PopeWatch: Peron

Rorate Caeli reminds us that one of the keys to understanding Pope Francis is to look at Argentinian Dictator Juan Peron:


In 2014, we said the following on the Francis Pontificate:
The current situation of ecclesiastical politics might perhaps be better understood by those who have a grasp of three important concepts in Hispanic (Spanish and Spanish-American) political tradition: Caudillismo, an ancient and powerful political concept, system, and idea that is deeply ingrained in the Hispanic mind and experience, regardless of the theoretical political system in place; Caciquismo, a very peculiar and mostly Latin American version of Caudillismo; and the Argentine hazy political sub-concept of Caudillismo and Caciquismo known as Peronismo, which transformed the highly successful Argentine Republic of the early 20th century into what it is today.
This week, we were sent a link to a video of Argentine tyrant Juan Domingo Perón in an interview conducted in July 1973, 46 years ago. This is what Perón says in the video:

Also Mao [Zedong] says this: “The first thing that a man must discern when he leads is to establish clearly who are his friends and who are his enemies.” And to dedicate himself — it’s not Mao who says this, I say it: “To the friend, everything. To the enemy, not even justice!” [Laughter in the background.] Because in these things one cannot have dualities.
This attitude is all very familiar to whoever watches the Vatican closely in the present. At that moment in history, Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ was very close to the Peronist movement.
Yep, with this Pope we definitely got a man from the peripheries, to use one of the Pope’s favorite cant phrases.

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  1. Disagree. Rule by entrepreneurial caudillos is something that largely evaporated in Latin America nearly 50 years ago. The military regimes operating in Latin America after 1969 had a corporate personality and typically rotated the Presidency among a series of officers through one mechanism or another. You also see instances of the collegium of chiefs of staff or flag rank officers asserting discipline over errant leaders. You had a number of exceptions, but these were qualified in various ways.

    Although there was a cult of personality around Peron, his movement began with an exercise in institution building: the promotion of trade unionism when he was minister of labor during the military regime which ruled from 1943 to 1946. Peron obtained office through competitive elections and built a political party which could and did survive him. (Though nowadays, there’s an array of political parties which claim Peron’s organization for their pedigree).

  2. Disagree Art. Peronism has remained a very live reality in Argentina, admittedly coming in a multitude of flavors. What the Pope has gleaned from Peron is the value of a cult of personality, the value of being deliberately vague, the power of invoking the poor as a license for doing what one wishes to do and that the exercise of power is largely the rewarding of friends and the punishing of enemies.

  3. Disagree Art. Peronism has remained a very live reality in Argentina,

    I agree. However, Peron was not a caudillo of the usual sort. A caudillo stands at the center of a small social network which promotes him and then disappears when he does. Even the Somozas multi-generational patrimonial regime (which captured a large share of the country’s productive capacity) fell completely to pieces in less than a year and never had any constituency in subsequent years.

    Peron’s rhetorical strategies and oddities are delineated by Jacobo Timmerman in his memoir of the period. The American Universities Field Staff composed an assessment of Argentina which was published in 1963 that’s consistent with your thesis. The political parties of the day consisted of people who understood state power as a means of redistributing resources to your particular clientele. (The degenerate sort of political science I was taught 35 years ago conceived of this as the whole point of political life, not merely in decayed political societies like Argentina, but in the United States).

  4. Sorry but you are wrong.

    Perón was against Caudillismo and he stated it in his clases of Political Driving ( “Conducción Política”; in the strategic sense of the term) in the Peronist School in the fifties.

    Caudillismo consist generally in a rural and wealthy type of leader with the carisma to utilize a group of men in a informal way.

    Perón was a modern populist “conductor”. His job was to organize the masses, ignorants and opressed, to transform them into The People an make them a strong base of power and at the same time elevating them from pseudo-slavery to a combative organization in order to confront with the Rural Oligarchy and some Proto-Industrial Capitalist.

    Perón, as a strong Catholic, was simply following the Encyclicals of Pio XII -and specially regarding this subject- his “1944 Christmas Radio-Message”, in wich he states this distinction between mass and people.

  5. Perón was against Caudillismo and he stated it in his clases of Political Driving ( “Conducción Política”; in the strategic sense of the term) in the Peronist School in the fifties.
    Except when he was the caudillo.

    His job was to organize the masses, ignorants and opressed, to transform them into The People an make them a strong base of power and at the same time elevating them from pseudo-slavery to a combative organization in order to confront with the Rural Oligarchy and some Proto-Industrial Capitalist.
    Peron was a dictator plain and simple who used mobs to crush all dissent.

    “Perón, as a strong Catholic,”

    Peron was a reprobate with a strong taste for underage girls.

