I was punching the air by the end of itPresidents of Argentina: 1938-2021
(Notes: The material up until ca. 1990 comes from a series of worldbuilding posts I made for the excellent Washington Wouldn't, Grant Couldn't back on the other site, what comes after is newly written)
Roberto Ortiz (National Democratic)
Dead Man Walking
Heavily diabetic and fraudulently brought into office by the very establishment forces he promised to fight, President Ortiz’s administration was both mercifully brief and deeply controversial. What reformist agenda the President had was quickly vetoed by his conservative backers, and by the time he resigned to die in peace (having spent a full half of his time in office in a sickbed) the country let out a collective ”finally”.
Ramón Castillo (National Democratic)
A Bridge Too Far
Having already served as acting President since 1940, Vice President Castillo was as prepared as they came when he finally took over from the dying Ortiz. More conservative than his predecessor, he immediately provoked the outrage of the opposition when he tapped a sugar magnate to run to succeed him in the upcoming election (the Argentine constitution barring the President from succeeding himself). Having already provoked the pro-Axis military leadership by bringing the country closer to the US (who favored Argentine joining the Allies), the implosion of what popular support the government had gave a clear path forward for the military to clean house, and on December 2nd 1942 General Pedro Ramirez, the Minister of War, had loyal troops occupied Buenos Aires and declared the President deposed.
Pedro Ramirez (Independent)
Although aligned with the Germans through both marriage and ideological inclination, President-General Ramirez was not entirely without political acumen. To keep OSS funding and guns away from any intrepid opposition groups he kept towing the neutrality line, and was as gracious as can be towards Ambassador Collins, all while discreetly telegraphing to all affected parties that Argentine had an excellent climate, a friendly people, large German and Italian communities, an underdeveloped extradition program and wouldn’t ask any questions of immigrants with capital, military or scientific experience and a sudden need to relocate. On the domestic front, Ramirez’s agenda would be increasingly dominated by the Secretary (later Minister) of Labor, Colonel Juan Peron. Peron quickly established close relations with all major trade unions, and in exchange for industrial peace (and, it would turn out, personal loyalty) he promised government recognition, support and a pro-labor social program. Ramirez went along at first, since he frankly didn’t need any more enemies, but as events progressed and Peron came to increasingly eclipse his peers and his boss as the most prominent man in politics, the President decided to act. Turning to Peron’s ideological counterpoint within the administration, the fiercely pro-German (even by the standards of the uniformly Germanophile junta) General Perlinger for support, the President launched a (mostly) bloodless self-coup against his own government in March 1947 to remove “anti-state elements”. A number of labor and left wing leaders were arrested, Peron was driven into exile, his supporters within the junta were purged and much of his program was rolled back. The reminder of Ramirez’s time in office would be spent in an increasingly paranoid hunt for enemies, both real and imagined and would come to an end after General Perlinger finally put an end to years of speculations and retired his master.
Luis Perlinger (Independent)
Too Fascist By Half
“Not exactly a nazi, but” is about the best that can be said for Luis César Perlinger. Having seized power with his hard-right faction mostly thanks to the general disillusionment of the rest of junta, the general spent his seven months in power trying to “eradicate international communism” and making a hash of it, offending his domestic supporters and terrifying his international backers. Anti-communism is all well and good, but when you’re doing more to drive the Argentine people into the arms of Stalin than any dastardly agitator ever could something has to be done. The wheels started to turn in both Washington and Buenos Aires, and the days of the Perlinger regime were counted.
