Raúl Alfonsín

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For other people named Alfonsín, see Ricardo Alfonsín.
Raúl Alfonsín
Raúl Alfonsin.jpg
President of Argentina
In office
10 December 1983 – 8 July 1989
Vice President Víctor Hipólito Martínez
Preceded by Reynaldo Bignone
Succeeded by Carlos Saúl Menem
National Senator of Argentina
In office
10 December 2001 – 3 July 2002
Constituency Buenos Aires
President of the Radical Civic Union Party
In office
10 December 1999 – 10 December 2001
Preceded by Fernando de la Rúa
Succeeded by Ángel Rozas
In office
10 December 1993 – 10 December 1995
Preceded by Mario Losada
Succeeded by Rodolfo Terragno
In office
10 December 1983 – 10 December 1991
Preceded by Carlos Raúl Contín
Succeeded by Mario Losada
National Deputy of Argentina
In office
25 May 1973 – 24 March 1976
Constituency Buenos Aires
In office
12 October 1963 – 28 June 1966
Constituency Buenos Aires
Personal details
Born Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín
(1927-03-12)12 March 1927
Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died 31 March 2009(2009-03-31) (aged 82)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Nationality Argentine
Political party Radical Civic Union
Spouse(s) María Lorenza Barreneche
Children Ricardo Alfonsín
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic

Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín (12 March 1927 – 31 March 2009) was an Argentine lawyer, politician and statesman, who served as the President of Argentina from December 10, 1983, to July 8, 1989. Alfonsín was the first democratically elected president of Argentina following the military government known as the National Reorganization Process. He was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in 1985, among numerous other such recognitions.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

The house where Alfonsín lived during his childhood in Chascomús.

Alfonsín was born on 12 March 1927, in the city of Chascomús, in eastern Buenos Aires Province. His parents were Serafín Raúl Alfonsín Ochoa and Ana María Foulkes. His father was of Galician and German descent and his mother was of Irish descent.[2] Following his elementary schooling he enrolled at the General San Martín Military Lyceum, where he graduated after five years as a second lieutenant. He did not continue the military career, and began legal education instead. He began his studies at the National University of La Plata, and completed them at the University of Buenos Aires, graduating at the age of 23. He married María Lorenza Barreneche in 1949. They moved to Mendoza, La Plata, and returned to Chascomús. They had six sons; only Ricardo Alfonsín would follow a political career as well.[3]

Alfonsín founded a local newspaper (El Imparcial). He affiliated to the Radical Civic Union (UCR) in 1946, as a member of the Intransigent Renewal Movement, a faction of the party that opposed the incorporation of the UCR into the Democratic Union coalition. He was appointed president of the party comitee in Chascomus in 1951, and was elected to the city council in 1954. He was detained for a brief time, during the reactions of the government of Juan Perón to the bombing of Plaza de Mayo. The Revolución Libertadora ousted Perón from the national government; Alfonsín was briefly detained again and forced to leave his office in the city council. The UCR divided in two parties: the Intransigent Radical Civic Union (UCRI), led by Arturo Frondizi, and the People's Radical Civic Union (UCRP), led by Ricardo Balbín and Crisólogo Larralde. Alfonsín did not like the split, but opted to follow the UCRP.[4]

Alfonsín during his successful 1963 congressional campaign.

Alfonsín was elected as deputy for the legislature of the Buenos Aires province in 1958, on the UCRP ticket, and was reelected on 1962. He moved to La Plata, capital of the province, during his tenure. President Frondizi was ousted by a military coup on 29 March 1962, which also closed the provincial legislature. Alfonsín returned to Chascomús. The UCRP prevailed over the UCRI the following year, leading to the presidency of Arturo Umberto Illia. Alfonsín was elected national deputy, and then vicepresident of the UCRP bloc in the congress. In 1963 he was appointed president of the party comitee for the Buenos Aires province.[5]

