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Unicato, a term that generally refers to Argentine regimes from 1874 to 1916. Specifically, unicato denotes the corrupt, one-party system exercised by the Partido Autonomista Nacional with centralized power directed by President Miguel Juárez Celman from 1886 to 1890.

Nicolás Avellaneda had introduced this practice, and Julio Argentino Roca maintained it. Under Juárez Celman, the term came into common use because he made it clear that the president should control the government as well as the party. Unicato thus referred to one-man rule during Juárez Celman's authoritarian regime. Juárez Celman established the unicato because he relied particularly upon Córdoba land speculators who sought quick results. Mortgage bankers, eager for money but lacking adequate reserves, issued cédula land bonds. Juárez Celman encouraged many provinces to set up their own banks and to contract foreign loans. With external credit, the banks enriched unicato supporters of provincial governments. During the 1890 congressional sessions, Juárez Celman provided 3.9 million pesos for his provincial allies. He never restored the gold standard after Roca suspended it in 1885. Once new paper money issues tripled after 1886, the depreciation of the currency accelerated against the gold standard. The Bank of Córdoba was the most flagrant offender, securing political favors in exchange for loans that frequently were not paid back.

The term unicato also represents the unpopularity of the political system and its loss of legitimacy. The arbitrary techniques used to maintain its supporters in power became increasingly unacceptable when the financial and economic system deteriorated at the end of the 1880s. The unicato policy of maintaining the same authorities year after year was one of the causes of the 1890 revolt and the formation of the Union Cívica and its radical offshoot. The unicato tradition ended with the enactment of the Roque Sáenz Peña law of 1912, which established new voter rolls and introduced the secret ballot and a new system of voting.

See alsoArgentina, Political Parties: National Autonomist Party; Avellaneda, Nicolás.


John Henry Williams, Argentine International Trade Under Inconvertible Paper Money, 1880–1916 (1920).

Efraín Bischoff, Historia de Córdoba, cuatro siglos (1977).

Douglas W. Richmond, Carlos Pellegrini and the Crisis of the Argentine Elites, 1880–1916 (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Botana, Natalio R. and Ezequiel Gallo. De la república posible a la república verdadera: 1880–1910. Buenos Aires: Compañía Editora Espasa Calpe Argentina, 1997.

Rock, David. State Building and Political Movements in Argentina, 1860–1916. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002.

                               Douglas W. Richmond

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