The coups in Argentina were very numerous during the twentieth century. Six of them ended up achieving their purpose: 1930, 1943, 1955, 1962, 1966 and 1976. In addition, there were other attempts to break institutional legality that ended in failure.
A coup is defined as an action carried out by military, civil or civil-military forces that tries to overthrow a democratic government by force. In Argentina, the deposed presidents were Hipólito Yrigoyen, Juan Domingo Perón, Arturo Frondizi, Arturo Illia and Isabel Martínez de Perón.
The first four successful coups d’état resulted in the creation of so-called provisional governments. Its executors claimed that they intended to call elections in the shortest possible time.
The last two coups, however, established military dictatorships under the model called authoritarian bureaucratic state, with a clear intention to remain in power. In all cases, the coup leaders affirmed that their actions were justified by the political, social and / or economic situation of the country.
How many coups d’état have been experienced in Argentina?
As noted, Argentina experienced six coups d’état that achieved their objectives during the 20th century. The first of them took place in 1930, while the last took place in 1976.
Those of 1930, 1943, 1955 and 1962 overthrew the democratic governments and established dictatorships called provisional by the coup plotters themselves. That of 1976, like the previous one of 1966, tried to impose permanent dictatorships, based on the bureaucratic-authoritarian state model.
Experts affirm that the repression exercised by the coup leaders increased throughout the century. Thus, the dictatorship established in 1976 launched what has been classified as State terrorism, without respect for human rights and with a large number of deaths and disappearances.
The successive coups d’état led to the installation of six different military regimes, which overthrew all the governments that emerged from the polls. Thus, of the 53 years that elapsed between the first coup and the democratic elections of 1983, Argentina spent 25 years under the government of the military junta, with 14 dictators in power.
Coup of September 6, 1930
The Argentine president in 1930 was Hipólito Yrigoyen, from the Unión Cívica Radical. The coup, led by General José Félix Uriburu and Agustín Pedro Justo, came when the politician was in the second year of his second term.
The coup leaders did not have a common goal. While Uriburu sought to reform the Constitution and eliminate democracy and the party system, Justo was in favor of overthrowing the government and calling new elections. Finally, it was the first who imposed their positions.
The coup d’état took place on September 6, 1930 and was supported, in addition to the military, by a large part of the landowners who were dissatisfied with the policy carried out by Yrigoyen.
Uriburu was recognized as provisional president on September 10. The agreement of the Supreme Court that ratified him as ruler became the doctrine of the de facto governments that arrived with other coups d’état.
The new de facto government included some civilians. The one who held the most important position was José S. Pérez, head of the Economy portfolio thanks to his links with landowners and the most conservative social sectors.
The main ideology of the government was a pro-corporate Catholic nationalism. The repression was institutionalized with the creation of a special police section. This was accused of multitude of torture to the opponents.
However, political support for Uriburu, even among conservatives, was diminishing and the General called elections, although with radicalism outlawed. This supposed return to democracy was controlled by the army and led to the so-called Infamous Decade, during which fraudulent conservative governments succeeded one another.
Coup of June 4, 1943
The aforementioned Infamous Decade ended with another coup, in June 1943. The president at that time was Ramón Castillo and the perpetrators of the coup were Arturo Rawson, Pedro Pablo Ramírez and Edelmiro Farrell.
This coup, called revolution by its authors, was the only one that had only military participation, without civilian groups involved. The intention of the coup plotters was to create a transitory dictatorship and, later, call elections under their own rules.
The common characteristics of the different military groups that participated in the overthrow of the government were their anti-communist ideology and their close ties to the Catholic Church.
On the other hand, historians emphasize that the coup took place during the Second World War. According to these experts, the United States pushed for the overthrow of the government so that Argentina would join the war.
After the success of the coup, the military engaged in internal struggles to occupy the presidency. This caused two internal coups and that power was occupied by three dictators: Rawson, Ramírez and Farrell.
During the time that the military held the presidency, some unions made an alliance with the leader of the young officers: Juan Perón. His figure grew enormously in popularity.
Social polarization grew during the dictatorship. Finally, the military called elections for February 24, 1946. The winner was Juan Domingo Perón.
Coup of September 16, 1955
Perón was in his second term when a new coup d’état overthrew his government. The military involved christened their movement the Liberating Revolution and stated that they only intended to establish a transitory dictatorship.
On this occasion, the new government created a body called the National Advisory Board, in which almost all Argentine political parties were represented.