Illia was deposed by a new military coup in June 1966, the Argentine Revolution. Alfonsín was detained while trying to make a political rally in La Plata, and a second time when he tried to reopen the UCRP comitee. He was forced to resign as deputy on November 1966. He was detained a third time in 1968, after a political rally in La Plata. He also wrote opinion articles in newspapers, under the pseudonyms Alfonso Carrido Lura and Serafín Feijó. The dirty war began during this time, as many guerrilla groups rejected both the right-wing military dictatorship and the civil governments, preferring instead a left-wing dictatorship aligned with the Soviet Union, as in the Cuban revolution. Alfonsín clarified in his articles that he rejected both the military dictatorship and the guerrillas, asking instead for free elections. The UCRP became the UCR once more; and the UCRI was turned into the Intransigent Party. Alfonsín created the Movement for Renewal and Change within the UCR, to dispute Balbín the leadership of the party. The military dictatorship finally called to free elections, allowing Peronism (which was banned since 1955) to take part in them. Balbín defeated Alfonsín in the primary elections, but lost in the main ones. Alfonsín was elected deputee once more.[6]

Illia was invited in 1975 to a diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union; he declined it and proposed Alfonsín instead. He was one of the founding members of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights upon his return. He worked as the defense lawyer of Mario Roberto Santucho; leader of the ERP guerrilla; but only as a form of support of due process of law, and not because of supporting him.[7] The 1976 Argentine coup d'état against president Isabel Martínez de Perón started the National Reorganization Process. Alfonsín filled several Habeas corpus, requesting the freedom of victims of forced disappearances. He also visited other countries, denouncing those disappearances and violations of human rights. He established the magazine Propuesta y control in 1976, one of the few magazines that critizised the military dictatorship during its early stages. The magazine was published up to 1978. His editorials were collected in 1980 in the book La cuestión argentina. He did not support the 1982 Falklands War, and critizised both the Argentine attack and the British counterattack.[7] The Argentine defeat in the war started the decline of the military dictatorship. The main political parties united in the Multipartidaria, to make a joint request to the dictatorship to call for elections.[8] Alfonsín initially proposed to appoint Arturo Illia as the head of state of a transition government, similar to the Metapolitefsi in Greece. The Movement for Renewal and Change took control of the UCR; Balbín had died the previous year.[9]

Presidential campaign[edit]

"Now Alfonsín", advertisement used during the campaign for the 1983 general elections.

Alfonsìn was appointed candidate of the UCR for the 1983 general elections, with Víctor Martínez as candidate for the vice-presidency. Fernando de la Rúa, who would have run in the primary elections against him, declined his candidacy because of the huge popularity of Alfonsín. The publicity was managed by David Ratto, who created the slogan "Ahora Alfonsín", and the gesture of the shaking hands. His campaign used a non-confrontational approach, in stark contrast with the Peronist candidate for the governorship of the Buenos Aires province, Herminio Iglesias. Iglesias burned a coffin with the seals of the UCR on live television, which generated a political scandal. Both Iglesias and Ítalo Luder, the Peronist candidate to the presidency, had a decrease in their public image as a result.[10]

During the campaign, both parties made similar proposals to reduce authoritarianism and the political influence of the military, and to maintain the Argentine claim in the Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute.[11] Alfonsìn denounced a pact between the military and the Peronist unions, that sought an amnesty for the military. He maintained that the armed forced should be subject to the civilian government, and that unions should be regulated. He also proposed to investigate the actions of the military during the dirty war. He closed his campaign reading the preamble of the constitution of Argentina.[12] The last rally was at the Plaza de la República, and was attended by 400,000 people.[13]

The elections were held on October 30. The Alfonsín-Martínez ticket won by 51,7% of the vote, followed by Luder-Bittel with 40,1%. It was the first time since the rise of Perón that the Peronist party was defeated in clean elections. The UCR also got 128 deputies, the majority of the chamber; and a minority in the Senate with 18 senators. 18 provinces elected radical governors, and 17 elected governors from either the Justicialist party or local ones. Alfonsín took office on December 10, and gave a speech from the Buenos Aires Cabildo.[14]


First days[edit]

Raúl Alfonsín's Presidential assignment, 1983.

