[Marxism] Argentina 1978 and the "Hand of Leonidas"

Juan Fajardo fajardos at ix.netcom.com
Sun Jun 27 16:06:16 MDT 2004

     [NOTE: This is most definitely an "unofficial history" and there is 
no public "proof," but there was enough coincidence in timing of events 
to have set tongues to wagging at the time.]

     In 1968 Peruvian president Fernando Belaunde Terry was shuttled out 
of the palace in his pajamas and sent into exile in a coup bey reformist 
military officers led by Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado.

The new regime set about reorganizing the agrarian structure of the 
country, implementing a wide-ranging land reform which essentially broke 
the back of the landed oligarchy as a class.  It began by expropriating 
the huge holdings of the north coast sugar haciendas and the even larger 
holdings of the Cerro de Pasc Corporation in the central highlands, and 
moved on from there.  The haciendas were handed over to cooperatives of 
the peasants and laborers who had worked the hacienda lands, while 
newspapers were also expropriated and handed over to the cooperativists' 

The petroleum, mining, and fishing industries were nationalized, 
including a number of US and US-related companies.

In 1975 Gen. Francisco Morales Bermudez Cerruti replaced Velasco and 
initiated a counter-reform program.   This, and the worsening economic 
situation, led to popular resistance, including two general strikes 
which stopped the country in its tracks in 1977.   Unable to effectively 
govern, the military ceded and scheduled elections in July 1978 for a 
Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution in preparation for 
general elections and a return to civilian government by 1980.

Taking advantage of the new opportunities various leftists formed 
electoral organizations, including some who represented the reformist 
sectors and sought to protect the gains made under Velasco by ensuring 
that collective property forms represented by the cooperatives 
--"enterprise in the social interest" (the SAIS and EPS) and "social 
ownership" (the CAPS)-- would receive constitutional recognition.  Among 
these was a group of Velasquistas around Gen. Leonidas Rodriguez Figueroa.

Morales Bermudez and his ilk repressed the leftist candidates, arresting 
them, breaking up rallies, and even turning off the sound during their 
legally-mandated television time during the election campaign period.
Of all of them, however, one of the ones that worried them the most was 
Rodriguez and his Partido Socialista Revolucionario.   He had 
credibility because he had been part of Velasco's Revolutionary 
Government of the Armed Forces as head of the National System for Social 
Mobilisation (SINAMOS).  Moreover, as a general and former head of the 
2nd Military Region, Rodriguez had standing within the military and a 
certain amount of elbow room granted him by institutional privileges. 
Moreover, he had a popular following and the PSR stood a good chance of 
winning a number of seats in the Assembly.

As things heated up, Rodriguez went underground for a while, and then 
showed up at the presidential palace requesting a meeting with Morales 
Bermudez, in full view of reporters' cameras, raising his own standing 
with the public and embarrassing the gov't.  The contrast was even 
greater because Morales Bermudez had also been part of Velasco's 
government, but unlike him, Rodriguez had remained loyal to Velasco and 
to the revolution.

    In June 1978, the Peruvian soccer team was participating in the 1978 
World Cup soccer tournament in Argentina.  It had advanced to the 2nd 
Round, and by June 21st it was to be seen wether, from its group, Brasil 
or, the home team, Argentina, would move on to play for the final.

Brazil was considered a shoe-in to advance, especially after it beat 
Poland in Mendoza on the morning of June 21st.  Argentina was set to 
play Peru that afternoon in Rosario.  Peru had acquitted itself well, 
defeating Iran and Scotland, and tying with Holland in the 1st Round. 
In the 2nd Round it lost to Poland and to Brasil, which had tied with 
Argentina.   In order to advance to the second round Brazil had just 
needed to defeat Poland, which it now had done.   Argentina, despite 
playing well, needed a longshot 6-0 victory over Peru.

In those same weeks, privileges of rank notwithstanding, Gen.(R) 
Leonidas Rodriguez was arrested and sent to exile in Argentina.

On the afternoon of June 21, 1978, before 40,000 fans at the Rosario 
Stadium, the Argentine delegation, comprised of Fillol, Olguin, Galvan, 
Passarella, Tarantini, Larrosa, Gallego, Oviedo, Luque, Ortiz, Kempes, 
Bertoni and Houseman, defeated the Peruvian team 6-0.

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