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38 years after the day that Raúl Alfonsín and democracy triumphed – Market Research Telecast

October 30, 2021
For some, the denunciation of the union-military pact was decisive. For others, the unfortunate burning of the radical coffin consummated by Herminio Iglesias. It is not possible to ignore the effectiveness of the advertising campaign that associated Raúl Alfonsín with the Argentine Republic by drawing the matching initials of their names on a celestial and white shield. And it was a success of the radical candidate to touch the chord of patriotism with the “Lay prayer” of the preamble of the National Constitution.
But there was not a single one, rather it was a set of circumstances that made the popular will lean towards the Radical Civic Union (UCR) in the elections that marked the first defeat of the Justicialista Party at the polls since it was founded by Juan Perón and the end of the military dictatorships in Argentina.
On October 30, 1983, the formula of the Radical Civic Union (UCR) headed by Raúl Alfonsín, which led Cordovan Víctor Martínez as a candidate for vice president won with 51.75 of the votes to the formula of the Justicialista Party (PJ) made up of Ítalo Luder and Deolindo Bittel from Chaco, which only reached 40.16 percent. Alfonsín had the historic work of open the door to democracy after the years of lead.
The night of that historic day, Argentina was a party. Beyond the electoral result, the consummation at the polls of the definitive recovery of democracy after the fiercest dictatorship in history he fired a moving demonstration of street joy, in which they embraced relief with hope. She was animated by the conviction that this time peace and freedom would reign lastingly.
Ten years before the Nation had experienced the same pleasant sensation of liberation, which would be ephemeral. The democracy reconquered with the return of Juan Perón to power barely survived three years, before being once again outraged by the authoritarian military. The death of the leader and founder of the party left the Justicialismo in a crisis of identity and leadership, that persisted when in 1983 the dying coup had to return the ballot boxes to the people.
During the seven years that death and fear reigned, there were some massive mobilizations of collective joy. The people had taken to the streets to celebrate the obtaining of the soccer world championship in 1978 and later by the mirage of the recovery of the Falklands in 1982, when the dictatorship briefly occupied them in its desperation to cling to power. But they were expressions conditioned by the tutelage or manipulation of despotism, that that happy night society was shaken off forever.
The proliferation of ritual white berets was the sign of the electoral result, but in that day of dreams and illusions, the only one who had been defeated had been authoritarianism, and the real winner had been the country, which then it was not split by the crack. After the election, Luder shook hands with his victor and congratulated him chivalrously on the victory. The new president for his part offered him the position of minister of the Supreme Court of Justice, but the justicialista leader did not accept it.
Democratic recovery
Seven years of terror, blood and death were left behind. The dictatorship had curtailed freedom and destroyed lives with the perverse introduction of State terrorism and the novel and execrable disappearance of people, in addition to devastating the economy with consequences of misery.
The inheritance left by the military was burdensome and the situation disastrous. Inflation was around 350 percent per month. The external debt reached 45,000 million, with active reserves of just 100 million dollars. Democracy had many deep wounds to heal, and too many inequalities and deficiencies to repair.
The society that had challenged the repression in the streets and squares with the sacrifice of lives to end the dictatorship, He also wanted to put the body to the election that ended up expelling her: the closure of the electoral campaigns of the majority parties in the city of Buenos Aires promoted two mass movements, one of the largest in the political history of Argentina.
On October 26, radicalism gathered a million supporters along 9 de Julio Avenue, from the obelisk to the south. Two days later the mobilization of the justicialismo equaled and for some exceeded that number of supporters in the same place.
In the first of those acts, Alfonsín excited and touched the most intimate fibers of Argentine patriotism by reciting “like a secular prayer” the preamble to the National Constitution. In his own, the Buenos Aires Justicialist caudillo Herminio Iglesias burned a mini coffin with the acronym of the UCR and the white and red colors of the radical party, which had Alfonsín’s name on the front and a crown.
A few days before the elections, none of these contradictory actions could, by themselves, have a decisive influence on the outcome. But they weighed on the collective spirit, and above all they were unmistakable symbols of the image that the antagonistic proposals projected, to the citizens who would define the election.
With a highly professional advertising campaign that took full advantage of the rise of television that allowed it to reach the privacy of homes, radicalism knew how to interpret and take advantage of the prevailing social humor, to install the image of Alfonsín as the guarantor of the national union, and the man capable of solving the most pressing problems of the Argentines.
On the other hand, the justicialismo relied on its historical power of mobilization, and on outdated slogans. “We are the rage”, proclaimed their slogans, while the young radicals enunciated: “We are life.” But also, the PJ failed to perceive the effectiveness of the use of the media in advertising campaigns to reach voters, central since then. When he reacted, he did so belatedly and sparingly.
“More than an electoral exit, it is an entrance to life”: The appeal, which summarized Alfonsín’s proposal from television spots and graphic messages, became flesh in the majority of citizens, who accepted the invitation to “join hope” eager to leave behind the fateful years of the dictatorship, seduced by the messages of the radical candidate.