The presidential inauguration of Alfonsín was attended by Isabel Perón. Despite internal recriminations for the defeat, the Peronist party agreed to support Alfonsín as president, to prevent a return of the military. The left-wing terrorism had been neutralized by this point, and was no longer a menace. There were still factions in the military ambitioning to keep an authoritarian government, and groups such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo that sought reparation for their actions during the dirty war.[15]

Chief among Alfonsín's inherited problems was an economic depression stemming from the 1981-82 financial collapse and its resulting US$43 billion foreign debt, with interest payments that swallowed all of Argentina's US$3 billion trade surplus. The economy recovered modestly in 1983 as a result of Bignone's lifting of wage freezes and crushing interest rates imposed by the Central Bank's "Circular 1050;" but inflation raged at 400%, GDP per capita remained at its lowest level since 1968 and fixed investment was 40% lower than in 1980.[16] Naming a generally center-left cabinet led by Foreign Minister Dante Caputo and Economy Minister Bernardo Grinspun (his campaign manager), Alfonsín began his administration with high approval ratings and with the fulfillment of campaign promises such as a nutritional assistance program for the 27% of Argentines under the poverty line at the time, as well as the recission of Bignone's April 1983 blanket amnesty for those guilty of human rights abuses and his September decree authorizing warrantless wiretapping. Defense Minister Raúl Borrás advised Alfonsín to remove Fabricaciones Militares, then Argentina's leading defense contractor, from the Armed Forces' control, ordering the retirement of 70 generals and admirals known for their opposition to the transfer of the lucrative contractor.

Appointing renowned playwright Carlos Gorostiza as Secretary of Culture and exiled computer scientist Dr. Manuel Sadosky as Secretary of Science and Technology, hundreds of artists and scientists returned to Argentina during 1984. Gorostiza abolished the infamous National Film Rating Entity, helping lead to a doubling in film and theatre production. The harrowing La historia oficial (The Official Story) was released in April 1985 and became the first Argentine film to receive an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Aftermath of the Dirty War[edit]

Alfonsín created the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) to document human rights abuses. Led by novelist Ernesto Sábato, CONADEP documented 8,960 forced disappearances and presented the President with its findings on September 20. The report drew mixed reaction, however, as its stated total of victims fell short of Amnesty International's estimate of 16,000 and of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo's estimate of 30,000.

Alfonsín had leading members of leftist groups prosecuted, leading to jail sentences for, among others, Montoneros leader Mario Firmenich. He sought to improve relations with Peronists by pardoning former President Isabel Perón in May 1984 for her prominent role in the early stages of the Dirty War against dissidents and for her alleged embezzlement of public funds.

Unable to persuade the military to court martial officers guilty of Dirty War abuses, Alfonsín sponsored the Trial of the Juntas, whose first hearings began at the Supreme Court on April 22, 1985. Prosecuting some of the top members of the previous military regime for crimes committed during the Dirty War, the trial became the focus of international attention. In December, the tribunal handed down life sentences against former President Jorge Videla and former Navy Chief Emilio Massera, as well as 17-year sentences against three others. For these accomplishments, Alfonsín was awarded the first Prize For Freedom of the Liberal International and the Human Rights Prize by the Council of Europe, never before awarded to an individual. Four defendants were acquitted, notably former President Leopoldo Galtieri, though he and two others were court-martialed in May 1986 for malfeasance during the Falklands War, receiving 12-year prison sentences.[17]

The President's international reputation for his human rights record suffered in December 1986, when on his initiative Congress passed the Full Stop Law, which limited the civil trials against roughly 600 officers implicated in the Dirty War to those indicted within 60 days of the law's passage, a tall order given the reluctance of many victims and witnesses to testify. Despite these concessions, a group identified as Carapintadas ("painted faces," from their use of camouflage paint) loyal to Army Major Aldo Rico, staged a mutiny of the Army training base of Campo de Mayo and near Córdoba during the Easter weekend in 1987. Negotiating in person with the rebels, who objected to ongoing civil trials but enjoyed little support elsewhere in the Armed Forces, Alfonsín secured their surrender. Returning to the Casa Rosada, where an anxious population was waiting for news, he announced: La casa está en orden y no hay sangre en Argentina. ¡Felices pascuas! ("The house is in order and there's no blood in Argentina. Happy Easter!"), to signify the end of the crisis.

