Juan PerÃ³n's Toxic Legacy Is Still Poisoning Argentina
A mini-civil war broke out on the Left last week when a professor in Virginia took to the pages of The Washington Post to criticize Harvard Professor Larry Summers for accusing President Trump of leading America down the path toward âArgentinization.â
Itâs not that University of Richmond Professor Ernesto SemÃ¡n, a native of Argentina, wanted to defend the POTUS, of course. A glance at his Twitter feed reveals all the âsocial justiceâ themes popular with the Left. Rather, SemÃ¡nâs attack on Summers seeks to defend Juan PerÃ³n â" and that requires a revisionist historical narrative of the Argentinian dictatorâs rule and his still-potent PerÃ³nist party.
This is familiar territory for SemÃ¡n. Last year he published a book-length PerÃ³nist apologetic â" perhaps to help his old boss, former President Cristina Kirchner, achieve her goal of retaking the presidency of Argentina from incumbent center-right President Mauricio Macri.
The late President Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina established their own brand of PerÃ³nism â" Kirchnerismo â" during their 12 years in power (2003-2015). For most of that time, SemÃ¡n held a series of high-level posts in their Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
SemÃ¡n also worked for the Center for Legal and Social Studies (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales â" CELS), a think tank in Buenos Aires. According to Matias Nardi, a conservative Argentinian political analyst, the Kirchners used studies by CELS to discredit rivals, co-opt the domestic human rights debate to focus only on abuses alleged to have been committed by their political opponents (and not their own), justify the erosion of strong but independent Argentine political institutions, and cast themselves as the only way the country could hope to achieve the mythical Rawlsian goals of equality and fairness.
In other words, N ardi alleges, CELS indulged in biased analysis. And bias would seem to be the only explanation for the intellectual jujitsu SemÃ¡n employs in his book (summarized here in a sympathetic review). How else can one explain his assertion that Juan PerÃ³n was not and never had been a fascist?
That would have come as a news flash to thousands of former Nazi party members and SS officers to whom PerÃ³n, according to Christopher Klein, offered safe haven in the years following the fall of the Third Reich.
It would also be strongly disputed by Spruille Braden, Americaâs ambassador to Argentina during PerÃ³nâs early years in power. A clear-eyed member of âthe greatest generation,â Braden was staunchly anti-Fascist and anti-Communist. He also harbored no illusions about caudillo (âstrongmanâ) populists like Juan PerÃ³n.
Watching as Colonel PerÃ³n seized power in a 1943 military coup, Braden reported that he and his henchmen in Argentinaâs lef tist labor unions â" all admirers of Hitler and Mussolini â" deployed the same fascist tactics and goon squads to consolidate their power.
As SemÃ¡n notes in his book, PerÃ³n cynically tapped into the ever-lurking anti-Yanqui sentiments in Argentina and literally campaigned against Braden, who had made no secret in Buenos Aires of his dislike for PerÃ³n.
After PerÃ³n managed to secure ratification of his military dictatorship by a slim majority of voters in a 1946 presidential election, he built a sprawling welfare state to purchase future voter loyalty. He went on to construct the brutally effective PerÃ³nist political machine that has de facto ruled Argentina for most of the subsequent seven-plus decades.
In the process, PerÃ³n nationalized industries, established inefficient and corrupt state-owned enterprises, imposed Marxist-inspired âimport substitutionâ policies, created a government monopoly to control all exports, jailed political opponen ts, and censored media critics.
SemÃ¡n claims that gringoes like Larry Summers have given PerÃ³n a bad rap â" that his actions were actually inspired by FDRâs New Deal. But PerÃ³nâs role models for using the central government to drive industrialization were more likely to have been Hitler and Stalin.
After the defeat of the Axis powers, PerÃ³n reoriented his general ideological compass toward Moscow, although he bitterly opposed the Soviet Unionâs most threatening provocateur in the Western Hemisphere: Fidel Castro. As PerÃ³n knew, taking a hardline stand against Castro would also make him less distasteful to Washington.
Argentine journalist Matias Ruiz reports that PerÃ³n literally took pages from the propaganda leaflets of the Nazis, Italian fascists and Russian Bolsheviks as he fashioned PerÃ³nism â" a nationalistic and populist synthesis of all three that revolved around â¦ Juan PerÃ³n. That explains why PerÃ³n, during his first decade in power, bl ocked several attempts by the communists to infiltrate unions and Argentine society as a whole.
It is also why PerÃ³n created a brutally effective Argentine counterintelligence agency to launch a vicious clandestine war against the âMontoneros,â the Cuba-funded, communist guerrilla group inspired by Castroâs comrade-in-arms â" Argentina-born Ernesto âCheâ Guevara.
Nevertheless, as James R. Whelan has reported, Ambassador Braden later estimated that Juan PerÃ³n implemented 85 percent of Marx and Engelsâ Communist Manifesto to-do list. In the process he and his cronies vastly enriched themselves and their families.
Argentinaâs long slide in the annual Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom reflects the tremendous economic harm inflicted by PerÃ³nism. Yet SemÃ¡n highlights only the admittedly substantial short-term gains PerÃ³n was able to deliver to his political base â" by redistributing the wealth that had been built up over decades in wha t had been, until PerÃ³n took over, one of the worldâs wealthiest countries.
If SemÃ¡nâs goal is to convince Argentinians (and Americans) that it would be good for them to return to the bad old days of authoritarian PerÃ³nism, that will be a tough sell back home. The voters there got fed up and voted the PerÃ³nists out of power in 2015.
Deeply entrenched PerÃ³nism lives on, though, and its adherents are maneuvering to take out non-PerÃ³nist President Macri just as they engineered the premature removal of the only other two non-PerÃ³nist presidents since democracy was re-established in Argentina in 1983. As The Wall Street Journalâs Mary OâGrady reported last month,
Twelve years of Kirchner rule â¦ left this country bankrupt, both institutionally and financially. The Kirchners jailed political opponents, confiscated private property, nationalized businesses, gagged media critics, fomented street mobs, falsified government statistics, and destro yed the central bankâs independence. Kirchnerismo bloated the government and left the economy in shambles.
Mr. Macri will face his next big test when the government negotiates salary increases with the teachers unions in March. In anticipation of that showdown, union activists â" Mrs. Kirchnerâs most important constituents â" have organized a nationwide mobilization for late February. They hope to paralyze the country, push wages to match current inflation, quash Mr. Macriâs agenda and add his name to the Peronist list of interrupted presidencies.
Given its motto, âDemocracy Dies in Darkness,â it is ironic The Washington Post should feature SemÃ¡nâs call for a return to darkness. Argentinian democracy was, at best, on life support during the PerÃ³n dictatorship. It was extinguished completely during the âDirty Warâ years that followed, a war caused in part by PerÃ³nâs venal mismanagement and his weakening of the countryâs institutions.
Democracy will face dark skies again if PerÃ³nâs political progeny manage to make a comeback.Source: Google News Argentina | Netizen 24 Argentina