Falangism in Latin America
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Falangism in Latin America has been a feature of political life since the 1930s as movements looked to the national syndicalist Clerical fascism of the Spanish State and sought to apply it to other Spanish-speaking countries. From the mid 1930s the Falange Exterior, effectively an overseas version of the Spanish Falange, was active throughout Latin America in order to drum up support among Hispanic communities. However the ideas would soon permeate into indigenous political groups.
The term Falangism should not be applied to the military dictatorships of such figures as Alfredo Stroessner, Augusto Pinochet and Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, because while these individuals often enjoyed close relations to Franco's Spain, their military nature and frequent lack of commitment to national syndicalism and the corporate state mean that they should not be classed as Falangist (although individuals within each regime may have been predisposed towards the ideology). The phenomenon can be seen in a number of movements both past and present.
Juan Perón built his power base on his alliance with trade unions in Argentina, many of whom supported syndicalism whilst his government would go on to maintain links with Francisco Franco. However Falangism in the country was largely ill at ease with Peronism until the emergence of the Tacuara Nationalist Movement in the 1960s. This violent movement, who looked to José Antonio Primo de Rivera for their inspiration, linked itself to Perón although they went into decline following a government crackdown on their activity. This group, inspired by the works of Julio Meinvielle.
Formed in 1937, the Bolivian Socialist Falange (Falange Socialista Boliviana or FSB) of Óscar Únzaga gained a strong following amongst former landowners by offering a platform strongly influenced by Franco and Benito Mussolini. The FSB became effective opposition to the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement government although their fortunes would later decline and they were ultimately absorbed into the Nationalist Democratic Action.
A breakaway group known as the Movimiento al Socialismo - Unzaguista emerged in 1987 under David Añez Pedraza. Representing a more left wing take on Bolivian Falangism it became moribund before the title, rather than ideology, was effectively appropriated by Evo Morales in 1999 to form the basis of his leftist Movement for Socialism.
A revivalist group, Frente Socialista de Naciones Bolivianas, was formed by Horacio Poppe in 2000 and they have since emerged as the Falange Neounzaguista, otherwise known as the 'Whiteshirts'. Taking their name from Óscar Únzaga, they have led a recruitment drive in Bolivian universities, although they remain a minor force.
In 1935 a group of younger social-Christians split from the Conservative Party to form the Falange Nacional. Despite its name this group was largely made up of progressive and reformist Catholics, and bore little resemblance to Spanish Falangism. In its early years it imitated elements of fascist movements with some of its members wearing uniforms and undergoing paramilitary training. With its progressive economic program (creating an alternative to capitalism, "redeeming" the proletariat) it was in open conflict with the Catholic high clergy who accused it of disrespecting the Church's leadership and siding with communists. Despite its aim to be a centrist alternative to the left and the right, and relatively great public attention, it never received more than 4 percent of the votes. Later it supported the leftist administration of Juan Antonio Ríos (1942–46) and in 1957 was one of the founding groups of the Christian Democrat Party of Chile. One of its former members, Eduardo Frei Montalva, became President of Chile in 1964. Other notable members include Radomiro Tomic and Bernardo Leighton.
A more avowedly Falangist group, Movimiento Revolucionario Nacional Sindicalista (Revolutionary National Syndicalist Movement), would appear in 1952, although it did not achieve the influence of the Falange Nacional. The name has proven durable however as it still organises to this day, albeit on a very minor level. They also organise a youth movement, Guardia Revolucionaria Nacionalsindicalista.
During the 1930s future President of Colombia Laureano Gómez became an enthusiastic supporter of Falangism, although this fervour had died down somewhat by the time he took power in 1950. Nevertheless a Falangist group was active in the country during the 1940s.
A current group exists, the Falange Nacional Patriótica de Colombia, which claims to be active in the National University of Colombia. Recently they changed their name to Frente Obrero Social Patriota
A minor Cuban Falangist movement existed from 1936 to 1940 under Antonio Avendaño and Alfonso Serrano Vilariño. This group was effectively ended by a law which barred political groups from making specific reference to the policies of foreign groups.
Although the government of Fulgencio Batista maintained good relations with Franco it was not Falangist and the only real manifestation of Falangism since 1940 was with the minuscule (and probably defunct) La Falange Cubana.
A group known as the Alianza Revolucionaria Nacionalista Ecuatoriana appeared in 1948, drawing its influences directly from Falangism and synarchism. Under Jorge Luna they recruited followers from the young upper middle classes and adopted a platform of Christianity, nationalism and anti-communism. Ultimately, however, the group became more of a street fighting army in support of José María Velasco Ibarra than a serious political movement.
