By Herbert C. Huser, National Defense University. Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies
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Additional info for Argentine civil-military relations: from Alfonsín to Menem
74 It is open to the charge of economic reductionism. In the case of the most elaborate and rigorous example of this approach that addresses Argentina—the bureaucratic-authoritarianism theory, in which military intervention is tied to the phenomena of incomplete industrialization and class conflict in highly dependent countries—this may be plausible but not NATURE OF CIVIL–MILITARY RELATIONS 23 causal. 75 But the economic factors that inform the civil-military relationship in Argentina are important and play a part, in different ways, in discussion of both the Alfonsín and Menem administrations.
By the time San Martín completed the expulsion of the Spanish from the southern half of the continent in 1824, Bolivia and Paraguay had broken away, with Uruguay following suit in 1828. Central authority, such as it was, disintegrated, and the caudillo, epitomized by luminaries such as Juan Manuel de Rosas and Facundo Quiroga, came to express the quest for a new locus of authority. Politics by force of arms was given a long and bloody birth. The caudillo aspired to sovereignty, recognizing no authority higher than his own.
At the same time, the previously underpopulated Argentine Republic experienced a tremendous surge of immigration, mostly from Southern Europe. Urban Argentina, especially Buenos Aires, took on a fin de siècle European air, with cultural artifacts and demographics to match. Laissez-faire capitalism on the British model flourished, largely with British money. The sense of aristocracy was palpable, and the new cultural colonization of the turn of the century reinforced the Hispanic tradition brought by the original colonizers 350 years earlier.