A. General Considerations
1. The existence, and of course the survival, of the representative democratic system of government, is not possible without effective and unrestricted recognition of the right of citizens to set up political groups and to join those groups whose political ideas and programs are best suited to their conscious or subconscious ideals of government; and the rights of such groups to exist and to carry on without undue restrictions on their propagandizing and proselytizing activities; to take part in the political life of the nation by publishing their views on matters of state when they deem it appropriate to do so; and to nominate candidates individually or jointly with other groups for election to public office.
2. The Constitution of the Argentine Republic recognizes the right to vote and to take part in elections and in the government of the country, and sets forth its adherence to the democratic system by adopting the republican representative form of government, on both the federal and the provincial level, and by providing that the people alone shall deliberate and govern through their representatives, and the authorities designated by the Constitution; and that declarations, rights and guarantees listed in the Constitution shall not derogate from other rights and guarantees not so listed, which derive from the principle of sovereignty of the people and the republican form of government. Under the Constitution, the right to vote is made effective by organizing the powers of the State, in providing that the president and vice-president of the nation, the senate and the house of deputies, along with certain officials and provincial organs, are elected by the citizens of the respective electoral district.2
B. The Military Junta and Political Rights
1. When the Armed Forces and the Military Junta, established by the Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, took power, the democratic legal system became totally inoperative, after having been damaged by the 1974 State of Siege, which imposed limitations on the exercise of certain rights. However, the classic democratic system was still in effect in 1976, since its two major branches continued to be fully operative up to that time, the legislation and executive branches elected by the people; and permanent or temporary political parties, were freely permitted to organize and at liberty to publish favorable or unfavorable opinions about the actions or inaction of government organs and public officials.
At that time, the Military Junta dissolved the Congress and the provincial legislatures, removed the President and the provincial Governors from office, and assumed “the political power of the Republic” the “exercise of constituent power,” and the legislative and executive powers; it decreed the dissolution of Marxist political parties and other related organizations, closed their establishments, blocked their bank accounts, and incorporated their assets into the State treasury; ordered the suspension of all political activity and compelled groups of that kind to withdrew any symbol, sign, image or other emblem identifying their offices or meeting places.3
On March 24, 1976, all political activity in Argentina ceased, and the democratic system of law-making through elected representatives, with the free participation of the press and citizens in support of, or in opposition to, any project, was replaced by a system in which, in the final analysis, only the will of the three Commanding Generals of the Armed Forces, aided on occasion by the Legislative Assistance Commission composed of nine officers of the three Armed Forces that prepared projects and decided upon them, count.
2. In the exercise of the electoral power, which in a democratic system is the province of the people, the Military Junta declared itself “the supreme organ of the Nation,” and assumed the functions—inter alia—of “seeing to the normal operation of the State, and the basic objectives to be attained,” and of appointing and removing the citizen exercising the Executive power, with the title of President of the Nation. In exercise of its power, the Junta amended, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, many rules of the Constitution of 1853, including, assuming for itself in certain cases and assigning to the President in others, the power to approve, amend and rescind laws of the legislature; and in exercise of this legislative power, which it took upon itself, the Military Junta has decreed a large number of rules with the force of law or legislative decrees.
The President, designated by the Military Junta, exercises, in addition to his functions as head of the executive branch, those duties reserved by the Constitution to the Congress, the Senate and the House of Deputies, including the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices, the Attorney General of the Nation, and Judges of the provincial Superior Courts.
The basic political rights of citizens to participate in the government by electing representatives to enact laws to govern them, and to exercise political control over the acts of the Executive, which is also elected by popular vote, have been disregarded entirely by the present de facto Government of the Republic of Argentina.
3. In spite of the above, political life has not come to a complete standstill in Argentina, and various groups maintain at least the core of their central governing bodies, which are tolerated by the authorities. The Commission was in fact able to prove that the Government maintains a flexible attitude, of apparent nonobservance of the rigid legal standards which restrict the full exercise of political rights, by permitting the Commission to receive in separate audiences the representatives and leaders of the main political organizations, and to sustain unobstructed interviews with leaders representing ten different political tendencies.4
The political organizations, through their representatives, presented to the Commission their particular views on the political problems as a whole, the situation of human rights in particular, and some also made public statements severely criticizing the Government.
