Alfonsín, Raúl (Argentina)
Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín was president of Argentina between 1983–89 representing the centrist Unión Civica Radical (Radical Civic Union; UCR). He was democratically elected after 7 years of military rule. Despite reforming the military and promoting human rights, Alfonsín exacerbated the precarious economic situation he had inherited.
Alfonsín was born on 13 March 1927 in Chascomús, Buenos Aires province. After a military academy schooling, he studied law at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, graduating in 1950. Following 10 years of work in regional politics, Alfonsín was elected to UCR president Arturo Umberto Illia’s parliament in 1963. In 1966 a military coup deposed Illia and his team. In 1973 Alfonsín stood as the UCR candidate in the presidential elections, but was defeated by the Peronist Frente Justicialista de Liberación candidate Héctor Cámpora.
During the ‘Dirty War’ (1976–83), Alfonsín was a vocal critic of the repressive military regime. He wrote his book La cuestión Argentina in response to human rights abuses and cofounded the Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos (Permanent Assembly for Human Rights).
In the democratic presidential elections of 1983, the UCR’s main rival was the Peronist Partido Justicialista (Justicialist Party; PJ). Alfonsín’s campaign was aided when the PJ candidate for Buenos Aires, Herminio Iglesias, burnt a coffin wrapped in the UCR flag. Alfonsín won with 52% of votes compared to Italo Lúdes’ 40%.
On his election Alfonsín pledged to uphold democracy and stabilize Argentina after decades of coup and counter coup. He was faced with a dire economy left over from 8 years of military rule. High inflation and national debt were coupled with military discontent and labour disputes. After negotiations with the IMF, Alfonsín introduced his Plan Austral in 1985 with limited success. Despite failing to resolve Argentina’s economic problems, Alfonsín was instrumental in reforming the military and appeasing human rights supporters. In addition to cuts in the military budget and staffing, trials in 1985–86 resulted in the imprisonment of key military leaders responsible for human rights abuses during the ‘Dirty War’. But the military forced Alfonsín to abandon trying lower ranked military and police officers.
By 1989 the economy was in a disastrous state. Amid severe recession and hyperinflation Alfonsín was forced to give way to incoming president Carlos Menem 5 months early.
Alfonsín died on 31 March 2009.