And when a simple oval with matching initials RA On the blue and white background of the flag, he unmistakably associated Raúl Alfonsín with the Argentine Republic with the acronym, the wills were definitely overturned to destroy the myth of invincibility of Peronism at the polls. What had been a powerful prediction in the campaign was confirmed: “Now Alfonsín”.
The UCR had the wisdom of imposing as its main opponent the hated dictatorship rather than the Justicialist Party, in an antithesis in which it was characterized as “life” versus the “death” that it represented. It was presented as a vehicle of the desire to leave violence and fear behind, and associated Justicialism with what society repudiated, by denouncing the union-military pact.
The complaint aimed at Lorenzo Miguel, who appeared as the great elector of the justicialist presidential candidate, after it was known that the historic metallurgical leader was holding conversations with the then commander-in-chief of the Army, general Cristino Nicolaides and others in uniform. With the Peronist triumph, the military wanted to ensure self-amnesty for the serious crimes committed, especially in the matter of the disappeared.
That accusation was the coup de grace on the proselytizing campaign of the justicialismo, conditioned by the difficulty in defining the candidate to install him in public opinion. Before opting for Luder, figures such as Raúl Matera or Ángel Robledo, who had ambitions to reach the Casa Rosada, had paraded before the trade unionists, trying to seduce them.
Historic choice
The list of candidates seemed endless. It was swollen by Antonio Cafiero, Deolindo Bittel, Jorge Paladino, and even General Acdel Vilas. Just on September 8, 52 days before the elections, a national congress of the Justicialista Party consecrated the Lúder-Bittel formula.
On the other hand, the UCR primary of July 17, 1983 was a mere formality since Alfonsín’s candidacy defeated Fernando de la Rúa’s with more than 82 percent of the votes. The Alfonsín-Martínez binomial had been publicly installed for almost two years before, and on December 7, 1982, Luna Park had been overwhelmed in the first act of the campaign.
Alfonsín had lost the internship for the presidential candidacy with Ricardo Balbín in 1972. On that defeat he built his determination to become President of the Nation. That same year, the creation of the Movement for Renewal and Change (in which the Coordinadora Nacional and Franja Morada converged), which resignified radicalism, was the pillar. His almost solitary attitude of repudiating the invasion of the Falklands ended up winning him popular support.
He was the first to perform an act as soon as the political ban was lifted, on July 16, 1982 in the Argentine Boxing Federation. He toured Argentina far and wide, and traveled to be received by statesmen like Carlos Andrés Pérez, in Venezuela, and Bettino Craxi, Felipe González, Pierre Mauroy and Sandro Pertini, in Europe. To finish breaking with the party’s past, he refused to agree on the formula with De la Rúa.
While emitting a conciliatory message towards Peronism (“there are two leaderships, two possibilities, but only one people” he emphasized in his speeches, while rescuing the social sensitivity of Perón and Evita), He did not stop confronting the dictatorship and its consequences. He had been one of the founders of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights in 1975 and in compliance with his goals of protecting life and liberty, he put his life at risk by defending political opponents persecuted by the dictatorship and by presenting habeas corpus for the missing.
He did not lose an opportunity to argue with the dictatorship with sharp comments. In December 1981, the de facto President General Leopoldo Galtieri (with whom, paradoxically, both of them had met at the General San Martín Military School) pronounced the infamous phrase that “The ballot boxes are well guarded.” The radical leader’s reply was not long in coming: “That they are passing the duster because we are going to fill them with votes ”.
On October 30, thirty-eight years ago, Alfonsín waited for the results of the elections in a fifth of the Buenos Aires town of Boulogne, accompanied by Víctor Martínez and some unconditional supporters. His foolproof optimism challenged the widespread prognoses favorable to justicialism due to his historic electoral performance. In one of his speeches he had dismissed the prediction of his rivals that the election “Perón will win them, just as the Cid Campeador won dead in a battle”. It was the first time that radicalism won an election over Peronism.
On December 10, the last president-dictator, General Reynaldo Bignone, He placed the presidential sash on Alfonsín and handed him the baton. On that date, the International Human Rights Day was commemorated, and since 2007 the Day for the Restoration of Democracy in Argentina has been celebrated, established by law.
On that historic day, when speaking before the Legislative Assembly, Alfonsín proclaimed that “With democracy you not only vote, but also eat, educate and cure yourself”, a phrase that implied a conviction and a promise still unfulfilled, as he himself admitted a quarter of a century later, when he said that “we Argentines celebrate 25 years of democracy, but also of unfinished dreams, of insufficient solidarity and non-existent consensus ”.
Thirty-eight years later, when the repeated failure of the policies and the leaders of the day deepened the economic and social crisis and disappointment haunts hope, the memory of the horror that was left behind should contribute to keeping the big dreams alive, and the faith in democracy finally recovered that October 30, 1983.

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