Alfonsín during the 1987 military rebellion.

His subsequent appointment of General Dante Caridi as Army Chief of Staff further strained relations with the military and in June, Congress passed Alfonsín's Law of Due Obedience, granting immunity to officers implicated in crimes against humanity on the basis of "due obedience." This law, condemned by Amnesty International, among others, effectively halted most remaining prosecutions of Dirty War criminals. The climate of tension between those on either side of the issue was aggravated by the suspicious death in 1986 of Defense Minister Roque Carranza while at the Campo de Mayo military base[18] and by the September 1987 discovery of the body of prominent banker Osvaldo Sivak, the victim of a police-orchestrated kidnapping for a ransom of over a million US dollars.[19]

Ongoing military discontent reached a flash point when Major Aldo Rico, the instigator of the Easter Rebellion, escaped from house arrest and promptly organized a second mutiny in January 1988; this mutiny was, again, quickly subdued. The resulting tension and continuing stagflation set the stage for Alfonsín's announcement that elections, scheduled for October 1989, would be moved up five months earlier.

Alfonsín obtained INTERPOL's cooperation in extraditing fugitive Army Corps leader Gen. Guillermo Suárez Mason (a leading Dirty War perpetrator whose control over YPF nearly bankrupted the state oil concern in 1983) and Argentine Anticommunist Alliance mastermind José López Rega, who were found exiled in the United States and returned to stand trial in 1987. The President's relationship with the military remained tenuous. Continuing military budget cuts and opposition to democratic rule led the extremist Carapintadas to stage a third mutiny on December 1, receiving support from disaffected members of the Coast Guard, among others. The impasse lasted six days, resulting in the arrest of their leader, Col. Mohamed Alí Seineldín, an Army officer with a long history of violence and anti-semitism. In the interest of compromise, Alfonsín announced a modest military budget increase and the dismissal of the moderate Gen. Dante Caridi as Army Chief of Staff. A January 23, 1989 attack on the Regiment of La Tablada by a leftist armed organization led to 39 deaths and tested Alfonsín's improved rapport with the military, which was consequently given wide latitude to prosecute the matter, leading to the alleged torture of a number of the conspirators.

Relation with unions[edit]

Raúl Alfonsín with Saúl Ubaldini, leader of the CGT.

Peronism still controlled the labor unions, the most powerful ones in all of Latin America.[11] Alfonsín allowed strike actions, which were forbidden during the dictatorship, which gave the unions another way to expand their influence.[20] The introduction of legislation providing for secret ballot labor union elections led to opposition by the CGT, Argentina's largest, and handed his administration its first defeat when the Senate struck it down by one vote.

Unimpressed by Alfonsín's appointment of a Labor Minister from within the CGT's ranks, their leader, Saúl Ubaldini, called two more general strikes during the year (hundreds of smaller, sectoral strikes erupted, as well).

