Argentine Interregnum

Courtesy Reuters

AFTER ten years, the dictatorship of Juan D. Perón was overthrown by the last of three military uprisings. It had seemed a great monolithic pyramid with deep and solid foundations; but it was toppled in a matter of days--almost hours--like some gigantic clay idol. Once it fell, the imposing structure was discovered to have been rotten from top to bottom. That was why no great military effort was required to overthrow it. In fact, only four centers of military rebellion were involved in actual fighting: two in the Army (in the central and western provinces of Córdoba and Mendoza and the eastern provinces of Entre Rios and Corrientes) and two in the Navy. Four simultaneous explosions were enough to put an end to a régime which had seemed unshakable.

Before the revolution it was predicted that any attempt to end the dictatorship would unquestionably involve a civil war and that it might be a long one; indeed, many of Perón's bitterest enemies shared this opinion. Nevertheless, the struggle was so brief that the leaders of the armed uprising were themselves surprised; they calculated that they would have to fight for several weeks at least, perhaps months. The fact that the entire Navy was in rebellion and that the city of Córdoba was in rebel hands was enough to make the dictator acknowledge defeat and ask asylum in the Paraguayan Embassy.

The omnipotent leader's decision not to fight served in turn as an unmistakable signal to his astonished and confused followers. The man who had been everything fled, and his rule collapsed as though there had been no one around him except his enemies who were now resolved to fight. It was therefore not so much a question of a triumphant revolution as of a régime which acknowledged itself beaten. The strength of the rebels was more moral than military; and it was that very moral strength which was lacking in the dictatorship, with all its

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