A fringe tendency towards Falangism continues in the Falange Nacional Garciana Ecuatoriana, said to be a newly formed group.
Under the regime of Arturo Armando Molina left-wing anti-government guerilla activity became such a feature of Salvadorian life that government agencies began to fund far-right guerilla groups to oppose the leftists. One of the first of these was the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional - Guerra de Exterminacion, better known by the acronym FALANGE, set up in 1975 with the stated aim of exterminating "all communists and their collaborators". Carrying out 38 murders in one week in October 1975 alone, the group changed its name to the Union Geurrera Blanca in 1976, de-emphasising its falangist ideology whilst continuing its initial role of assassination of left-wing targets.
Mexican synarchism, which combined Catholicism with anti-communism, bore some of the hallmarks of Falangism and looked to Franco (amongst others) for inspiration. Its political representatives, the National Synarchist Union, became influential during the late 1930s.
Alongside this indigenous variation a wholly mimetic group, the Falange Española Tradicionalista was formed in the country by Spanish merchants based there who opposed the consistent support given to the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War by Lázaro Cárdenas. The group neither sought nor had influence outside this immigrant population, however.
Falangist influence was felt in the country during the later 1930s, particularly in the Colegio Centro América in Managua where the ideology was widespread. Such activity was suppressed after 1941 however as Nicaragua took a decidedly pro-USA line after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A minor Falange Perú exists and claims the support of Spanish Falangists.
Around the time of the Spanish Civil War the Falange was heavily active amongst the 8000 or so Spanish citizens on the island, with an official branch of the Falange organised in San Juan. This group officially disavowed any involvement in local politics, although it was scrutinised closely by the FBI during the Second World War.
Two very minor Falangist groups have been active in the drive for Puerto Rican independence. The first of these was the Falange Boricua who have claimed that they were banned on 7 May 2000 after leader Walter Lozano was arrested attempting to blockade US military bases on the island. They have since been refounded as the Movimento Nacional Sindicalista de Puerto Rico.
Enrique Parra Bozo, who was noted for his admiration of Franco as well as his Catholicism and anti-communism, led the Partido Auténtico Nacionalista along Falangist lines. The group lent its support to the military regime of Marcos Pérez Jiménez and even attempted, unsuccessfully, to nominate him as their candidate for the 1963 Presidential election.
- Stein Ugelvik Larsen, Fascism Outside Europe, Columbia University Press, 2001, p. 806
- C.L. Callahan, The Impact of the Spanish Civil War on Argentine Nationalist Intellectual Thought
- Falange Auténtica website
- History of Bolivian Falangism
- Smith, Brian H. (1982). The Church and Politics in Chile: Challenges to Modern Catholicism. Princeton University Press. p. 95.
- Fleet, Michael (1985). The Rise and Fall of Chilean Christian Democracy. Princeton University Press. p. 47.
- Fleet, Michael (1985). The Rise and Fall of Chilean Christian Democracy. Princeton University Press. p. 48.
- Smith, Brian H. (1982). The Church and Politics in Chile: Challenges to Modern Catholicism. Princeton University Press. p. 97.
- A. Hennessy, 'Fascism and Populism in Latin America', W. Laqueur, Fascism: A Reader's Guide, Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1979, p. 288
- Ensalaco, Mark (2000). Chile Under Pinochet: Recovering the Truth. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 13.
- S. Cerqueira, 'Chile' in JP Bernard et al, Guide to the Political Parties of South America, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, p. 245
- MRNS website
- GUAREN website
- A. Hennessy, 'Fascism and Populism in Latin America', W. Laqueur, Fascism: A Reader's Guide, Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1979, p. 289
- List of Falangist movements
- Le Falange en Cuba
- List of Falangist movements
- H. Neira, 'Ecuador' in JP Bernard et al, Guide to the Political Parties of South America, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, p. 337
- James Dunkerley, The Long War: Dictatorship & Revolution in El Salvador, Junction Books, 1982, pp 103-104
- A. Hennessy, 'Fascism and Populism in Latin America', W. Laqueur, Fascism: A Reader's Guide, Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1979, p. 283
- Creole Pride flag and description
- John Gunther, Inside Latin America, 1941, pp. 141-2
- Falange Peru website
- John Gunther, Inside Latin America, 1941, pp. 434-5
- Report on the incident from a pro-Falangist website. Note - no neutral reports of the incident exist
- MNSPR website
- L.F. Manigat, 'Venezuela' in JP Bernard et al, Guide to the Political Parties of South America, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, p. 568
- FV website
- FV section of 'Libre Opinion' the online resource of the New Triumph Party