C. The future of democracy in Argentina
1. From the time that the Military Junta assumed complete power, it announced its aims to “assure the later restoration of a republican, representative and federal democracy, in accordance with the reality and demands for a solution, and to achieve progress for the Argentine people.”5
2. The President, Lt. General (Ret.) Jorge Rafael Videla, in turn, during the audience granted to the Commission during its on-site observation, declared that “there will have to be a flow towards authentic democracy, when circumstances allow”; and one member of the Military Junta, Lt. General Roberto Eduardo Viola, during the audience that the Junta granted to the IACHR, expressed, in general terms, the program to re-establish democracy that will be conducted—he said—in three phases. The first will consist of a dialogue with all the representative sectors and in the establishment of fundamental laws that will govern the political organizations. The second will consist in an official dialogue with the political parties which will be reorganized to enable them to assume the Government. And the third phase will consist in the gradual, progressive and non-simultaneous handing over of the government to the authorities elected by the people.
3. Thereafter, the Commission received a document dated September 20, 1979, from the Military Junta, signed by its Secretary, Brig. Gen. Reynaldo B. A. Bignone, referring to the National Reorganization Process, declaring the following:
The Military Junta has officially expressed that by the end of the year it will publish a political document containing the philosophy and plexus of ideas of the Armed Forces about this subject.
This document will cover the full scope of problems and will define the country that all Argentines desire, seeking a consensus of the citizenry regarding these fundamentals, so that, starting from this consensus, the diversity of opinions may be expressed through the various party channels which make up the Argentine political spectrum.
The members of the Military Junta and the President have insisted in official declarations that this political document grant full validity and respect to the principles, rights and guarantees expressed in our Constitution because they firmly believe that these principles interpret the feelings of the entire nation and believe them to be enormously relevant to the times.
In summary, the Process has two tasks to accomplish in the future:
- To continue with the establishment of order in the country in all its aspects.
- To initiate a political process that will permit the establishment of a democratic, republican, representative and federal system, in summary, a stable system that will end the pendulum of civilian and military governments. It should be pointed out that today words become meaningless, when the word democracy is used, one means a constitutional democracy, under the role of law, liberty, justice, plurality, the responsibility of the government and of the citizenry, the rights as well as obligations, the separation of powers, the rotation of power, respect for the opposition, in summary, a democracy whose basis will be the responsible exercise of liberty on the part of its citizenry.
The political process of Argentina in the last 50 years is well known. The FF.AA. (Armed Forces) are firmly determined to create a situation that will prevent the occurrence military governments in the future, and to ensure that there will never again be pendular cycles as those mentioned earlier, and therefore, it will act in a measured, prudent and objective fashion.
The Army, Navy and Air Force have a real and fervent wish for a democracy which, aside from being republican, representative and federal, will be—for ever—truly stable.
4. On December 19, 1979, the Military Junta approved the “Political Basis of the Armed Forces for the National Reorganization Process,” assigning to the Executive power the responsibility for implementing the actions needed for its enactment, under the direction and supervision of the Junta. The above-mentioned political basis includes the establishment of a doctrinary basis on which the political-institutional normalization will be carried out; the programmatic basis that will serve to assure adequate coherence and effectiveness in achieving the national objectives, and the instrumental basis on which to establish coexistence among the various ideas and the purpose of which will be to help form and consolidate the broad and important currents of organized opinion.6
1 The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man provides in Article XX as follows: “Every person having legal capacity is entitled to participate in the government of his country, directly or through his representatives, and to take part in popular elections, which shall be by secret ballot, and genuine, periodical and free.” Article XXI provides as follows: “Every person has the right to assemble peacefully with others in a formal public meeting or informal gatherings, in connection with matters of common interest of any nature.” Article XXII provides: “Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.”
