Many remember Raul Alfonsín, the first democratic elected president of Argentina after the military regime. He governed his country between 1983 and 1989 and faced the difficult time of reestablishing democracy in the Austral country.
Today the Argentinians said adiós in the National Congress and he will have his last dwelling in Recoleta Cemetery, at the north of Buenos Aires.
The capital of Argentina woke up to do the farewell to Alfonsín. The coffin was conducted to the Blue Salon of the Senate after it received honors from Granaderos Regiment. Hundred of porteños waited in a long queue to see the coffin according to reports of national press. The government decreed three days mourning and ordered flags at half mast in any public building.
It is true that he is important just because he was the first president elected by the people after an absolutist regimen. But out of that fact, Alfonsín has a deep meaning in the history of his country and, in a wider view, in the Latin American context. In him, it is possible to analyze the meaning of democracy and justice for countries like the Latin American nations and those regions of the world that look for the rebuilt of their societies.
Alfonsín and Human Rights
His full name was Raul Ricardo Alfonsín and he was born on 12th March 1927. His name was associated to the human rights movements during the dictatorship when he founded the Permanent Assembly for the Human Rights. The group began in 1975 denouncing the violation of human rights under the military regimen and crimes against humanity. Most of the results in the fight against impunity in Argentina are due to the activities of that group leaded by Alfonsín and other leaders.
He was also a lawyer and offered his service during the dictatorship to the political leaders of the opposition that were accused by the regime, even if such activity could mean risks for his own life. He did it without asking economical reward.
Today Alfonsín became a sign of democracy and defend of human rights in Argentina.
The meaning of democracy according to Alfonsín
One of the last speechs of Alfonsín became a kind of resume of his ideological legacy to Argentina and any democracy in the world, especially those of Latin America. It was said during the inauguration of a monument dedicated by the people of Argentina in Casa Rosada, the house of the Argentinian government, in October 2008. The former president could not be present to the act, because he was already sick, but he sent his words:
“De todos los honores y privilegios que la vida me ha dado, y en verdad han sido muchos, por cierto jamás hubiera imaginado acceder a éste que se me concede, el de presenciar la inauguración de un monumento de mi persona. No lo hubiera imaginado, no lo hubiera permitido. Del mismo modo, tal cual rechacé invitaciones anteriores, en la actual circunstancia, desde luego que no interpreto que se realiza un homenaje a mi persona, sino a la democracia que logramos los argentinos”.
“From all the honors and privileges that the life has given me – and truly they have been many – it is certain that I would never imagine to access to this one granted to me, to see the inauguration of a monument to my person. I would never imagine it, I would never allow it. At the same time, as I have refused former invitation, in the current circumstances, I do not understand it as a honor to my person, but to the democracy that we Argentinians gained.”
And Alfonsín said further:
“Siempre creí y así lo dije en tantas oportunidades que es la misión de los dirigentes y de los líderes plantear ideas y proyectos evitando la autoreferencialidad y el personalismo; orientar y abrir caminos, generar consensos, convocar al emprendimiento colectivo, sumar inteligencias y voluntades, asumir con responsabilidad la carga de las decisiones. “Sigan a ideas, no sigan a hombres”, fue y es siempre mi mensaje a los jóvenes. Los hombres pasan, las ideas quedan y se transforman en antorchas que mantienen viva a la política democrática”.
“I always believe and I said it in many opportunities that the mission of the political leaders and most leaders is to set ideas and projects avoiding the self-reference and the put of his own persona; to guide and open the ways, create consensus, recall the common enterprise, sum intelligences and wills, assume with responsibility the duty of decisions. ‘Follow ideas, not men’, that was and will be my message to young people. Men pass away, but ideas remain and transform themselves in torches that keep alive the politic and the democracy. ”
This is then the difference between a regimen and a democracy. A regimen looks down to democracy and considers it as things of children. Normally regimens and absolutists systems are worry in “teaching” things, while a democracy considers the people enough grown to take decisions. Regimens spend time in silence opposition, very often in the name of high principles, but regimens forget that democracy is the ritual of the power of the people and not the game of three or four generals or the intolerance of a single leader sitting down in his own ideological frame.
Alfonsín described democracy like this:
“Democracia es vigencia de la libertad y los derechos pero también existencia de igualdad de oportunidades y distribución equitativa de la riqueza, los beneficios y las cargas sociales: tenemos libertad pero nos falta la igualdad. Tenemos una democracia real, tangible, pero coja e incompleta y, por lo tanto, insatisfactoria: es una democracia que no ha cumplido aún con algunos de sus principios fundamentales, que no ha construído aún un piso sólido que albergue e incluya a los desamparados y excluídos. Y no ha podido, tampoco aún, a través del tiempo y de distintos gobiernos construir puentes firmes que atraviesen la dramática fractura social provocada por la aplicación e imposición de modelos socioeconómicos insolidarios y políticas regresivas.”
“Democracy is force of freedom and rights but also the existence of equal opportunities and equal distribution of well, benefits and social responsibilities: we have freedom, but we lack equality. We have a real and tangible democracy, but lame and incomplete and, therefore, unsatisfactory: it is a democracy that still not to fulfill with some of the fundamental principles, that still to create a solid floor to content the disadvantaged and excluded. It has not been able, also, throughout the time and different governments, to build firm bridges to cross the dramatic social breaks caused by the application and imposition of social and economical models that are divisive and have regressive politics”
- Discurso de Raul Alfonsín en la inauguración de su estatua en Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires, octubre de 2008. En “Juventud Radical”, blog.
- Raúl Trejo D.: El credo democrático de Raúl Alfonsín, Buenos Aires, 1 de abril de 2009. En Sociedad y poder.