    Elected president of Argentina in 1946, Juan Perón was re-elected in 1952. The origins of his fall have been traced back to the premature death that year of his wife, the glamorous Evita, of cancer in her early thirties. She was a major factor in the Peronista hold on the poor, the working class and the trade unions, and her death seems to have left her husband disoriented. A sexual relationship with a young girl and rumours of palace orgies raised eyebrows. He had to cope with a serious economic crisis, with inflation at 30 per cent at one point, and fell out with the Roman Catholic Church, which refused to canonize the departed Evita. Perón threatened the separation of church and state, ended religious instruction in state schools and planned to legalize divorce and prostitution. In political terms it was a serious error of judgement.

    In June 1955 Perón had two Catholic priests deported to Italy and the Vatican promptly excommunicated those responsible, without specifying exactly who. Elements of the navy and airforce rebelled and planes dropped bombs on Buenos Aires, killing some 350 people. The rising was put down, but gangs of young thugs started looting and desecrating churches, and seven were burned down in Buenos Aires, which severely damaged Perón’s reputation.

    At the end of August a report that the president was going to resign was followed by a general strike and a carefully organized protest demonstration in Buenos Aires, at which Perón made a violently inflammatory speech, encouraging his supporters to kill their opponents. General Eduardo Lonardi, who had a personal grudge against Perón, now took action. On September 16th, army and airforce units at Cordoba broke out in open revolt, seized control of the city and proclaimed the end of the Perón regime. They were supported by General Pedro Aramburu in the north-east. Most of the army seems to have been loyal to the president, but the navy was not. Warships steamed for the capital, blockaded Buenos Aires and threatened to blow up the oil refineries on the River Plate, and if necessary the city itself. A cruiser actually began shelling the docks and oil installations on the 18th.

    Perón evidently felt the game was up. He formally resigned the next day, and took refuge in the Paraguayan embassy. Some 500 armed storm-troopers of the Peronista militia barricaded themselves in their headquarters and refused to surrender to army units, which moved infantry, tanks and artillery in against them and forcibly dispossessed them with heavy casualties. General Lonardi swept into Buenos Aires on the 23rd, to be greeted by cheering throngs – the largest ever recorded in the city’s history – and installed as provisional president (he would soon be ousted in his turn by General Aramburu), while Perón was transferred to a Paraguayan gunboat. It had something wrong with it and a second gunboat had to be sent to take him away into exile in October.


    That this total BS artist still has such a cult following is a tribute to ability of men to believe what they wish to believe, evidence be hanged.

  6. Perón Rules

    In 1929, Argentina’s real gross domestic product per capita was 71% that of the United States (and higher than that of any European country). In 1973, it was 50% that of the United States. In 2016, it was 35% that of the United States. Chile’s at these three points in time was 40%, 26%, and 40% that of the United States. Uruguay’s was 43%, 29%, and 37%. Paraguay’s was 8% that of the United States in 1973 and 16% in 2016. Argentina lagged a generation or two behind Chile and Uruguay in establishing competitive electoral systems in their national politics, accomplishing this only in 1912. After a generation, you allowed your political order to decay into a 40 year long mud wrestling match between the Peronist movement and the military. NB, Chile and Uruguay had competent (if cruel) military regimes which affected a salutary reset in the political economy of those places. Argentina’s terminal military regime did manage to suppress the domestic terrorist gangs (with a great deal of collateral damage), but left you with tens-of-billions in sour loans from New York banks and quadruple digit inflation.

    When you’re in a hole, stop digging. And that means repudiate everything Juan Domingo Peron stood for.

  7. Guys: don’t fall for all that stupid anti-Peronist propaganda.

    He was overthrown by the actions of the Navy, wich criminally bombarded the streets of Buenos Aires MURDERING HUNDREDS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE and later threatening to destroy the La Plata Oil Refinery (can you even imagine the U.S. Navy killing innocent Americans just because they don’t like the president, by the way?).

    Perón came to power with the full endorsement of the Military and the Church. What happened later on was that some priests (not all of them) started to become scared of the increasing power of the Peronist Movement and his influence on all the social spheres. It was so big that the country was being reshaped completely in a new cultural direction. It was a revolution. Some “conservatives” were scared. So, some priests essentially started to do politics and every force of opposition started to gather near the image of “the Church” (despite not all the Church being anti-Peronist). This priests became allies with the enemies of the Peronist Movement: Socialists, Comunists, Progressives, Masons and some Conservatives of the “Radical Party”. Yes. As crazy as it sounds.

    But the real enemy behind all this groups was the Rural Oligarchy and its armed ally was the Navy. So in June of 1955 they painted some planes with the phrase “Christus Vincit” and went to kill Perón and hundreds of innocent people in the name of Christ.

