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Álvaro Alsogaray: Wikis

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Álvaro Alsogaray as Economy Minister, 1958-61.

Álvaro Carlos Alsogaray (Esperanza, Santa Fe, 22 June 1913 – Buenos Aires, 1 April 2005) was an Argentine politician. Minister of Economy nominated in 1958 by Arturo Frondizi, he was one of the principal proponents of economic liberalism in modern Argentina.

He was a member of the Alsogaray military dynasty, and retired from the military with the rank of captain (and two engineering degrees, which led to his being called el capitán ingeniero).

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Early career

A graduate of Argentina's Military Academy as an infantry officer, Alsogaray learned military engineering in the Army's technical academy and civil and aeronautical engineer in Córdoba University.

He retired from the army with the rank of captain and entered business, being involved mainly with transportation enterprises such as FAMA, the predecessor of flag carrier Aerolíneas Argentinas. In this capacity, he briefly held public office during the presidency of Juan Perón, whose politics and policies would later be anathema to Alsogaray's thinking.

After the coup that removed Perón, he held the posts of Under-secretary of Commerce and Minister of Industry.

President Frondizi and the two "winters"

To placate powerful agrarian interests and other conservatives, the otherwise progressive Arturo Frondizi named Alsogaray Minister of the Economy soon after his election in 1958. Inheriting large trade deficits, Alsogaray sharply devalued the Peso and imposed severe credit controls on Argentina's large public banks. Infamously declaring that the economy "must go through winter",[1] the austerity measures were a boon to exporters; but, they caused consumer prices to double in 1959 and real wages and construction to fall by about 20%. The resulting trade surplus and pro-growth policies pursued by Frondizi's true point man on the economy, Rogelio Frigerio, both contributed to a robust recovery in 1960 and 1961.[2]

Marginalized in favor of Frigerio after the 1959 recession and deeply unpopular, Alsogaray resigned early in 1961. Indeed, Frigerio had been Pres. Frondizi's first choice for the critical Economy Ministry had the military not objected. Frondizi and Frigerio later founded a political party centered around the need for accelerated development.

Unfortunately, Frondizi's efforts to mediate differences between the United States and Cuba resulted in a March, 1962, coup d'etat and Alvaro Alsogaray was able to use the influence of his brother Gen. Julio Alsogaray to secure several ministerial and planning posts under Frondizi's military-appointed successor, Senate President José María Guido. Reintroducing many of his restrictive 1959 policies, the economy again slipped into severe recession and, at the cost of depressed business investment, the trade balance again improved.[2]

Later career and the rise of Maria Julia

Out of power after the election of Dr. Arturo Illia in 1963, Alsogaray devoted himself to undermining the new administration, even during the stellar recovery Illia's moderate policies presided over.[3] Finding allies in conservative business and media interests, the powerful Roman Catholic church and (of course) his influential brother Julio, Alsogaray was successful. Following the 1966 coup against Pres. Illia (who narrowly prevented a bloodbath), Alsogaray was designated ambassador to the United States, a post he held until 1968.

Alsogaray founded the Independent Civic Party (1956), New Force (1972) and the Union of the Democratic Centre (UCeDé) in 1982, a centre-right economically neo-liberal party for which he stood for the Presidency in 1983 and 1989. Alsogaray gained two million votes in his 1989 presidential bid, behind Carlos Menem and Eduardo Angeloz.

An outspoken supporter of the bloody March 1976 coup, Alsogaray was among the well-connected who massively shorted the Peso shy of its ruinous 1981 collapse.[4] Continuing to enjoy a measure of support in Buenos Aires' affluent northside, he and his daughter María Julia Alsogaray were elected the only two national deputies for the UCeDé in 1983 and he served until 1999. Although a vehement anti-Peronist and anti-socialist, Alsogaray was in favour of Carlos Menem's pro-market liberalising policies and his party effectively endorsed Menem in the 1995 election, and endorsed similar free market Justicialists in subsequent presidential races. He and his daughter consequently secured various posts during Menem's presidency, during which they earned a reputation for gross incompetence and corruption. As Minister of Environmental Policy from 1991 to 1999, she's best remembered for securing a US$250 million World Bank loan to clean the perennially polluted river that flows along Buenos Aires's industrial southside, of which only one million dollars was ever used for its intended purpose.[5] Ms. Alsogaray was convicted in May, 2004, of embezzlement of public funds.[6]

Legacy

Alvaro Alsogaray, who perennially sought television airtime, lived out his last few years in seclusion and died in Buenos Aires in 2005 at the age of 91. Adamantly conservative, he was of the opinion that, if anything, the 1976-83 dictatorship was too moderate. He felt that some of the most brutal torturers during that era were "heroes" and even once attempted to use his influence over the Menem administration to have a monument built in their honor.[4]

References

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