|Birth Day:||March 12, 1927|
|Death Date:||Mar 31, 2009 (age 82)|
As per our current Database, Raul Alfonsin died on Mar 31, 2009 (age 82).
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He graduated as a second lieutenant from General San Martin Military Lyceum after five years.
Raúl Alfonsín was born on 12 March 1927, in the city of Chascomús, 123 km (76 mi) south of Buenos Aires. His parents were Serafín Raúl Alfonsín Ochoa and Ana María Foulkes. His father was of Spanish and German descent, and his mother was the daughter of Welsh immigrant Ricardo Foulkes and Falkland Islander María Elena Ford. Following his elementary schooling, Raúl Alfonsín enrolled at the General San Martín Military Lyceum, graduating after five years as a second lieutenant. He did not pursue a military career, and began studying law instead. He began his studies at the National University of La Plata, and completed them at the University of Buenos Aires, graduating at the age of 23. He married María Lorenza Barreneche, whom he met in the 1940s at a masquerade ball, in 1949. They moved to Mendoza, La Plata, and returned to Chascomús. They had six sons, of whom only Ricardo Alfonsín would also follow a political career.
Alfonsín bought a local newspaper (El Imparcial). He joined the Radical Civic Union (UCR) in 1946, as a member of the Intransigent Renewal Movement, a faction of the party that opposed the incorporation of the UCR into the Democratic Union coalition. He was appointed president of the party committee in Chascomús in 1951, and was elected to the city council in 1954. He was detained for a brief time, during the reaction of the government of Juan Perón to the bombing of Plaza de Mayo. The Revolución Libertadora ousted Perón from the national government; Alfonsín was again briefly detained and forced to leave his office in the city council. The UCR broke up into two parties: the Intransigent Radical Civic Union (UCRI), led by Arturo Frondizi, and the People's Radical Civic Union (UCRP), led by Ricardo Balbín and Crisólogo Larralde. Alfonsín did not like the split, but opted to follow the UCRP.
Alfonsín was elected deputy for the legislature of the Buenos Aires province in 1958, on the UCRP ticket, and was reelected in 1962. He moved to La Plata, capital of the province, during his tenure. President Frondizi was ousted by a military coup on 29 March 1962, which also closed the provincial legislature. Alfonsín returned to Chascomús. The UCRP prevailed over the UCRI the following year, leading to the presidency of Arturo Umberto Illia. Alfonsín was elected a national deputy, and then vice president of the UCRP bloc in the congress. In 1963 he was appointed president of the party committee for the province of Buenos Aires.
Illia was deposed by a new military coup in June 1966, the Argentine Revolution. Alfonsín was detained while trying to hold a political rally in La Plata, and a second time when he tried to re-open the UCRP committee. He was forced to resign as deputy in November 1966. He was detained a third time in 1968 after a political rally in La Plata. He also wrote opinion articles in newspapers, under the pseudonyms Alfonso Carrido Lura and Serafín Feijó. The Dirty War began during this time, as many guerrilla groups rejected both the right-wing military dictatorship and the civil governments, preferring instead a left-wing dictatorship aligned with the Soviet Union, as in the Cuban Revolution. Alfonsín clarified in his articles that he rejected both the military dictatorship and the guerrillas, asking instead for free elections. The UCRP became the UCR once more; and the UCRI was turned into the Intransigent Party. Alfonsín created the Movement for Renewal and Change within the UCR, to challenge Balbín's leadership of the party. The military dictatorship finally called for free elections, allowing Peronism (which had been banned since 1955) to take part in them. Balbín defeated Alfonsín in the primary elections, but lost in the main ones. Alfonsín was elected deputy once more.
Illia was invited in 1975 to a diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union; he declined and proposed instead. Upon his return, Alfonsín became one of the founding members of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights. He served as the defense lawyer for Mario Roberto Santucho, leader of the ERP guerrillas, but only to carry out due process of law, and not because of a genuine desire to support him. The 1976 Argentine coup d'état against President Isabel Martínez de Perón started the National Reorganization Process. Alfonsín filed several Habeas corpus motions, requesting the freedom of victims of forced disappearances. He also visited other countries, denouncing those disappearances and violations of human rights. He established the magazine Propuesta y control in 1976, one of the few magazines that criticized the military dictatorship during its early stages. The magazine was published up to 1978. His editorials were collected in 1980 in the book La cuestión argentina. He did not support the 1982 Falklands War, and criticized both the Argentine attack and the British counterattack. The Argentine defeat in the war marked the decline of the military dictatorship. The main political parties united in the Multipartidaria, issuing a joint request to the dictatorship to call for elections. Alfonsín proposed the appointment of Arturo Illia as the head of state of a transition government, similar to the Metapolitefsi in Greece. The Movement for Renewal and Change took control of the UCR; Balbín had died the previous year.