Domingo Mercante (Independent)
The People's Placeholder
Just as for his two immediate predecessors, the end of the Perlinger Presidency came in the form of an armed putsch. On the morning of March 21st 1950 the President, his cabinet and the military high command (the same people, really) found themselves under arrest, and as key locations in Buenos Aires came under military occupation the city and the country held their breaths. The unions kept quiet, the liberal opposition kept quiet, and they all held their breath as the plane of the new President made its way up from Ushuaia. Colonel Domingo Mercante had not been the mastermind of the coup (that honor fell to a troika consisting of the General Staff, the US State Department and the General Confederation of Labor), but as a respected military officer untainted by the worse parts of the Junta and whose connections to the unions could only be rivaled by the Big Man himself he made a perfectly suitable figurehead. An old associate of Juan Peron who had been exiled to a dead-end assignment down south after the ‘47 purge, he was well in the clear that his mandate began and ended with the calling of free elections as soon as possible. President Mercante did just that, and while his own government would among the shorter ones in national history he paved the way for perhaps the most influential Argentinian politician since the war of independence.
Juan Peron (Labor)
1951: def. Ricardo Balbin (Authentic Radical Civic Union), Vincente Lima (National Democratic)
1957: def. Ernesto Bravo (Communist)
1963: def. Arturo Frondizi (Radical Civic Union)
1969: def. Ricardo Balbin (Radical Civic Union), Silvio Frondizi (Popular Republican)
Having gone into exile in Mexico after being forced from office in 1947, Colonel Juan Peron had nevertheless managed to preserve a major presences in Argentine politics. Although not a socialist by any means, he had used his position within the military government to maneuver himself into the position as the premiere champion of the large Argentine labor movement. Nominated for the presidency by the newly formed Labor Party he united the unions, the left and reform-minded liberals into an unstoppable coalition that gave him a landslide victory in the 1951 election, the last Argentinian election in the 20th century to go by without serious controversy or allegations of fraud.
The first term of the Peron Presidency would be dominated by the first, and most ambitious of the Argentinian Five Year Plans. The central bank was nationalized, followed by a number of infrastructures and industries. Favorable policies saw a massive expansion of union membership. Social security reached widespread coverage and through a mix of public, union and employer insurances Argentine would become the first country in Latin America to archive something close to universal healthcare. As the five years approached their end the strong post-war economy and the nation’s unbombed industrial base even allowed Peron to boast of the achievement of full employment without fudging too much with the numbers. Far more controversial was the proposed Constitution of 1956. It guaranteed a number of civil, political rights such as freedom of speech, the right to vote (enfranchising Argentinian women for the first time), the right to organize and the right to social security, education and healthcare. While most of this of course would be dismissed as more socialistic drivel by the usual suspects it was more-or-less in line with the “social democracy with the red rose badly painted over” thing the Labor Party had going for it and was far less controversial than the rest of the constitution. Authority was further centralised into the office of the Presidency, and the sacrosanct one-term limit was removed, enabling Peron to set himself up as President for life (or so the opposition claimed). The outrage grew so large that all serious opposition parties boycotted the 1957 elections, declaring that they would lend no legitimacy to the dictatorially inclined President. And thus Juan Peron won his first reelection by a overwhelming margin (if with an embarrassing turnout), facing only token resistance from the communists.
The protests surrounding the constitution and the election made the surviving anti-Peron faction within the military smell blood. Minister of Defense Mercante had replaced most of the high command, but within the officer corps at-large not much had changed since the days of military government. Clandestine meetings were held and feelers were sent out to the opposition and the Americans. Ambassador Wetherby and the major Argentine financial interests were on board for a coup, but as the set date approached someone within the liberal opposition or the US State Department got cold feet (documents declassified last year points to Secretary Douglas himself), and the plan leaked. What followed would not be pretty. With a well organized coup of the menu a series of minor risings, mutinies and attacks took place as the government struck back hard. President Peron abolished the army-aligned Gendarme by decree and created a new National Guard, whose Laborite members soon had arrested over seventeen thousand individuals suspected of treason and sedition. Most were soon released, but by 1965 the number of Argentinians who had sought political asylum in Stroesser's Paraguay, Franco's Spain and von Thadden's Germany could be counted in the tens of thousands. A third of the officer corps was dismissed, and the trials that were held against the thousand or so accused conspirators (a mix of the more annoying opposition figures and actual coup-plotters) could have carried out with more attention given to judicial procedures. The low-water mark would be Bloody Friday, October 28 1960, when nineteen men and three women were executed by firing squad at the National Penitentiary in Buenos Aires. The Red Years of the late fifties and early sixties did more than anything to secure Peron’s position as the Great Satan of the Argentine right. They also made him all but untouchable, with an opposition so browbeaten that not even a clearly aging President, a stagnating political project where each five year plan turned out less ambitious than the last and a political party which grew increasingly fat and corrupt could do much to prevent him from defeating the Radicals in crushing landslides in both 1963 and 1969.
