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Arturo Frondizi

President of Argentina

Arturo Frondizi

Arturo Frondizi was born in Paso de los Libres, Argentina, on October 28, 1908, the 13th of 14 children born to Italian immigrant parents. The family moved to Concepción del Uruguay in 1912, and to Buenos Aires in 1923.

Frondizi entered the law school at the University of Buenos Aires in 1926 and graduated with the school's highest honors in 1930. In addition to studying, Frondizi spent much of his college time demonstrating against Juan Perón. He continued his opposition to Perón after college, as a member of the Radical Civil Union (RCU). As a lawyer, Frondizi defended Communist agitators and read widely, particularly on economics. His first case as an attorney was representing 300 political prisoners detained in Paso de los Libres for supporting the RCU. He became leader of the Argentine League for the Rights of Man upon its founding in 1936.

Frondizi married Elena Luisa Maria Faggionatto in 1933. The couple built a summer cottage at the seaside resort town of Pinamar in 1935, and celebrated the birth of a daughter, Elena, in 1937.

the Frondizi family at Pinamar in 1938
the Frondizi family at Pinamar in 1938

Political Career

It was Frondizi who drafted the Declaration of Avellaneda as part of an alternative progressive platform for the RCU before the February 1946 elections, and he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in those elections. In 1951 he ran for Vice-President on Ricardo Balbin's RCU ticket, which lost overwhelmingly to the incumbent, President Juan Perón.

Frondizi with Balbin, in 1946
Frondizi with Balbin, in 1946

Perón's government was overturned by a military coup in September 1955, after which the country was run by a provisional government that spent much of its efforts on purging Perónist influences. Despite his previous opposition to Perón, Frondizi disagreed with his party's willingness to disenfranchise a huge portion of the population, and he split with Balbin at the RCU's 1956 convention.

Presidency

In 1958 Frondizi represented the leftist faction of the RCU in the presidential election, against Balbin. During the campaign he actively courted both Perónists and anti-Perónists, and even received an endorsement from Perón himself. He won a two-to-one margin over Balbin on February 22, 1958, and was sworn in at a ceremony attended by U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon on May 1st. Upon taking office, Frondizi moved to obtain from Congress amnesty for all Peronistas. He refused, however, to let Perón return to Argentina. The Peronista Party was legalized and reorganized and its leaders planned to participate in the 1959 provincial elections.

inauguration of Frondizi
inauguration of Frondizi

Arturo Frondizi riding through the streets of Buenos Aires after his inauguration
Frondizi after his inauguration

Despite his control of Congress, Frondizi's position was precarious due to the country's immense economic problems, which he addressed by implementing a series of austerity measures designed to curb inflation and attract foreign investment. Although those measures resulted in rapid industrialization and economic resurgence, they also placed a severe burden on the poor and middle classes, leading to strikes, demonstrations, and confrontations with police. The general unrest forced the resignation of Vice-President Alejandro Gomez in November 1958, after Gomez suggested that the Frondizi government be replaced by a coalition regime.

While struggling to revitalize Argentina's economy amidst ever-growing unrest, Frondizi also worked to improve Argentina's relations with other nations, especially the United States. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Argentina in March 1959, the first visit by a U.S. President since 1936, and the resulting Bariloche Declaration promoted the mutual protection of natural parks. Frondizi returned the visit in January 1961, making him the first Argentine President ever to visit the United States. During that visit he formalized Argentina's support for the Latin American Free Trade Association and for the Alliance of Progress.

Frondizi and Eisenhower at Bariloche
Frondizi and Eisenhower at Bariloche

Frondizi in Washington
Frondizi in Washington

Frondizi's economic and foreign policy successes were constantly overshadowed by internal disorder, and his hold on the presidency was almost always a tenuous one. That hold was made even more tenuous after the Peronistas won a series of congressional elections in early 1962, and a revelation that in 1961 Frondizzi had secretly met with Ernesto Guevara as an intermediary between Cuba and the United States. The military ultimately withdrew its support and Frondizi was forced to resign on March 29, 1962.

Frondizi at Casa Rosada on March 27, 1962
Frondizi at Casa Rosada on March 27, 1962

Post-Presidency

Frondizi remained keenly interested in politics after his ouster and formed a small party called the Movement for Integration and Development, which promoted state protection for industrialization, but was never again a political force. He died in Buenos Aires on April 18, 1995.

SEE ALSO
Richard Nixon
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ernesto Guevara

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> South America >> Argentina >> History

This page was last updated on February 22, 2017.