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A Peaceful Argentinean Leader Died – Raul Alfonsin

It isn’t enough to talk about peace; one must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it; one must work at it.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Argentina mourns a political leader called Raul Alfonsin in these days. More than one hundred thousand people gave they farewell to their former politician guide in the Buenos Aires streets. This unusual reaction was atypical for the last 35 years, when Juan Domingo Peron, a former and charismatic president had died.

Even though during Alfonsin´s administration important economic mistakes were done, Alfonsin´s importance is related with the conquest of civil liberties, the social peace and the democratic rebuild of Argentina.

Alfonsin´s administration obtained three important achievements:

1- The first and most important accomplishment was to reinstall political peace in Argentina, after the bloody civil war of the previous years. Only after 72 hours after assuming as the new president, Alfonsin signed the order that decided to judge the military leaders and the terrorist leaders, responsible of the civil massacre of the seventies. The mentioned decree took place while the Armed forces were dominant and powerful and the intelligence services were still very strong.

During those chaotic years, more than then thousand people (called missing people) were cowardly murdered by the military government. Simultaneously, more than five hundred people, who belonged to the security forces, were slaughtered by the marxist guerrilla rebels. Both the military and the terrorist leaders had the opportunity of defending themselves, during the remarkable trial.

2- The second accomplishment was the conclusion of the peace process started years before, due to a land dispute with the neighbor country Chile. This closing stage was obtained in 1984, with the popular consultation (new in the Argentinean politics) to agree to a 1977 arbitration award. Through those means, the land dispute with Chile was resolved. Moreover, in 1985 the Argentine and Chilean secretaries of state hugged themselves before the Pope John Paul II and signed the Peace and Friendship treatment in the Vatican, which ended the differences between the neighbor countries. This crucial determination left behind the military government obtuse decision of resolving differences with Chile through the military force. In 1978, the conflict between Argentina and Chile escalated to the point that both armed forces were ready to start fighting very soon. Only the profund conviction of John Paul II, through a mediation process, conducted by Cardinal Samore, had allowed to stop such error. Alfonsin had the nerves needed to conclude this historic process (plenty of difficulties) through peaceful ways.

3- The third accomplishment was in the international political affairs. Alfonsin´s administration had a very important role in the international group of countries called Contadora, which contributed to the peace process in Nicaragua. This complex process was permanently threatened by insurgent rebels financed from abroad.

Since politician leaders do not have popular reputation in Argentina, how is it possible that the death of a political leader cause such exceptional farewell in Argentina? May be the case could be explained by the need of the citizens to believe in trustworthy leaders. This kind of politicians, like Alfonsin, are ready to believe and elaborate government plans that benefit all the society and are not victims of corporations or private interest groups.

In April of 1982, the military government decided to recover the Malvinas islands (Falkland´s islands for the British) by force means. The islands were occupied by Great Britain. Argentina had previously demanded to Great Britain the sovereignity of the islands for a long period of time. That unexpected decision to fight in order to recover the islands had not taken into account the magnitude of the challenge. The prevalent argentinean politicians agreed to that unfortunate decision, because of their immature need of victory. Raul Alfonsin was one of the few ones who rejected the decision, since he thought that the only purpose of the invasion was to support the military government.

Brilliant speaker, Alfonsin could communicate through his speeches and his administration the need to rebuild the notion of democratic organization, the separation of powers and the debate of thoughts in Argentina. Alfonsin believed this was the most appropriate way to resolve the political differences. He did it in a coherent way.

Raul Alfonsin truly believed that Argentina´s citizens could get education, health care and food enough through a democracy system, in order to recover lifestyle according to the era. Alfonsin could not achieved everything he wanted but he placed in the ground the seeds that today Argentina is appreciating. So far, Alfonsin was the most important political leader since 1983.

Why? Alfonsin was so significant since he always believed in the supreme need of the social peace, in the democracy institutions, and in the good faith negotiation as an important value of political daily action.

May we keep his loyalty and worthy value in Argentina, as a treasure, in order to live with more harmony and agreement. Alfonsin helped us to believe that there are much more values we have in common than those that separates us.


Rene Llapur

Rene is an Argentinean bilingual (english-spanish) ADR professional. Attorney (admitted in Buenos Aires Bar Association), he holds an LLM (Master in Mediation) at Pepperdine University. Currently, he holds his private practice in family businesses conflicts and also teaches ADR in Argentina and Latin America. MORE >

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