During his quarter-century reign he had not only for better or worse reshaped Argentine society, he dominated it so thoroughly that to this day the one political question that matters is if one is for or against him. He was hated, and not unjustly so, by a large section of his people, not only by the special interests but also by liberals and democrats disgusted by his authoritarian leanings. But to another demographic, among the rural poor and the urban working class, he is revered almost as a saint. On the international stage he clad himself in the mantle of the third world hero, a champion of the global south in general and Latin America in particular against imperialist machinations, but in practice he would always work hard to maintain strong relation with the United States behind the scenes, a fact which surely contributed to the survival of his regime (rumors of UNIT blacksites on Tierra del Fuego are just that, no you’re not allowed to see those documents and that picture of Nixon saluting the President's grave is both slanderous and taken out of context). On August 8, 1974 President Juan Domingo Peron, the Father of the Nation, entered immortality. Argentina will never see his like again.
Deolindo Bittel (Labor)
The People's Placeholder 2.0
As the Big Man’s health had begun to deteriorate in the late 60’s, the Labor Party nomination for Vice President suddenly became very attractive. With bitter factional lines deepening within the ruling party a compromise was hashed out. The left, upset about the increasingly centrist leanings of the government, would get the position to tide them over, but only if they could put forward a man who would be no threat to anyone in the big free-for-all everyone planned for once Peron was safely in the ground. That man was Deolindo Bittel, and he knew his place. A longtime Senator and former Governor from the northern Chaco province, he had been a staple of the socialist-ish wing of the party for decades and had no ambitions whatsoever for national power. As what in a more peaceful country would have been the fight of the century took place in every union hall, province capital and party headquarter in the country he oversaw the daily affairs of the nation, and when the time came to step aside he did so happily.
Ricardo Cano (Labor)
Too Little, Too Late
1975: def. Rogelio Julio Frigerio (Radical Civic Union)
Although originally of the same ideological leanings as his predecessor, President Cano could not have been more different from President Bittel. A surprisingly skilled inter-factional knife fighter, the Cordoba governor had not only united the left around him but also defeated the more right-wing elements of the party which had dominated the later Peron years. In the general election he dispersed the fears that without Peron the liberal right would see a resurgence (and that the Peronist right would bolt the party) by defeating the the old centrist warhorse the Radicals put up after a nomination contest whose bitterness was rivaled only by its Labor equivalent. In office he would do his best to revive the old quasi-social democratic Labor ideals of full employment and social justice, and for the first time in at least a decade some signs of life and renewal could be seen in the bloated corpse of the Labor Party. Unfortunately for him, signs were all they were. Ricardo Cano might have been of the left, but despite claiming the party’s nomination he still existed within a party and government bureaucracy dominated by men like Lorenzo Miguel, the conservative chief of the General Confederation of Labor. Single payer healthcare died after the unions told him to back off, universal child benefits perished in the Social Welfare Ministry’s consultative committee and the very impressive Southern Irrigation Board was very quickly forgotten when the IMF got nervous about how its funding would impact Argentines credit rating. As the term progressed, what momentum existed turned into a slow crawl towards reelection. A stagnating economy, the wear and tear of four decades of government and the candidacy of perhaps the most formidable poltician since Peron’s glory days would crush and crush hard any plans Labor might have had to retain power. Ricardo Cano would become the first Argentinian President to lose reelection, and he did it in a landslide.