The campaign made strange bedfellows of Alfonsín and the CGT during the May 1988 Justicialist Party convention. The CGT was adverse to the frontrunner for the nomination, Buenos Aires Governor Antonio Cafiero. The President, in turn, preferred to see his struggling UCR (14 points behind in the polls) matched against Cafiero's rival, Carlos Menem, a little-known and flamboyant governor of one of the nation's smallest provinces. The primaries resulted in an upset, however, and Menem was nominated the Justicialist Party's standard bearer. The UCR, for its part, made a safe choice: Eduardo Angeloz, the centrist governor of Córdoba Province (Argentina's second-largest) and the most prominent UCR figure not closely tied to the unpopular Alfonsín.[21]

Social policies[edit]

Alfonsín did manage the passage of the legalization of divorce, helping resolve the legal status of 3 million adults (1 in 6) who were separated from their spouses. He also passed the Antidiscrimination Law of 1987, a bill supported by Argentina's sizable Jewish and Gypsy communities. He was awarded the Moisés (Moses) Prize by the Argentine Jewish community for the accomplishment.

Foreign policy[edit]

Relations with the United States suffered when Alfonsín terminated the previous regime's support for the Contras. Two meetings with U.S. President Ronald Reagan failed to bring economic concessions towards Argentina. Alfonsín initiated the first diplomatic contact with the United Kingdom since the Falklands War two years earlier, resulting in the lifting of British trade sanctions. Proposing a Treaty with Chile ending a border dispute over the Beagle Channel, he put the issue before voters in a referendum and won its approval with 82%.[22]

A positive rapport between Alfonsín and the new, democratically-elected President of Brazil, José Sarney, helped lead to initial agreements for a common market between the two nations and Uruguay in January 1988. Meeting in the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este, they agreed to subsidize intra-regional exports with a special currency for the purpose (the Gaucho).

Economic policy[edit]

Alfonsín began his term with many economic problems. The foreign debt was nearly 43 billions by the end of the year, and the country had narrowly prevented a sovereign default in 1982. The gross domestic product fell by 5.6%, and the manufacturing profits by 55%. Open unemployment was nearly 10%, and 1982 inflation was nearly 209%. It was also unlikely that the country would receive the required foreign investment.[23]

Inheriting a foreign debt crisis exacerbated by high global interest rates, Alfonsín had to contend with shattered business confidence and record budget deficits. GDP grew by a modest 2% in 1984, though fixed investment continued to decline and inflation rose to 700%. Losses in the State enterprises, service on the public debt and growing tax evasion left the federal budget with a US$10 billion shortfall in 1984 (13% of GDP). Unable to finance the budget, the Central Bank of Argentina "printed" money and inflation, which was bad enough at around 18% a month at the end of the dictatorship, rose to 30% in June 1985 (the world's highest, at the time). Attempting to control the record inflation, the new Minister of the Economy, Juan Sourrouille, launched the Austral Plan, by which prices were frozen and the existing currency, the peso argentino, was replaced by the Argentine austral at 1,000 to one.[24]

Sharp budget cuts were enacted, particularly in military spending which, including cutbacks in 1984, was slashed to around half of its 1983 level. Responding to financial sector concerns, the government also introduced a mechanism called desagio, by which debtors whose installments were based on much higher built-in inflation would received a temporary discount compensating for the sudden drop in inflation and interest rates; inflation, running at 30% in June, plummeted to 2% a month for the remainder of 1985. The fiscal deficit fell by two-thirds in 1985, helping pave the way for the first meaningful debt rescheduling since the start of the crisis four years earlier. Sharp cuts in military spending fed growing discontent in the military, and several bomb threats and acts of sabotage at numerous military bases were blamed on hard-line officers, chiefly former 1st Army Corps head Gen. Guillermo Suárez Mason, who fled to Miami following an October arrest order.[24]

Economic concerns continued to dominate the national discourse, and sharp fall in global commodity prices in 1986 stymied hopes for lasting financial stability. The nation's record US$4.5 billion trade surplus was cut in half and inflation had declined to 50% in the twelve months to June 1986 (compared to 1,130% to June 1985). Inflation, which had been targeted for 28% in the calendar year, soon began to rise, however, exceeding 80% in 1986. GDP, which had fallen by 5% in 1985, recovered by 7% in 1986, led by a rise in machinery purchases and consumer spending.[16] Repeated wage freezes ordered by Economy Minister Sourouille led to an erosion in real wages of about 20% during the Austral Plan's first year, triggering seven general strikes by the CGT during the same period. The President's August appointment of a conservative economist, José Luis Machinea, as President of the Central Bank pleased the financial sector; but it did little to stem continuing capital flight. Affluent Argentines were believed to hold over US$50 billion in overseas deposits.[25] Alfonsín made several state visits abroad, securing a number of trade deals.[26]

