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Argentina History Timeline

Argentina Timeline – Background for The Take

1946 - General Juan Domingo Perón is elected President of Argentina. Perón implements policies favoring national production versus foreign control of the economy. In addition to his nationalist economics, Perón also admires fascists like Mussolini. Argentina becomes a haven for high-level Nazis after World War II.The president’s wife, Eva Duarte de Perón (Evita) is also a popular figure, who speaks on behalf of the disenfranchised and helps women obtain the vote in 1947.

1955 - Perón is ousted in a military coup after drawing the wrath of the Argentine land-owning elite. He is forced into exile in Spain.

1973 - Argentina holds general election for the first time in 10 years. The subsequent return of Perón to Argentina sparks a massacre at the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires, in which right-wing Perón supporters shoot and kill dozens of left-wing Peronists.

July 1974 - Juan Domingo Peron dies, and his second wife Isabel succeeds him in office. Her short tenure is marked by the growing political power of the armed forces and the “AAA” death squad, which targets and assassinates leftist activists, writers, and politicians.

March, 1976 - A military junta stages a coup and declares a state of siege. Over the next six years of the so-called “Dirty War”, the military government murders and disappears over 30,000 Argentines, mostly students and union activists. The IMF immediately provides billions of dollars worth of loans to the military Junta. Economic policies favoring national industry are scrapped in favor of opening Argentina to foreign investors.

1983 - The Argentine military faces a humiliating defeat by the British in an unsuccessful attempt to take control of the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. Corruption and scandal in the military regime leads to public protests and a gradual transition toward democratic rule. This new democracy is weighed down by a $45 billion national debt, more than five times what the debt was when the military took over in 1976.

1989 - Carlos Menem wins the 1989 presidential elections on a traditional Peronist platform of rebuilding national industry. Once in power, he takes a hard right turn, imposing what he call “surgery without anaesthetic”. Menem’s policies turn Argentina into the model pupil of the IMF and the World Bank. Almost all national assets are privatized, currency markets are deregulated, and the peso is pegged to the U.S. dollar at one-to-one. While Argentina’s GDP almost doubles, the unemployment rate soars from 6% to 18% as hundreds of thousands of workers are downsized in privatizations. The public debt soars, corruption scandals erupt on a monthly basis, but the IMF and the World Bank continue to lend Argentina tens of billions of dollars.

1999 - Fernando de La Rua is elected president on an anti-corruption platform. During his short term in office, he does little to alter the economic policies of the Menem government.

October 2001 – The Zanón Ceramics factory in Patagonia is occupied by its laid-off workers.

December 18, 2001 - A garment factory in Buenos Aires, the Brukman factory, is abandoned by its owners and taken over by its workers.

December 19, 2001 - Argentina explodes. Weeks after the government had closed Argentines out of their bank accounts, food riots break out across the country and in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. President De la Rua announces a curfew and a state of siege. Millions of Argentines disobey, and in the capital, the Plaza de Mayo and the Congress are packed with irate citizens, all chanting “Que se vayan todos” (All of them out!) Police and military kill more than 25 people throughout the country.

December 20, 2001 - Fernando de la Rua resigns. Argentina goes through five presidents in three weeks. The second president, Adolfo Rodriguez Saá defaults on the external debt, and the currency is devalued, losing over two thirds of its value. Once Latin America’s wealthiest country, over 50% Argentines fall below the poverty line.

There is an explosion of grassroots activism all over the country, but particularly in Buenos Aires. Unemployed workers in the industrial suburbs, who organized themselves in the downsizing of the early 90s, employ the “piquete” technique of blocking roadways to make demands of the government. Middle class “neighborhood assemblies” in Buenos Aires meet on street corners to discuss national politics and local issues, and practising direct democracy. Abandoned and/or bankrupt workplaces are occupied by their former workers; banks, bakeries, health clinics, bus lines and schools.

March 2, 2003 – The Forja Auto Parts factory is occupied by its former workers. The film crew stays for three days and nights to film the occupation.

April 21, 2003 – On a rainy night on the Easter weekend, the Brukman suit factory is evicted by hundreds of police officers, water cannons and dogs.

May 14, 2003 - Ex-President Carlos Menem drops out of presidential race. Nestor Kirchner is elected new president of Argentina by default.

September 11, 2003 - The Argentine government reaches a new agreement with the IMF. The accord requires that Argentina maintain a budget surplus equivalent to 3 percent of its GDP to pay off its external debt.

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