, an old wise lawyer, who put an end to the semi-distribution economy and refused to sign a legislative package designed to deal a severe blow to the opposition and the civil liberties. The generals insisted upon a ruthless police state regime; Demicheli fought them for some half a year and lost. He was deposed and replaced by Aparicio Méndez, a notorious fascist since his university professorship days (the students complained that instead of teaching them jurisprudence, he lectured them on the greatness of Mussolini). Mendez was quite happy to sign the package, and Uruguay lost its last shot at attempting a Chilean-style “national economic miracle”.

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