Alfonsín began his term with many economic problems. The foreign debt was nearly 43 billion dollars by the end of the year, and the country had narrowly prevented a sovereign default in 1982. During that year, the gross domestic product fell by 5.6%, and the manufacturing profits by 55%. Unemployment was at nearly 10%, and inflation was nearly 209%. It also appeared unlikely that the country would receive the needed foreign investment. The country had a deficit of $6.7 billion. Possible solutions such as a devaluation of the currency, privatization of industry, or restrictions on imports, would probably have proven to be unpopular.
As a result, Alfonsín sponsored the Trial of the Juntas, in which, for the first time, the leaders of a military coup in Argentina were on trial. The first hearings began at the Supreme Court in April 1985 and lasted for the remainder of the year. In December, the tribunal handed down life sentences for Jorge Videla and former Navy Chief Emilio Massera, as well as 17-year sentences for Roberto Eduardo Viola. President Leopoldo Galtieri was acquitted of charges related to the repression, but he was court-martialed in May 1986 for malfeasance during the Falklands War. Ramón Camps received a 25-year sentence. The trials did not focus only on the military: Mario Firmenich was captured in Brazil in 1984 and extradited to Argentina. José López Rega was extradited from Miami in 1986, because of his links with the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance.
Bernardo Grinspun, the first minister of the economy, arranged an increase in wages, reaching the levels of 1975. This caused inflation to reach 32%. He also tried to negotiate more favourable terms on the country's foreign debt, but the negotiations failed. Risking a default, he negotiated with the IMF, which requested spending cuts. International credits prevented default at the end of 1984, but he resigned in March 1985 when the debt reached $1 billion and the IMF denied further credits. Grinspun was succeeded by Juan Vital Sourrouille, who designed the Austral plan. This plan froze prices and wages, stopped the printing of money, arranged spending cuts, and established a new currency, the Austral. The plan was a success in the short term, and choked inflation. Inflation rose again by the end of the year, the CGT opposed the wage freeze, and business community opposed the price freeze. Alfonsín thought that the privatization of some state assets and a deregulation of the economy might work, but those proposals were opposed by both the PJ and his own party.
Argentina had a tense relationship with the United Kingdom because of the recently ended Falklands War. The British government banned all foreign ships from the exclusion zone of the islands in 1986. Argentina organised air and marine patrols, as well as military maneuvers in the Patagonia. However, this was not enough to placate the military hard-liners in Argentina. Alfonsín proposed the postponement the sovereignty discussions, instead negotiating for a de jure cease of hostilities, with a reduction in the number of military forces and a normalization of Argentina–United Kingdom relations. The United Kingdom did not trust the proposal, suspecting that it was a cover-up for sovereignty discussions.
The actions taken against the military contributed to a strong showing by the UCR in the November 1985 legislative elections. They gained one seat in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress, which meant control of 130 of the 254 seats. The Justicialists lost eight seats (leaving 103) and smaller, provincial parties made up the difference. Alfonsín surprised observers in April 1986 by announcing the creation of a panel entrusted to plan a transfer of the nation's capital to Viedma, a small coastal city 800 km (500 mi) south of Buenos Aires. His proposals boldly called for constitutional amendments creating a Parliamentary system, including a Prime Minister, and were well received by the Chamber of Deputies, though they encountered strong opposition in the Senate.
The CGT was splintered in internal factions at the time. Lorenzo Miguel had close ties to the Justicialist party, and led "the 62 organisations" faction. Saúl Ubaldini was more confrontational, distrusted the politicians of the PJ, and was eventually appointed secretary general of the CGT. His lack of political ties allowed him to work as a mediator between the union factions. Carlos Alderete led a faction closer to Alfonsín, named "the 15" unions. The government sought to deepen the internal divisions between the unions by appointing Alderete as minister of labour and promoting legislation to benefit his faction. He was removed after the defeat in the 1987 midterm elections, but the government stayed on good terms with his faction.