A severe drought early in 1987 led to a new decline in exports, which reached their lowest level in a decade, nearly cancelling the vital trade surplus and leaving a US$6 billion current account deficit. The problem and the efforts of Alfonsín's debt negotiator, Daniel Marx, helped secure the record rescheduling of US$19 billion in foreign public debt (a third of the total); but speculators' concerns led to a sudden fall in the value of the austral, which lost half its value between June and October. As most Argentine wholesalers accepted only U.S. dollars at the time, this inevitably led to higher inflation, which leapt from 5% monthly in the first half of 1987 to 20% in October.

A new Minister of Public Works, Rodolfo Terragno, an academic with a long history in the UCR, prevailed on the administration to allow a novel, if controversial, search for needed foreign exchange: privatizations. A number of factories and rail lines were offered for sale and, in September 1987, the effort yielded its first results with the sale of Austral Airlines, a domestic carrier. Subsequent instability and the fallout from the Wall Street Crash of 1987 dampened further deals, however, and left Sourouille little choice but to raise taxes. GDP managed a 3% rise in 1987, led by higher construction spending, though inflation rose to 175% and real wages declined around 10%, leaving them lower than they were in 1983.[27]

The Austral Plan continued to disintegrate as the economy slipped back into recession. Inflation continued at 15-20% a month and in August, reached 27%. Foreign debt installments fell into arrears in April when Alfonsín ordered the Central Bank to curtail payments. Coinciding with the Southern Hemisphere's change of seasons, Economy Minister Sorouille announced a Plan Primavera ("Springtime Plan") on August 3, whose centerpiece was a price truce agreed on with 53 leading wholesalers. The plan also included a fresh wage freeze, however, triggering a September 9 general strike by the CGT that turned violent when police repressed demonstrators at the Plaza de Mayo.[21]

Violent and white collar crime were of increasing concern among the public and, though the judicial system scored a victory when Banco Alas executives were convicted the same day for fraud committed against the Central Bank totalling US$110 million, their receiving a suspended sentence in exchange for the return of half the funds and the subsequent discovery of a sub-rosa "parallel customs" operated by National Customs Director Juan Carlos Delconte cast serious doubts on Alfonsín's commitment against large-scale corruption, which had become endemic to Argentine government and business during the 1970s.[28]

The economy had benefited only modestly from lower inflation, which had fallen from 27% in August to 5-10% monthly for the rest of 1988. Owing to the mid-year recession, GDP fell 2% in 1988 and inflation rose to 380% while real wages continued to slide.[29] Exports did recover and the trade surplus rose to nearly US$4 billion. The Springtime Plan, however, increasingly depended on its reserves to shore up the austral, whose stability guaranteed lower inflation rates. In so doing, the Central Bank shed almost all its US$3 billion in reserves and, in heavy trading on "Black Tuesday," February 7, 1989, the U.S. dollar gained around 40% against the austral. The sudden drop in the austral's value threatened the nation's tenuous financial stability and, later that month, the World Bank recalled a large tranche of a loan package agreed on in 1988, sending the austral into a tailspin: trading at 17 to the dollar in January, the dollar quoted at over 100 australes by election day, May 14. Inflation, which had been held below 10% a month as late as February, rose to 78.5% in May, shattering records and leading to a landslide victory for the Justicialist candidate, Carlos Menem. Polling revealed that economic anxieties were paramount among two-thirds of voters and Menem won in 19 of 22 provinces, while losing in the traditionally anti-Peronist Federal District (Buenos Aires).[30]

The nation's finances did not stabilize after the election, as hoped. The dollar doubled in value that next week, alone and, on May 29, riots and looting broke out in the poorer outskirts of a number of cities, particularly Rosario. Inflation continued its dizzying rise: 114% a month in June and 197% in July. Income poverty leapt from around 30% to 47% during the debacle[31] and the economy shrank by 7% in 1989, pushing per capita GDP to its lowest level since 1964.[16] Having declared his intention to stay on until inaugural day, December 10, these events and spiraling financial chaos led Alfonsín to transfer power to President-elect Menem on July 8.

