Illia, Arturo Umberto (1900–1983)

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Illia, Arturo Umberto (1900–1983)

Arturo Umberto Illia was an Argentine politician who served as president from 1963 to 1966. Born on August 4, 1900, he became a member of the Radical Civic Union (Unión Cívica Radical; UCR) during his youth; he graduated with a degree in medicine in 1927 and was elected provincial senator from Córdoba in 1936. In 1940 he became vice-governor of the province but was forced to resign following the coup d'état of 1943. He was a national deputy in 1948 and was elected governor of that province in 1962. However, the military that overthrew President Arturo Frondizi (1958–1962) annulled those elections.

In the 1963 presidential elections, the People's UCRP, whose main leader, Ricardo Balbín, had little hopes of seeing his party win, ran Illia as its candidate. With the Peronists outlawed, he won the election with 25.1 percent of the vote; but the blank ballots (Peronists) accounted for 20 percent. Illia began his term in office suffering from a low degree of electoral legitimacy and growing military hostility toward the democratic system.

During his term in office he oriented the economy in a nationalist-populist direction: he annulled the petroleum contracts that had been renewed by Frondizi, promoted industrialization, reduced the foreign debt, increased spending on education and health, and set price controls on medicines. His macroeconomic policy was expansive, with a strong tendency toward redistribution of wealth. The Gross Domestic Product grew at a rate of 10 percent from 1964 to 1965, but not in any sustainable fashion. In 1965 he opposed sending troops to the Dominican Republic during the Organization of American States invasion advocated by the United States. This further irritated the Argentine military.

His deep democratic beliefs prevented him from allowing the ban on Peronism to continue, and he refused to renew it in 1965. But conflicts with the powerful Peronist trade unions, along with discontent among national and foreign businesses and opposition from the local press, created an environment conducive to renewed military intervention. In June 1966 there was a military coup under the banner of the "doctrine of national security." Illia died on January 18, 1983 in the city of Córdoba.

See alsoArgentina: The Twentieth Century; Argentina, Political Parties: Radical Party (UCR); Balbín, Ricardo; Frondizi, Arturo; Perón, Juan Domingo.


Cavarozzi, Marcelo. Autoritarismo y democracia, 1955–1996: La transición del Estado al mercado en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Ariel, 1997.

Terán, Oscar. Nuestros años sesentas: La formación de la nueva izquierda intelectual en la Argentina, 1956–1966. Buenos Aires: AR Puntosur, 1991.

                                        Vicente Palermo