Divorce was legalized by a law passed in 1987. The church opposed it, but it had huge popular support that included even Catholic factions, who reasoned that marital separation already existed, and divorce simply made it explicit. The church opposed Alfonsín after that point. The church successfully exerted pressure to prevent the abolition of religious education. In line with the teachings of Pope John Paul II, the Church criticized what it perceived as an increase in drugs, terrorism, abortion and pornography.
The Beagle conflict was still an unresolved problem with Chile, despite the 1978 Papal mediation. The military, troubled by the trial of the juntas, called for rejection of the proposed agreement and a continuation of the country's claim over the islands. Alfonsín called for a referendum to settle the dispute. Despite opposition from the military and the Justicialist party, who called for abstention, support for the resolution referendum reached 82%. The bill passed in the Senate by a single vote majority, as the PJ maintained its resistance. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina was signed the following year, ending the conflict. The human rights violations committed by the Chilean president Augusto Pinochet remained a contentious issue, as well as the revelation of Chilean help to British forces during the Falklands War. The Argentine church invited Pope John Paul II for a second visit to Argentina in 1987, to celebrate his successful mediation. He celebrated World Youth Day next to the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, and gave a mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján.
With the support of the World Bank, the government tried new measures in 1987, including an increase in taxes, privatizations, and a decrease in government spending. Those measures could not be enforced; the government had lost the 1987 midterm elections, "the 15" unions that had earlier supported the government distanced themselves from it, and the business community was unable to suggest a clear course of action. The PJ, aiming for a victory in the 1989 presidential elections, opposed the measures that it believed would have a negative social impact. The "Spring plan" sought to keep the economy stable until the elections by freezing prices and wages and reducing the federal deficit. This plan had an even worse reception than the Austral plan, and none of the parties supported it. The World Bank and the IMF refused to extend credits to Argentina. Big exporters refused to sell dollars to the Central Bank, which depleted its reserves. The austral was devaluated in February 1989, and the high inflation turned into hyperinflation. The 1989 presidential elections took place during this crisis, and the Justicialist Carlos Menem became the new president.
The government suffered a big setback in the 1987 legislative election. The UCR lost the majority in the chamber of deputies. All provinces elected Peronist governors, with the exception of Córdoba and Río Negro. Along with the city of Buenos Aires (a federal district at the time), they were the only districts where the UCR prevailed. As a result, the government could not move forward with its legislative agenda, and the PJ only supported minor projects. The PJ was strengthened for the 1989 presidential elections, and the UCR sought to propose governor Eduardo Angeloz as candidate. Angeloz was a rival of Alfonsín within the party.
Aldo Rico escaped from prison in January 1988 and started a new mutiny in a distant regiment in the northeast. This time, both the military support for the mutiny and the public outcry against it were minimal. The army attacked him, and Rico surrendered after a brief combat. Colonel Mohamed Alí Seineldín launched a new mutiny in late 1988. As in 1987, the mutineers were defeated and jailed, but the military was reluctant to open fire against them. Alfonsín's goal of reconciling the military with the civil population failed, as the latter rejected the military's complaints, and the military was focused on internal issues. The Movimiento Todos por la Patria, a small guerrilla army led by Enrique Gorriarán Merlo, staged the attack on the Regiment of La Tablada in 1989. The army killed many of their members, and quickly defeated the uprising.
Initially, Alfonsín refused to foster diplomatic relations with the Brazilian military government, and only did so when the dictatorship ended and José Sarney became president. One of their initial concerns was to increase Argentine–Brazilian trade. Both presidents met in Foz do Iguaçu and issued a joint declaration about the peaceful use of nuclear power. A second meeting in Buenos Aires strengthened the trade agreements. Argentina and Brazil signed the Program of Integration and Economic Cooperation (PICE), and in 1988 both countries and Uruguay agreed to create a common market. This led to the 1991 Treaty of Asunción, that created the Mercosur.
Amid rampant inflation, Angeloz was heavily defeated by PJ candidate Carlos Menem in the 1989 election. By the winter of 1989, the inflation had grown so severe that Alfonsín transferred power to Menem on 8 July, five months earlier than scheduled.
