Foreign Correspondent: Argentina



Buenos Aires, Argentina. Last February, my REASON column carried some thoughts on the possible outcome of the Argentine general elections being held last March. If you care to know what happened in relation to what was predicted, so-called Scenario number 1 (see REASON, February 1973, p. 28.) was the result, in a modified version. The Liberation Front, with a Peronist candidate, easily won with 49 percent of the votes; the Radical Party was a poor second with 20 percent and my candidate, Manrique, was third with around 15 percent, in a rather good showing (Manrique had a chance of winning only if the Peronists abstained or had no candidates to vote). The Nueva Fuerza got 2 percent, being the party which spent more money than everyone else, including the winner.

But the story does not end there, as it should. After 45 days of the new government, the President—a dentist called Campora—resigned in order to call new elections without veto (ex-Dictator Peron had not been allowed to be a candidate). These new elections for President only, were held in September and the obvious outcome was that Peron won. However, the most interesting side of the process is that Peron has come as the leader of Law and Order, naming as Economy Minister the head of one of the two Businessman Associations (the one more protectionist), to the dismay of young leftist followers.

Yet, the real trouble is in the Universities. In what many believe is a risky tactical move, the Peronists consciously delivered control of all National Universities (which in this country are the biggest and, generally, the more prestigious) to Peronists of the far left, and they are crushing ahead with professors and the content of courses, in a wild, unstoppable persecution of teachers and ideas. At present, many professors have been fired, others still resigned in protest, and some—such as your correspondent—are trying to stay at all cost, in order to avoid leaving the place free and open for the new appointees, the majority of whom have dubious or no academic qualifications and, worse, are totally clear in their aims of indoctrination instead of education.

The outcome of this clash is easier to predict: by the time this article is printed we shall probably all be out and the problem is that there is no other place to go.


To proceed with another, more pleasant subject, I have been reading lately with interest about the "deschooling" alternatives proposed by Illich, Goodman and others, especially focusing on their libertarian possibilities. I understand that one of the main complaints against the present school system in the U.S.A. is its bureaucratization and centralization.

This may be relatively true, but you should bear in mind that, as it stands, it is one of the less centralized educational organizations of the world.

Do you recall a movie called BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, of the early fifties, with Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" as musical theme and Glenn Ford in the leading role? I shall always remember that what most impressed me in that film was the extraordinary fact that, when (at the beginning of the picture) Ford applies for a job as a teacher, it is the manager of the public, secondary school himself who says, "Okay, start right now." This was and still is incredible to any European or Latin American observer, who lives in a society where public schools are nationally centralized, governed by a national Ministry of Education which employs all teachers and personnel of the country, and in which textbooks and courses are more or less determined by national authorities. This is what happens in France, Italy and most Latin American countries, and, I believe, in almost all the others. So much for your bureaucratization!

I really don't want to punish you, gentle readers of REASON, with another comment on the issue, but I feel I must tell you that, for this correspondent, the way Americans are handling the Watergate thing is the most brilliant example of American democracy in action, and is opening new frontiers on the fundamental problem of relationships between the Government and citizens. A trend started with the Pentagon Papers, the disclosure and denunciation of this kind of political malpractice shows, among other things, that the U.S.A. is not decadent but, as always, open to change and has an exemplary regard for civil liberties. All governments of the world are doing, with even less restraint, things like Watergate—always in the name of "national security." The demythologization of that concept and its practical consequences makes the U.S.A. a leader, in the best possible sense of the word, among all the other nations. This is not the prevalent view around here, but many people who customarily—sometimes with cause—have criticized U.S. imperialism, are realizing the real strength and values of "the American way."


Regrettably, strange acts still flourish among American bureaucrats. The latest here is an unexplainable and gross mistake of the local charge d'affaires, a Mr. Max Krebs, who unabashedly sent a memorandum to our Economy Minister criticizing some aspects of the government package of laws proposed to the Congress, in a tone sometimes close to disrespectful and threatening. (It is as if the French Ambassador to the U.S. were to send a memorandum to the Secretary of Commerce—not even to the State Department—advising the government not to pass a certain law and threatening negative consequences from the French government.) Imagine the reaction of the Minister, the press and anti-yankee public opinion!

Finally, as you may have noticed, in Uruguay the President dissolved the Congress, closed some newspapers and installed himself as the representative not only of the people but, in fact, of the Armed Forces. Really, the social, economic and political situation in that country was bad and deteriorating, but the prescription seems worse than the malady. If the recent Argentine experience of a military regime taught us something, it is that at the end of the experience the situation shall be worse. Brazil's case is something altogether different and, in itself, another story. Meanwhile, Latin Americans still try to work, progress, love and live peacefully. They—we—are not succeeding.