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Ricardo Balbín

Ricardo Balbín (born on July 19, 1904 in Buenos Aires - died September 9, 1981 in La Plata) was an Argentine lawyer and politician, and one of the most important figures of the centrist Radical Civic Union (UCR), for which he was the presidential nominee four times: in 1951, 1958, and twice in 1973.

Life and times

Ricardo Balbín was born to Encarnación Morales Balbín and Cipriano Balbín in the city of Buenos Aires, in 1904. The family moved first to Azul, and later to Ayacucho when he was still a child. In 1909 his mother had to be moved to Spain to treat a serious illness.

In 1916, when Hipólito Yrigoyen became president, Balbín started high-school at the Colegio San José. In 1921 he started his university studies in medicine, but abandoned it shortly after due to financial dfficulties. In 1922 at just 18 years old, Balbín joined the ruling Radical Civic Union, and moved to La Plata, where the student atmosphere gave him the incentive to enroll in Law School at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, obtaining a juris doctor in 1927.

In 1928 he married Indalia Ponzetti, with whom he would have a daughter and two sons: Lía Elena, Osvaldo and Enrique Balbín. In the year of his marriage he participated actively on the presidential campaign that took Hipólito Yrigoyen again to the presidency. During Yrigoyen's second term, Balbín was named District Attorney during the federal intervention in Mendoza Province.

Short after Balbín returned to La Plata and was elected president of La Plata's Sección Primera Committee in 1930, the year in which José Félix Uriburu's coup d'etat toppled Yrigoyen. In 1931 the military government called elections, and Balbín was elected deputy for Buenos Aires Province, and Honorio Pueyrredón governor of the province. The victory of the Unión Cívica Radical was not expected by the military government, who invalidated the elections.

In 1940 Balbín was again elected deputy for the province, but he resigned his seat in protest at fraud during those elections. In 1945 he participated in the foundation of the Movimiento de Intransigencia y Renovación (MIR) together with, among others, Amadeo Sabattini, Arturo Frondizi, Crisólogo Larralde, Oscar Alende, Moisés Lebensohn and Arturo Illia.

Balbín in prison (1950).
Balbín with Perón, 1972.

In 1946 Balbín was elected national deputy and he became chief deputy of the so-called "Block of the 44" (Bloque de los 44). His role as one of the opposition leaders to Juan Domingo Perón's government brought him political and judicial prosecution, and he was expelled from congress in 1949, and imprisoned at the Olmos Penal in La Plata. In 1950 he was released, but sent back to jail the very same day of the election for which he was candidate for governor of the province. At the end of that year Perón granted him pardon, but Balbín refused to accept it since he had not yet been sentenced.

Once freed, Balbín was elected presidential candidate for the 1951 national elections with Arturo Frondizi as candidate for vice-president, but Perón was re-elected. He was again imprisoned in 1954. A coup d'état known as the Revolución Libertadora force Perón into exile and banned Peronism. The UCR divided into two groups following its 1956 convention: the Intransigent Radical Civic Union (UCRI) with Arturo Frondizi and Oscar Alende as the main exponents, and Balbín's Popular UCR (UCRP). The UCRP chose Balbín as presidential candidate for the 1958 elections, with Santiago del Castillo for vice-president. Arturo Frondizi won with support from factions of the outlawed Peronists.

In 1959 the UCRP chose Arturo Illia as its next presidential candidate, who won the 1963 elections with Carlos Perette as vice-president. Illia only governed until 1966, however, when General Juan Carlos Onganía's coup removed him from the presidency. During that period Balbín, together with sections of several political parties, called for the 'return to legality' in a document entitled Without a political solution there cannot be an economical solution (Sin solución política es impensible una solución económica).

In 1972 Balbín was again elected presidential candidate over Raúl Alfonsín, with Eduardo Gamond as his running mate. At the end of that year Perón returned from exile and met Balbín, promising to resolve historical differences to preserve the popular strengths. On March 11, 1973, Peronism once again defeated Balbín, as Héctor Cámpora was elected president with Vicente Solano Lima as vice-president.

Monument to el chino, in Buenos Aires' Congressional Plaza.

At the end of 1973, following the definitive return of Perón to Argentina, the governing body resigned and new, snap elections were called. Balbín was a presidential candidate for a fourth and last time, with Fernando de la Rúa as his vice-presidential candidate. Perón triumphed with his wife María Estela Martínez as vice-president.

Perón died on July 1, 1974, and Balbín dedicated a warm eulogy to him. He remained focused on avoiding yet another military coup throughout Mrs. Perón's chaotic presidency, but on March 24, 1976, she was removed from office, bringing about the military government known as the National Reorganization Process. During this dictatorship, Balbín was criticised for not denouncing the human rights violations (see: Dirty War) that were taking place. Upon his death in September 1981, and even though political demonstrations were illegal, a crowd gathered at his funeral to give him a last farewell. A monument in his honor was unveiled near Congress in 1999 and National Route 1 was named after him in 2004. The expressway connects Buenos Aires with his adopted city, La Plata.

External links


  • Discursos de Ricardo Balbín, recopilation and selection of speeches: Carlos Alberto Giacobone, Ediciones Adelante, 1982.
  • Balbín entre rejas, la prisión de Ricardo Balbín en 1950, by César Arrondo, EDULP, Editorial de la Universidad de La Plata, 2002.
  • Balbín, el presidente postergado, Centro Editor de América Latina, 1992.


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