Alfonsín stayed on as president of the UCR, leaving after the party's defeat in the 1991 legislative elections. Suffering damage to its image because of the hyperinflation of 1989, the UCR lost in several districts. Alfonsín became president of the party again in 1993. He supported the creation of a special budget for the province of Buenos Aires, led by governor Eduardo Duhalde. The radical legislator Leopoldo Moreau supported the new budget even more vehemently than the Peronists. Both parties had an informal alliance in the province. Alfonsín also supported the amendment to the constitution of Buenos Aires that allowed Duhalde to run for re-election.
President Carlos Menem sought a constitutional amendment to allow his re-election, and Alfonsín opposed it. The victory in the 1993 midterm elections strengthened the PJ, which approved the bill in the Senate. Menem proposed a referendum on the amendment, to force the radical deputies to support it. He also proposed a bill for a law that would allow a constitutional amendment with a simple majority of the Congress. As a result, Alfonsín made the Pact of Olivos with him. With this agreement, the UCR would support Menem's proposal, but with further amendments that would reduce presidential power. The Council of Magistracy of the Nation reduced the influence of the executive power over the judiciary, the city of Buenos Aires would become an autonomous territory allowed to elect its own mayor, and the presidential term of office would be reduced to four years. The presidential elections would include the two-round system, and the electoral college would be abolished. Alfonsín was elected to the constituent assembly that worked for the 1994 amendment of the Argentine Constitution. A faction of the UCR, led by Fernando de la Rúa, opposed the pact, but the party as a whole supported Alfonsín. The UCR got only 19% of the vote in the elections, attaining third position in the 1995 presidential elections behind the Frepaso, when Menem was re-elected. Alfonsín resigned the presidency of the party in that year.
Alfonsín suffered a car crash in the Río Negro province in 1999, during the campaign of governor Pablo Verani. They were on Route 6, and he was ejected from the car because he was not wearing a seat belt. He was hospitalized for 39 days. De la Rúa became president in the 1999 elections, defeating the governor of Buenos Aires, Eduardo Duhalde. Alfonsín was elected Senator for Buenos Aires Province in October 2001. De la Rúa resigned during the December 2001 riots, and the Congress appointed Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, who resigned as well. Alfonsín instructed the radical legislators to support Duhalde as the new president. He also gave him two ministers, Horacio Jaunarena for Defense and Jorge Vanossi for Justice. The radical support helped Duhalde overcome the ambitions of Carlos Ruckauf and José Manuel de la Sota, who also had ambitions to be appointed president. Alfonsín's health problems later in the year led him to step down, to be replaced by Diana Conti.
In 2006, Alfonsín supported a faction of the UCR that favoured the idea of carrying an independent candidate for the 2007 presidential elections. The UCR, instead of fielding its own candidate, endorsed Roberto Lavagna, a center-left economist who presided over the dramatic recovery in the Argentine economy from 2002 until he parted ways with President Néstor Kirchner in December 2005. Unable to sway enough disaffected Kirchner supporters, Lavagna garnered third place. Alfonsín was honoured by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with a bust of his likeness at the Casa Rosada on 1 October 2008. This was his last public appearance.
Alfonsín received the 1985 Princess of Asturias Award for international cooperation because of both his role in ending the Beagle dispute and his work to reestablish democracy in Argentina. He was named "Illustrious Citizen of Buenos Aires Province" in 2008, and "Illustrious Citizen of Buenos Aires" in 2009. The latter award was granted posthumously and received by his son Ricardo Alfonsín.
Alfonsín died at home on 31 March 2009, at the age of 82, after being diagnosed a year before with lung cancer. The streets around his house at the Santa Fe avenue were filled with hundreds of people, who started a candlelight vigil. The radical Julio Cobos, Fernández de Kirchner's vice president, was the acting president at the moment and ordered three days of national mourning. There was a ceremony in the Congress, where his body was displayed in the Blue Hall, that was attended by almost a thousand people. His widow María Lorenza Barreneche could not attend the funeral, because of her own poor health. It was attended by former presidents Carlos Menem, Fernando de la Rúa, Eduardo Duhalde and Néstor Kirchner, all the members of the Supreme Court of Argentina, mayor Mauricio Macri, governor Daniel Scioli, the president of Uruguay Tabaré Vázquez and several other politicians. The coffin was moved to La Recoleta Cemetery. He was placed next to the graves of other important historical figures of the UCR, such as Leandro N. Alem, Hipólito Yrigoyen and Arturo Illia.
Currently, Raul Alfonsin is 94 years, 6 months and 10 days old. Raul Alfonsin will celebrate 95th birthday on a Saturday 12th of March 2022.
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