Duhalde, Eduardo (1945–)

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Duhalde, Eduardo (1945–)

The Argentine politician Eduardo Duhalde served as president of Argentina from December 2001 to May 2003. As a youth he was a member of the Justicialist Party, was active in the municipal trade union movement in Lomas de Zamora, and studied law at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1971 he married Hilda Beatriz González (b. 1946), who became his unfailing political companion. When democracy was restored in Argentina in 1973, Duhalde was elected to the council of Lomas de Zamora, and in 1974 became the city's mayor. During the military dictatorship that began in 1976 Duhalde was removed from his post, and he worked as an attorney. When democracy was reestablished in 1983, he was once again elected mayor of Lomas de Zamora.

Although he had been active in the most conservative faction of the Justicialist movement (Peronism), Duhalde now joined its "renewal" faction, which tried to give the party a more democratic appearance. In 1987, when the renewal group won at the polls, he was elected a national deputy for the province of Buenos Aires, and soon came to be first vice president of the Chamber of Deputies. In 1988 he became Carlos Menem's vice presidential candidate in the preliminary rounds of the Justicialist Party's elections, and, having won this battle, the Menem-Duhalde ticket defeated the radical candidates in the national presidential elections. As vice president of the republic, Duhalde advocated the creation of the Office of Planning and Coordination to Prevent Drug Addiction and Fight Drug Trafficking. In 1991 he left that post to run for governor of the province of Buenos Aires. After winning that office, he expanded social services in the province with the support of the manzaneras (neighborhood block leaders), a group of Peronist women activists led by his wife, and stepped up his public works programs. During Duhalde's term in office he was accused of corruption by his opponents and the press, but in 1994 he held a referendum that saw him reelected as governor. This victory consolidated his power as the indisputable caudillo (leader) of the most important province of Argentina.

Duhalde soon began to work toward the 1999 presidential elections. This put him at loggerheads with President Menem, in terms of both Menem's political ambitions and Duhalde's traditionalist economic policies, which were opposed to the president's neoliberal bent. Duhalde managed to win the Justicialist Party's nomination for the presidency, but the Menem government discredited him in the eyes of the public, and he was defeated by the alliance formed by the Radical Civic Union (UCR) and Front for a Country in Solidarity (FrePaSo), led by Fernando de la Rúa and Carlos Álvarez. However, with the nation in the grip of the worst economic and social crisis in its history, de la Rúa stepped down as president in December 2001, and shortly thereafter, the National Congress elected Duhalde to finish out his term.

Some of the measures Duhalde implemented during his brief term as president included the forced conversion of foreign currency deposits to the national peso, a currency devaluation that culminated in the Convertibility Law, and the largest social assistance plan in the nation's history. Forced to hold the presidential elections six months early because of widespread popular protest, pressure from other Justicialist leaders, and a few acts of political violence, Duhalde supported the governor of Santa Cruz, Néstor Kirchner, as the Peronist movement's candidate, once again opposing Menem. After Kirchner's victory in the presidential elections, Duhalde promised to end his political career. In late 2003 he was named head of the Commission of Permanent Representatives to MERCOSUR, a post he held until 2005.

See alsoArgentina, Political Parties: Justicialist Party; Argentina, Political Parties: Radical Party (UCR); Kirchner, Néstor; Menem, Carlos Saúl; Mercosur; Rúa, Fernando de la.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Petras, James. "Argentina: 18 Months of Popular Struggle." Canadian Dimension 37, No. 4 (July-August 2003): 28-34.

"Political Wife and Weapon: Argentina's President." The Economist (U.S. edition) 375, no. 8429 (June 4, 2005): 35.

                                          Vicente Palermo

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