1985 midterm elections[edit]

Alfonsín visiting an exhibition in 1986.

The actions against the military contributed to a strong showing by the UCR in the November 1985 legislative elections. They gained one seat in the Lower House of Congress and would control 130 of the 254 seats. The Justicialists lost eight seats (leaving 103) and smaller, provincial parties made up the difference. Alfonsín surprised observers in April 1986 by announcing the creation of a panel entrusted to plan the transfer of the nation's capital to Viedma, a small coastal city 800 km (500 mi) south of Buenos Aires. His proposals boldly called for constitutional amendments creating a Parliamentary system, including a Prime Minister, and were well received by the Lower House, though they encountered strong opposition in the Senate.

1987 midterm elections[edit]

This turn for the worse helped to a significant setback for Alfonsín's UCR in local and legislative elections in September 1987. The UCR lost 13 seats in Congress (leaving 117). Though still enjoying a 12-seat advantage over Justicialists, this deprived the UCR of its absolute majority in the Lower House and, five seats short of a majority in the Senate, this effectively suspended much of the UCR's legislative agenda, particularly the planned transfer of the capital to the Patagonia region. UCR governors fared even worse: the 1987 mid-term election left only two, toppling, among four others, Governor Armendáriz of the paramount Province of Buenos Aires.

Later years[edit]

Alfonsín with President Néstor Kirchner (May 2004)

Alfonsín stayed as president of the UCR when he left the national government, and step down after the radical defeat at the 1991 legislative elections. He became president of the party again in 1993. President Carlos Menem sought a constitutional amendment to allow his re-election, so Alfonsín made the Pact of Olivos with him. With this agreement, the UCR would support Menem's proposal, but with further amendments that would reduce the presidential power. The Council of Magistrates of the Nation reduced the influence of the executive power over the judiciary, the city of Buenos Aires would became an autonomous territory allowed to elect its own mayor, and the presidential term of office would be reduced to 4 years. Alfonsín was elected for the constituent assembly that worked the 1994 amendment of the Argentine Constitution. The UCR got only the 19% of the vote in the elections, and got the third position in the 1995 presidential elections behind the Frepaso, when Menem was re-elected. Alfonsín resigned to the presidency of the party in that year.[32]

The UCR and the Frepaso united as a political coalition, the Alliance for Work, Justice and Education, led by Alfonsín, Fernando de la Rúa and Rodolfo Terragno from the UCR, and Carlos Álvarez and Graciela Fernández Meijide from the Frepaso. The coalition won the 1997 legislative elections.[33]

Alfonsín suffered a car crash in the Río Negro province in 1999, during the campaign of governor Pablo Verani. They were at the route 6, and he was expelled from the car because he was not using a seat belt. He was under hospital care for 39 days. Fernando de la Rúa became president in the 1999 elections, defeating the governor of Buenos Aires Eduardo Duhalde. Alfonsín was elected Senator for Buenos Aires Province in October 2001, but health problems led him to step down after a year, to be replaced by Diana Conti.[34]

In 2006, Alfonsín supported a faction of the UCR that favoured the idea of carrying an independent candidate for the 2007 presidential elections. The UCR, instead of fielding its own candidate, endorsed Roberto Lavagna, a center-left economist who presided over the dramatic recovery in the Argentine economy from 2002 until he parted ways with President Néstor Kirchner in December 2005. Unable to sway enough disaffected Kirchner supporters, Lavagna garnered third place.