Within the coup military there were two sectors: the nationalist-Catholic led by Eduardo Lonardi (first president) and a liberal-conservative sector, led by Pedro Eugenio Aramburu and Isaar Roja.
The infighting between the two groups ended with an internal coup that led Aramburu to the presidency.
One of the measures that the rulers took was the prohibition of the Peronist Party. Its members were persecuted, in a repression that lasted for 18 years.
In the economic sphere, as had happened with previous coups, the military developed policies favorable to the landowners and other well-off sectors.
The liberating Revolution lasted until 1958. That year elections were called, although under the control of the Armed Forces. With Peronism prohibited, the Unión Cívica Radical Intransigente (a split sector of the UCR) was proclaimed the winner. Its leader, Artura Frondizi, had managed to convince the Peronists to support her.
Coup of March 29, 1962
The relationship between legitimate President Arturo Frondizi and the Armed Forces had been deteriorating during the years of his mandate. Furthermore, the military had not welcomed the results of the provincial elections held in March 1962, which had concluded with the victory of several candidates sympathetic to Peronism.
The response of the heads of the Armed Forces was to launch a new coup to remove the president. However, the action did not have the result they wanted.
On March 29, in the morning, the military detained President Frondizi, who had been warned the day before of what was going to happen. The previous agreement had been that the presidency be occupied by a civilian.
However, before that day ended, the provisional president of the Senate, José María Guido, assumed the vacant presidency. Thanks to the help of some parliamentarians and government officials, Guido got the Supreme Court of Justice to swear him in before the military arrived.
The next day a meeting took place between the new president and the heads of the armies. They had to assume the fait accompli, although they imposed some conditions. Thus, they forced Guido to close the Congress and intervene in the provinces governed by the Peronists.
The next elections were called in 1963, again without the participation of Peronism. The winner was Arturo Illia, from the UCR.
Coup of June 28, 1966
General Juan Carlos Onganía was the main promoter of the coup that overthrew Arturo Illia on June 28, 1966. As on other occasions, the military baptized their insurrection as a revolution, in this case with the name of the Argentine Revolution.
The main difference with respect to the previous coups was that, on this occasion, the military did not affirm that their government would be temporary, but that they intended it to be permanent.
This claim was quite common throughout Latin America. In several countries, military governments were installed based on the principles called authoritarian bureaucratic state.
In the case of Argentina, the military enacted a Statute that surpassed the Constitution on a legal level. Later, in 1972, they reformed the Magna Carta itself. The ideology of the de facto rulers can be classified as fascist-Catholic-anti-communist. The United States openly supported the military government.
The social opposition in the street, as well as the own internal power struggles between the military, provoked two internal coups. Thus, during the dictatorship three different presidents succeeded one another: Onganía, Marcelo Levingston and Alejandro Lanusse.
Already in the 70s, popular insurrections were more and more numerous. The dictatorship had to accept the call for elections and allow the Peronists (without Perón) to participate. Hector Cámpora, from the Peronist party, proclaimed himself the clear winner in the voting, held on May 25, 1973.
Coup of March 24, 1976
The death of Perón, who had replaced Cámpora, brought his widow, María Estela Martínez de Perón, to power. In 1976, the military staged a new coup to end his government.
As in 1966, the rebels tried to create a permanent dictatorship of the authoritarian bureaucratic state type. To do this, they formed a Military Junta, with a representative from the Army, another from the Navy and another from the air.
The dictatorship had four military Juntas. Except for the first, which lasted four years (1976-1980), the others barely lasted one year each. The presidents, one for each period, were Jorge Videla, Roberto Eduardo Viola, Leopoldo Galtieri and Reynaldo Benito Bignone.
Of all the dictatorships that Argentina had gone through, the one that began in 1976 and which bore the name of the National Reorganization Process was the bloodiest. The military government organized a repressive apparatus that caused tens of thousands of victims, including deaths and disappearances.
The United States, in the midst of the Cold War, supported the Argentine military government, with which it shared its fierce anti-communism.
In the late 1970s, ineffective economic policy and repression caused the population to show increasingly discontent. The military tried to calm the situation with the 1978 World Cup and, later, with the outbreak of the Falklands War. However, the defeat in this confrontation marked the beginning of the end of the dictatorship.
The third Junta had to resign and its successors called elections. These were held on October 30, 1983 and gave victory to Raúl Alfonsín, from the UCR.
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