    Then, when the coup was controlled, some groups (no one really knows who they were) started to attack some Churches. Perón tried to stop this but the millitary forces couldn’t do much because they needed to keep defending some key places of the cities. Perón didn’t have anything to do with that. He gave the order to stop them, never to attack anyone or anything because he was in a defensive position.

    Later on, in September of the same year, he resigned and escaped because he didn’t want to engage in a potentially catastrophic civil war. So, he managed to save his life and run to Paraguay. Immediately the new masonic military regime started to kill and encarcerate Peronists and, surprise, they ignored the Church completely. They knew that they will have to deal with a lot of soldiers loyals to Perón in the next years, not to mention the millions of clandestine militants. They stole the momified body of Evita, they partially destroyed it and then they raped it (if that act of necrophilia is not satanic, nothing is) then they send it to Europe.

    And of course, the new Regime (they called this whole operation “Liberating Revolution”) started to print lies about the Peronist government. That it was “corrupt” and saying things like Perón was a “pedophile” manufacturing fake letters, and exposing jewels…and all that circus. Anyway, they couldn’t “de-Peronize” the country, no matter how hard they tried. You cannot destroy that wich is true only using lies.

    Regarding the “economical critique” of the Peronist Regime: that’ just nonsense. That statistics are not accurate. Why? Because they started it with a few countries as reference, and later on, they aggregated a lot more. So, it appears that after Perón Argentina went down hill, but that’s not true. Argentina growed a lot during the Perón years. What changed was the ammount of countries as statistical reference. So, of course, it’s seems like before Perón Argentina was in a better shape, and that’s because the comparative reference was smaller. And also, before Perón Argentina was an agricultural country ruled by an Oligarchy. So, it doesn’t matter if the PIB was large, because it was concentrated in a small number of wealthy people. The objective of Perón was modernization and industrialization. That’s why his number one enemy allways was the Rural Oligarchy.

    That’s the true. Perón was indeed a Catholic and as one, he aided Franco’s Spain when the Spaniards were starving, without asking anything in return. The priests who allied themselves with the comunists are a lot more responsible for what happened.

  8. Regarding the “economical critique” of the Peronist Regime: that’ just nonsense. That statistics are not accurate.

    Well, why don’t you write the World Bank and the Maddison Project and explain to them your patented method for producing ‘accurate’ statistics. I’m sure they’re awaiting your wisdom with bated breath.

    Mr. Peron Rules, everybody lives in a world where normative discourse is challenging (if not impossible for most). Everyone also lives in a world Jasper Johns described thus: “It’s an achievement to see anything clearly, because we cannot see anything clearly”. That having been said, dopey NPCs are a useless nuisance in any discussion. There are few places in this world outside of Tropical Africa which have had worse economic performance than the Argentine Republic, whether you can bear to acknowledge it or not. People like you made it happen, and it will continue to happen until such time as people like you are shown the door.

  9. As President, Perón gave a classic demonstration, in the name of socialism and nationalism, of how to wreck an economy. He nationalised the Central Bank, railways, communications, gas, electricity, fishing, air-transport, steel and insurance. He set up a state marketing agency for exports. He created Big Government and a welfare state in one bound: spending on public services, as a percentage of GNP, rose from 19.5 to 29.5 per cent in five years. He had no system of priorities. He told the people they would get everything at once. In theory they did. The workers were given thirteen months’ pay for a year’s work; holidays with pay; social benefits at a Scandinavian level. He would track down a highly successful firm which spent lavishly on its workers and force all firms to copy its practices, regardless of their resources. At the same time he carried out a frontal assault on the agricultural sector, Argentina’s main source of internal capital. By 1951 he had exhausted the reserves and decapitalized the country, wrecked the balance of payments and built wage-inflation into the system. Next year drought struck the land and brought the crisis into the open. Seeing his support vanish, Perón turned from economic demagoguery to political tyranny. He destroyed the Supreme Court. He took over the radio station and La Prensa, the greatest newspaper in Latin America. He debauched the universities and fiddled with the constitution. Above all, he created public “enemies”: Britain, America, all foreigners, the Jockey Club, which his gangs burned down in 1953, destroying its library and art collection. Next year he turned on Catholicism, and in 1955 his labour mobs destroyed Argentina’s two finest churches, San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and many others.

    That was the last straw. The army turned him out. He fled on a Paraguayan gunboat. But his successors could never get back to the minimum government which had allowed Argentina to become wealthy. Too many vested interests had been created: a huge, parasitical state, over-powerful unions, a vast army of public employees. It is one of the dismal lessons of the twentieth century that, once a state is allowed to expand, it is almost impossible to contract it.

    Paul Johnson, Modern Times

  10. It is one of the dismal lessons of the twentieth century that, once a state is allowed to expand, it is almost impossible to contract it.

    It is not impossible at all, as was demonstrated in the 25 years which succeeded the publication of this statement.

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