Alfonsín was a member of the Club of Madrid[35] and was honored by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with a bust of his likeness at the Casa Rosada on October 1, 2008. He was the only former Argentine president to receive that homage during his lifetime.[citation needed] This was his last public appearance.[36]


Alfonsín's memorial service at the Argentine National Congress.

Alfonsín died on 31 March 2009, at the age of 82, after being diagnosed a year before with lung cancer. He was at his house at the moment. The radical Julio Cobos, vicepresident of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was the acting president at the moment and ordered three days of national mourning. There was a ceremony in the Congress, and the coffin was moved to La Recoleta Cemetery. He was placed next to other important historical figures of the UCR located at that cemetery, such as Leandro N. Alem, Hipólito Yrigoyen and Arturo Illia.[37]

In the international level, Perú set a day of national mourning, and Paraguay set 3 days. All the Latin American president sent their condolences. Tabaré Vázquez and Julio María Sanguinetti from Uruguay, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso from Brazil attended the ceremony.[37]


Historians Félix Luna, Miguel Angel De Marco and Fernando Rocchi all praise the role of Raúl Alfonsín in the aftermath of the Dirty War and the restoration of democracy. Luna considers as well that he was a coherent president, and that he set an example of not using the state for personal gain. De Marco points that it was a delicate time period, and any mistake could have endangered the newfound democracy and led to another coup.[38]

The aforementioned historians do not agree on their view of the Pact of Olivos. Luna considers that it was a necessary evil to prevent the chaos that would have been generated if Menem managed to proceed with the amendment of the constitution without negotiating with the UCR. De Marco and Rocchi consider instead that it was the biggest mistake of his political career.[38]


  1. ^ Príncipe de Asturias: Raúl Alfonsín
  2. ^ Lagleyze, p. 8
  3. ^ Lagleyze, pp. 9-10
  4. ^ Lagleyze, pp. 10-13
  5. ^ Lagleyze, pp. 13-14
  6. ^ Lagleyze, pp. 14-19
  7. ^ a b Rock, p. 387
  8. ^ Rock, p. 384
  9. ^ Lagleyze, pp. 20-23
  10. ^ Lagleyze, p. 23
  11. ^ a b Rock, p. 388
  12. ^ Lagleyze, pp. 23-26
  13. ^ Rock, 389
  14. ^ Lagleyze, p. 26
  15. ^ Rock, p. 390
  16. ^ a b c Statistical Abstract of Latin America. UCLA Press, Los Angeles.
  17. ^ Todo Argentina 1985
  18. ^ Clarín: Dudas de vida o muerte (Spanish)
  19. ^ New York Times. November 20, 1987.
  20. ^ Rock, 391
  21. ^ a b Todo Argentina 1988
  22. ^ Todo Argentina 1984
  23. ^ Rock, p. 391
  24. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica. Book of the Year, 1986. World Affairs: Argentina.
  25. ^ National Geographic Magazine. August 1986.
  26. ^ Todo Argentina 1986
  27. ^ Todo Argentina 1987
  28. ^ Clarín
  29. ^ Monografías
  30. ^ Todo Argentina 1989
  31. ^ INDEC
  32. ^ Lagleyze, pp. 26-27
  33. ^ Lagleyze, p. 27
  34. ^ Lagleyze, pp. 27-29
  35. ^ The Club of Madrid
  36. ^ Clifford Kraus (31 March 2009). "Raúl Alfonsín, 82, Former Argentine Leader, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2015. 
  37. ^ a b Lagleyze, p. 29
  38. ^ a b Constanza Longarte (April 2, 2009). "Historiadores destacan el papel de Alfonsín como restaurador de la democracia" [Historians praise the role of Alfonsín in the recovery of democracy] (in Spanish). La Nación. Retrieved August 14, 2015. 


External links[edit]

Raúl Alfonsín at the Notable Names Database

Political offices
Preceded by
Reynaldo Bignone
President of Argentina
Succeeded by
Carlos Menem