Argentina: Illusions and Realities

Argentina: Illusions and Realities

Argentina: Illusions and Realities

Argentina: Illusions and Realities

Excerpt

In an era when democratic government and free-market economics are in vogue in nations as different as Poland and Brazil, the Argentines recently decided to add their name to the list. Although many of them still have doubts about their chances, they are trying to find out if a more competitive economy can deliver the bounty that its proponents promise, as well as learn if political democracy will function effectively for very long within their conflict-ridden society.

Nothing has come easily to most Argentines during a decade that began with the military's blunder in the Malvinas Islands and finished with an elected president having to leave office five months ahead of schedule while suffering enormous unpopularity in the midst of the nation's struggle with hyperinflation. Yet, his successor was chosen by the people in free elections and not by the armed forces, no small feat in this nation of frequent political disruptions by a military that has often received substantial civilian backing.

In this revised volume we take a closer look at President Raul Alfonsin (1983-1989) in order to understand why this intensely partisan but sincerely democratic politician and his Radical party colleagues became so unpopular among people who had enthusiastically celebrated Alfonsín's defeat of the Peronists in 1983. If the constitution had not limited his tenure to one term, he would have suffered a devastating setback in a reelection bid. The Argentine economy plagued him as it had his predecessors, but exactly how much responsibility it bears for his demise is not obvious at first glance. That is why we must examine the way he managed the economy and how people inside and outside the country responded to it.

His successor, Peronist Carlos Saul Menem, came as a surprise to almost everyone when he won his party's national primary election in mid-1988. Even more startling was his sudden attempt to create something he calls free-market capitalism after he became president. We would be unwise to predict a Nobel Prize for his version of classical economics, but basic changes in Argentine political economy were attempted in 1990 and they merit scrutiny.

Finally, I have written an entirely new chapter to begin the book . . .

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