Agustin Pedro Justo

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Agustin Pedro Justo

Agustin Pedro Justo (1876-1943) was an Argentine general and president who instituted vigorous anti-depression measures in the 1930s and favored the democracies during World War II.

Born in Concepción del Uruguay, Entre Ríos, on Feb. 26, 1876, Agustin Pedro Justo was the son of Agustin P. Justo, who had been a congressional deputy and governor of Corrientes Province, and Otilia Rolón Justo. After being deposed in 1871, Governor Justo moved to Entre Ríos and later to Buenos Aires.

Young Justo's military career began in 1888, when he entered the Colegio Militar, the national military academy. He graduated in 1892 as a sublieutenant; later he served in the Colegio as a mathematics professor (1904-1915) and as director (1915-1922), rising to the rank of colonel. As President Marcelo Alvear's war minister (1922-1928), he completely reorganized and reequipped the army, thereby earning lasting favor with politically active officers.

The 1929 Depression soon led to military revolts, and Justo joined former military associates in overthrowing the aged president, Hipólito Irigoyen, in 1930. Gen. José Félix Uriburu served as provisional president until 1932, when conservatives elected Justo to that office. During the worsening economic crisis of 1933, Justo reacted to a radical conspiracy by arresting Irigoyen for 2 months. Local election frauds and violence aggravated the tense political situation, and by 1935 radicals controlled the Chamber of Deputies.

An honest and vigorous executive, Justo fought the Depression with remedial economic legislation and a public works program. These measures slightly improved the economy but did not satisfy radical opponents or increase his popularity.

In international affairs Justo's capable foreign minister, Carlos Saavedra Lamas, helped to end the Chaco War between Peru and Bolivia. A trade agreement with Great Britain guaranteed Argentine beef a market in return for concessions to British investors. With a world war threatening, Justo reactivated Argentine participation in the League of Nations, and Buenos Aires hosted the 1936 Pan American Conference, which Franklin D. Roosevelt attended in an effort to promote hemispheric solidarity against aggressor nations.

Before Justo quietly relinquished the presidency in 1938, his son's death in an airplane accident aroused some public sympathy. After touring Europe, Justo reentered politics. When the European war broke out in 1939, he supported the Allies and offered his personal services to Brazil after that country declared war on the Axis in 1942. He was considered a serious presidential candidate for the coming elections, when he died suddenly in Buenos Aires on Jan. 11, 1943. Although a conservative, Justo had opposed the forces of repression and aggression at home and abroad. Throughout his life he was respected as an intellectual and bibliophile.

Further Reading

International affairs during Justo's administration are reviewed in Harold F. Peterson, Argentina and the United States, 1810-1960 (1964). For Argentina's political and economic affairs see James R. Scobie, Argentina: A City and a Nation (1964). □

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