Ernesto Guevara (Radical Civic Union)
1981: def. Ricardo Cano (Labor)
Doctor Ernesto Guevara first rose to prominence during the last days of the military regimes of the 1940’s, when he had been a leader of the student opposition to President Pellinger in Buenos Aires. Like most of the rest of the liberal intelligentsia he had supported Peron’s return and first landslide election, but by the time of the President's reelection he had become thoroughly entrenched in the Radical Civil Union. Bouncing back between the Chamber of Deputies and the Cordoba governorship, Guevara first became a contender for the Presidency in 1969 and would remain one from that point on. Dismissed as too left-wing by party powerbrokers he would be exiled to the position of internal opposition leader throughout the 70’s and before the introduction of a Radical primary election ahead of the 1981 Presidential contest he was expected by everyone to stay there. The replacement of the selection convention with a primary election was the result of the tireless work of the reform movement within the Radical Civic Union, and allowed Guevara to swamp his opponents with grassroots support. An all-night party conference prevented any major split, and with a united party and an electrifying campaign of renewal and change he crushed President Cano, 57% to 38%. The President Guevara that took office in 1987 was a very different man than the quasi-socialist troublemaker that had first entered politics four decades earlier. While he didn’t fiddle with the tax rate as much as some of his more conservative supporters might have wanted, his labor reforms, deregulations and privatizations of publicly held industries did much to attract the foreign investments that helped kick off the Argentinian Miracle of the 1980’s. Growth skyrocketed and a new generation of young, educated and well-off professionals would turn Buenos Aires the cultural and nightlife capital of Latin America (or so the Ministry of Tourism claims). A restructured civil code prove less popular in some quarters, but despite pressure from the Church and other political and social groups the President would insist on carrying on with both the introduction of no-fault divorces and strengthening the de-facto legalization of same-sex relations which had been on the books since 1887. With approval ratings in the low 60s, it’s likely that the President would have been easily reelected but with his health failing and an old promise to reintroduce the one-term limit resurfacing (the proposed constitutional reform died in committee in 1985 and was not resurrected), Ernesto Guevara decided to not seek a second term.
Antonio Cafiero (Labor)
The Great Adapter
1987: def. Alejandro Armendáriz (Radical Civic Union), Agustin Tosco (Authentic Labor)
1993: def. Facundo Lastra (Radical Civic Union), Guillermo Estévez Boero (Broad Patriotic Front)
The 1987 election season would go down as one of the more chaotic and farcical in Argentine history. Two bloody, free-for-all nomination contests provided as much fodder for the tabloids as all of the Guevara administration had. The President of the Bank of Argentina was arrested for taking cash from French and Spanish businessmen, as were half a dozen senior labor leaders. The bosses then leaned on half a dozen more who got caught embezzling millions. The original frontrunner to the Radical nomination shot himself after his wife left him for his mistress and fled to Europe with his undisclosed Swiss bank account. The Labor convention crashed after a delegation of leftists unionists and activists simply up and left and sat up shop across the street to nominate their own candidate. The eventual major-party nominees, two senior, serious and centrist political veterans were so boring in their own right that all attention fell on the mud-slinging their far more interesting supporters engaged in. The three-way slugfest came down to the wire, with Labor (or Orthodox Labor, as they were commonly known) and the Radicals clocking in at just under 40% each. The result would be a disappointment for Agustin Tosco’s Popular Movement (Authentic Labor), which when the final vote was counted and Governor Cafiero was declared the victor had proved unable to break out of its base of socialist union workers into the left-liberal middle class or the broader working class. President Cafiero, a pragmatic man if there ever was one, did what was expected of him and after he had reinstated all the right people from the right organizations to the right jobs he went on to do not much at all. Why fix what’s not broken, he wondered, and while the labor movement might complain that they weren’t getting quite the same say as before and more ideologically committed Laborites wonder why the renationalizations aren’t proceeding like they had hoped Antonio Cafiero couldn’t care less. He have foreign investors to keep happy and generous and a boom he can’t afford to end. What’s good for the companies is good for the economy, says President Cafiero, and what’s good for the economy is good for the workers.
