Saturday, April 28, 2018

5 Famous Populist Leaders in Modern Latin American History

South America saw a wave of populist leaders that defied the conservative establishment.
La Coubre Explosion March, 1960

3. Juan Domingo Peron
“Don’t cry for me Argentina” the famous line from the movie Evita that immortalized Evita and Juan Domingo Peron. Born in 1895 a bastard in Buenos Aires, Juan Domingo Peron opened his eyes to the inequalities of society at a young age. In 1913, he graduated from the military academy and worked his way up the military ranks until he reached the rank of Colonel in 1942.

In 1943, he supported a coup that brought the military to power and took for himself the position of labor and social welfare minister where he build up his political base among labor groups. He supported the resolution of labor disputes in favor of the workers and pushed for increase pay and benefits. His actions as labor minister made him popular that became apparent in 1945 when his rivals had him arrested but released within few days after workers and labor groups of Peron called the Descamisados or Shirtless rallied. With much support from the masses, Peron became Argentina’s president in 1946.

As President, he showed his populism by showering workers and the poor with handouts, additional benefits and pay. He introduced the Aguinaldo or 13th month pay bonus. His wife Evita worked in social welfare handing out money and housing to the poor. In the national level, he promoted industrialization and nationalized railroads and utilities. He promoted a new idea called Justicialism or social justice that bordered capitalism and communism. Eventually, this idea along government intervention in the economy and socialism became the cornerstone of Peronist ideology.
Juan and Evita Peron
Nonetheless, the Peronist government also earned criticism for its iron hand in clamping down against opposition especially the leftist.

In 1955, a coup ended Peron’s first presidency and forced him to exile, yet his influence in politics remained strong that paved his way back to power in 1973. His second term mired with inflation and economic crisis which he failed to address when he passed away in 1974, leaving his unpopular new wife Isabel as the new President. Ever since, Peron’s idea remained strong that cast a long shadow over Argentina’s political history.

2. Salvador Allende

Before the bloody dictatorship of August Pinochet in Chile, a democratically elected President ruled with the name of Salvador Allende. Born to a well-off political family in 1908 and a doctor by profession, he became involved in socialist ideas during his childhood and became active in his days in the university. He ran as a representative and multiple times as President. He became a famous socialist politician and became the Presidential candidate of the Popular Unity Coalition composing of socialist, communist, and some social democratic parties.

In 1970, he narrowly won the presidency and became the first democratically elected socialist leader in the western hemisphere. He continued the struggle of the poor and marginalized against the conservative and wealthy industrialist, foreign capitalist, and hacienderos. He abided the constitution and maintained civil liberties. He then nationalized without compensation copper mining companies, mostly Americans, and other industries. He also broke up the haciedas and handed lands to peasant cooperatives. He increased wages and benefits and controlled price of basic necessities. He aimed to make Chile a socialist paradise through peaceful means.
August Pinochet, leader of the coup that toppled Allende's government
His actions and intervention in the economy, though, created an economic downturn and his enemies, including conservatives, the rich, and the United States, banded together to topple down Allende’s government. Thus, in September 11, 1973, after Allende had a conflict with the Congress controlled by the conservatives, a military coup led soldiers to attack the Presidential Palace killing President Allende in process.

1. Fidel Castro

Survived about a dozen of American presidents, Fidel Castro ruled Cuba from 1959 to 2008. Born to a modest Spanish immigrant and sugarcane farmer, he became a militant student during his teenage years. A lawyer by profession, he ran for Congress under the radical ticket in 1952. The election, however, never took place as Fulgencio Batista rose to power and cancelled the election.

In July 26, 1952, he attempted to stage an uprising by attacking a military base in vain. He and his companions named their movement from the failed attack the 26th of July Movement. Castro made a charismatic defense in his trial making the proceedings as a launch pad for his popularity. He was released in 1955 and fled to Mexico where he trained to return and fight Batista’s corrupt government.
Castro arrested 
In 1956 he and his companions made a rough return to Cuba and commenced guerrilla movement against Batista and established a political based among the rural population. In 1958, Batista fled the country and Castro’s forces entered Havana.

In 1959, Castro established himself as Cuba’s leader and reformed the country. He replaced the capitalist economy with a command economy. He divided haciendas and large sugar plantations and allocated the lands for collective farming. He improved healthcare and education in the countryside and nationalized big business both domestic and foreign owned.
Castro in UN, 1960
Despite his country’s close proximity to the United States, Castro survived multiple foreign plots, including an invasion and assassination attempts. Though the US embargo against Cuba led to shortages, Castro’s close alliance with the Soviet kept his regime alive. Castro’s rule of Cuba even outlived the Soviet Union itself and saw the dawn of the 21st century. In 2008, Castro stepped down and handed over power to his brother Raul. He passed away in 2016.

No comments:

Post a Comment