THE MALVINAS WAR HAS BEEN FOR ARGENTINA WHAT CYPRUS was for the Greek colonels. Unfortunately we lack a Karamanlis, and the Junta regime has lost the six years it has been in office without developing a political project of its own. In this sense, our situation is very different from that of Brazil, where the ruling military have had time to ‘open up’ the political system gradually.
To understand the mind of the Argentine armed forces one has to realize that they felt disappointed by the Martinez de Hoz administration (1976–81). Actually, this is putting it mildly. They felt betrayed: it is as though the Argentine economy had been bombed for the past six years. A familiar experience? Possibly, but unlike some European countries, we lack the institutional mechanisms. Besides, the Argentine military felt that while they did their part in stopping the guerrillas, the specialists they put in charge of economic matters did not do their job. The team of economists, headed by José Martínez de Hoz, was a local version of ‘Chicago boys’, backed by international finance and its world economic pundits. A contorted version of ‘liberalism’ invaded our beaches, giving us nineternth-century laissez faire plus a foolish overvaluation of the peso which made Buenos Aires the costliest city in the world, and rendered competition against imports impossible. Quite a few people thought this was necessary because, as the widely displayed sticker on our cars has it, ‘to reduce the state is to strengthen the nation’. The idea is that Argentina would finally be a real part of the Western Christian world and, inspired by European and North American examples, would throw away protectionism and all its trappings, never to look at it again.