And it worked, more or less. How much of that comes down to Cafiero's leadership is debatable, with even the man himself accepting that the opening up of new markets after the admission of the Soviet bloc into the United Nations and the US construction and IT boom was key. But he was a steady hand on the rudder of state, maneuvering his divided country through the end of the first cold war and the start of the second. Although hated (as any Labor President is) by the pro-Franco-Chinese right and despised by the socialist left his death in 2014 would prove a surprisingly genuine moment of collective grief. In a nation marked primarily for its bitter political divide, he would in the end become the closest thing Argentina had to a broadly respected statesman.
Mario Negri (Radical Civic Union)
1999: Felipe Solá (Labor), Aldo Rico (Realignment), Patricio Echegaray (Communist)
Mario Negri had always been President Guevarra's man, and while it might've been an insult coming from the mouths of Laboristas or the growing Catholic, anti-UN/pro-ROC right the young President embraced it. He had been his senior aide back in Cordoba since the late 70s, he had organized Dr. Guevarra's victory in the Radical primary back in 1980 and in 1984 he would become the youngest cabinet minister in living memory. Throughout the Cafiero years he had been the champion of the liberal wing of the URC and after a valiant (if failed) stint as Lastra's running mate in 93 he had paid enough dues to take a serious shot at the Radical nomination. On the young side for Argentine politics, he nevertheless (or perhaps thanks to) emerged as the natural successor to what was now being called the Guevarra-Cafiero or Post-Peron consensus. With the right mix of dynamic, safe, fresh and experience he cleaned the board with his far grayer Labor competitor (who had to face off a surprisingly strong communist challenger to his own left) and could waltz into the Casa Rosada with an enviable mandate.
What happened then is a tale that can be told in two ways. One is that of a competent, reform-minded statesman whose many accomplishments in transforming a mid-century economy into one ready to face the internet era and reestablishing Argentina as a serious and constructive player on the international scene (Negri got on particularly well with President Ivins, and would deliver a eulogy on her 2009 funeral) was swept aside by economic forces outside of his control and an almost outright anti-democratic opposition. The other tells the story of an arrogant and elitist technocrat more interested in making fancy friends in Washington, New York, Berlin and Tokyo than looking out for the common man. A man who failed to see the natural consequences of two decades of deregulations. Perhaps if the Labor candidate had been literally any other man government might've been able to sell its own version of events. But he wasn't, so they didn't.
Diego Maradona (Labor)
2005: def. Mario Negri (Radical Civic Union - 'Unity for Democracy'), Aldo Rico (Realignment)
2011: def. Gustavo Obeid (Realignment - 'For the Course of the Nation), Roy Nikisch (Radical Civic Union)
2017: def. Marcos Peña (Radical Civic Union - Opposition Labor), Margarita Stolbizer (Radical Civic Union - Socialist), Gustavo Obeid (Realignment)
“In Argentina there is only one God, and His name is Diego,” a Canadian journalist once wrote, and while that’s obviously not correct it does get the general point across. The greatest football player of his generation, possibly ever. An icon by the age of 20, his profile would only grow over the years as he carried Leeds United to back-to-back victories in what was then the Grand League, became the uncrowned king of Sevilla and spearheaded the team that turned A.C. Milan into the champions of european football through the late 80s and early 90s. Then came los hermosos cinco, the five final minutes that turned the outplayed and outmatched Argentinian national team from sure losers to clear winners at the 1990 world cup finale against the gigantic German team. In the words of another commentator, Diego Maradona walked in as a hero among men and walked out the second son of God.
