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