Politically he had always aligned with the Labor Party and the left (in that order), but between a somewhat extravagant and indiscreet lifestyle and a lack of interest in the more serious matters surrounding political life it was probably destined to stay as a general interest. That is, until the machinations of the Labor Party intrigue turned their eyes on him. At the dawn of the 21st century the Peronista left had been on the defensive for a generation. They technically held a plurality of party offices, legislators and Labor-controlled provinces but between infighting, a few unfortunate splits and the tight alliances between the party technocrats, the state bureaucracy and the union leadership they always fell just about short. Tired of the post-Peron consensus (or just of being shut out of serious power) a clique of young(-ish) and ambitious left-leaning laborista politicians began to plot. An attempt to push senior union chief and powerbroker Raimundo Ongaro in 1999 had ended in disaster and none of them had the clout to make a run of their own, so they were forced to think outside the box. The idea to approach the football legend is commonly credited to the talented wife of a then-obscure provincial governor associated with the group, but no matter who supplied the suggestion feelers were sent out, and Maradona proved somewhat open to the idea. Getting him through the Labor nominating convention would prove hard, with both masterful backroom maneuvering and a spontaneous stampede by technically hostile delegates to Maradona after he made it clear that he would accept the Labor Party candidacy if selected.
Despite - or perhaps thanks to - a number of gafes which would kill any other candidate (the first in a long, long line) getting the most popular man in the country to destroy one of the least would prove an easy task. El Diego delivered a message that hadn’t been heard in Argentina with quite that fervor for 50 years that it made the great mass of voters ignore the warnings of Sensible Men in the media regarding his actual qualifications to run a nation and the integrity of the men behind him. And they were right, to a point. No one would ever claim that Diego Maradona was ever very involved with the actual running of government. He made public appearances (never with any cocaine in his bloodstream, that’s Radical slander), interacted with his people, played football with the Pope and Chancellor Stoiber, shook hands with President Huan, joked around with President Petty Wolf and publicly embarrassed Premiere Pugo. Public policy? He had people for that, all he had to do was fight for the people and the cause of old Juan and his Evita. And he did have people for that. First came Cabinet Chief Kirchener, then after his death (with his widow safely posted as Ambassador to Dublin) came Vice Presidents Bongiorno and the Gang of Three. They pursued a - in the non-partisan sense - radical agenda of renationalising much of Argentina’s natural resources, empowered the labor movement (run by their allies), oversaw a relatively consistent rise in the standard of living and effectively eliminated child poverty. That their economic policies missed almost as often as not, or that they lined their own pockets wherever they could (all charges dismissed by the supreme court) would not matter as much as one would expect. Perhaps it was because of the real results they delivered for the Argentinian working class, or perhaps it was due to the increasingly authoritarian methods and rank populism employed by the ruling party, but the Labor Party have enjoyed consistent majorities since 2005 and reelected President Maradona time and time again. The Radical line that all the government needs to do in the face of any scandal or difficult election is simply to send out the President to kick some ball is perhaps a tad unfair, but it’s not really inaccurate.
Unfortunately, building a political movement around a man with a at best distant relationship with his own health must always be a temporary project, and on January 21 2021 it came to an end. Diego Armando Maradona, a man loved and despised as few others faced his creator, and was escorted to his final rest by millions of mourners.
Juan Abal Medina (Labor)
Juan Medina have the movement in his blood, quite literally. His father was a key member of the last Peron administration, and he won his first election to the Chamber of Deputies at the age of 25. A junior member of the original Maradonaista clique, he had served loyally throughout several Major Domos (as the person holding real power in the Maradona governments were called) until he, as Government leader in the lower chamber took part in a coup against Vice President Bongiorno and took her place on the 2017 ticket. Forming the Gang of Three with the Goija brothers, he had already served as the de-facto leader of the country at the time of his ascension. But the role of the man behind the throne is quite different from that of the man who wears the crown, and few would call him a favourite for next year's Presidential election.
You seem to have built an argentina that's far better and far more interesting than otl lol