2 Articles 1, 5, 6, 14, 22, 23, 33, 37, 46 and 81 of the Argentine Constitution.
3 Acts for the National Reorganization Process of March 24, 1976; Act setting forth the purpose and basic objectives of the National Reorganization Process of that date; Statute for that Process of March 26, 1976; Decree 6 of March 24, 1976, which suspended the political activity of political parties at the national, provincial and municipal levels; Law 21.269 of March 24, 1976, which prohibits the activities of political parties; Law 21.325 of June 2, 1978, which declares the following organizations dissolved: 1) Revolutionary Communist Party; 2) Socialist Workers Party; 3) Workers Political Party; 4) Trotskyte Workers Party; 5) Marxist-Leninist Communist Party; 6) Movement to Defend the National Heritage (MODEPENA); 7) Argentine Anti-Imperialist Movement for Latin America Solidarity (MAASLA); 8) Coordinator of the Aid to Chile Movement (COMACHI); 9) Union of Farm Producers (UPARA); 10) National Workshop of Argentines (ENA); 11) Argentine Political Youth (JPA); 12) Reformist Orientation Movement (MOR); 13) Combatant Anti-Imperialist Popular University Tendency (TUPAC); 14) Leftist University Groups Front (FAUDI); 15) Advanced Socialist University Youth (JUSA); 16) National Reformist Movement (MNR); 17) National University Group (AUN); 18) National Student Front (PEN); 19) National University Concentration (CNU); 20) Argentine Movement for Argentine Solidarity with Vietnam; 21) Labor Union Unity and Coordination Movement (MUCS); 22) Committee of Families of Political Prisoners, Students and Labor Unions (COFAPPEC); 23) Buenos Aires Forum for the Observance of Human Rights; 24) Democratic and Anti-Imperialist Patriotic Front; 25) Communist Vanguard (VC); 26) United Youth Front (FUJ); Law 21.322 of June 2, 1976, which declares the following agencies dissolved: 1) Basic Labor Union Movement (MBS); 2) Anti-Imperialist Front for Socialism (FAS); 3) Peronist Leftist Movement (MIP); 4) International Revolutionary Coordination Junta (JCR); 5) Argentine Revolutionary Movement (TAR); 6) Peronist Villero Movement (MVP); 7) Anti-Imperialist Movement for Socialism in Argentina (MASA); 8) National Liberation Front (FNL); 9) Labor Union Block of Authentic Peronism; 10) Peronist Labor Youth (JTP); 11) Union of Secondary School Students (UES); 12) University Movement for Socialist Revolution (CURS); 13) Peronist Youth (JP); 14) Revolutionary Socialist Movement (MSR); 15) Revolutionary Student Movement for Socialism (TERS); 16) Peronist Revolutionary Movement (TRP); 17) Guevarist Youth (GJ); 18) Authentic Peronist Movement and/or Group (MPA); 19) Peronist Solidarity Committee (COPESOL); 20) Evita Group (AE); 21) Socialist Worker Movement (COS); 22) Peronist University Youth (JUP).
4 People’s Radical Civil Union, Justicialist Party, Christian Democrat Federation, Federalist Party of Argentina, Intransigent Party, Socialist Workers’ Party, Popular Socialist Party, Unified Socialist Party, Socialist Confederation, Communist Party.
5 Act of March 24, 1976, establishing the basic purposes and objectives of the National Reorganization Process.
6 “Political Basis of the Armed Forces for the National Reorganization Process,” Buenos Aires, 1979. According to this document, the doctrinary basis include values, principles, and guiding concepts. The programmatic basis develop the institutional area; the cultural and educational area; the economic area; the social area; the scientific-technological area; the area of territorial organization; the international area; and the security area. The institutional area includes the Executive, the Legislative, the Judiciary, the Provincial powers, and the Municipal Government; stating that the Armed Forces “in their institutionalized intervention in the Government, will be competent to adopt decisions for the national strategic leadership, national security and the defense of the Constitution. The instrumental basis for political action will be comprised of the basic purposes and concepts; the carrying out of political action and regimes of the political parties; political disqualifications; Constitution; and Political Commission, setting forth, among others, the following concepts: The political system that must be devised will respond to the fundamental principles that were established in the Constitution and in this document and will enable qualified and reasonable leaders to gain access to power, leaders who will lead the government with authority and appropriate freedom of action, in order to achieve the high degree of efficiency required for ruling the State. This will involve the creation of the necessary conditions to generate positive attitudes with regard to political activity and the juridical standards that rule it. The Armed Forces, responsible for the commitment assumed, will at all times be receptive to the concerns expressed to them, in the conviction that they will enrich the process that has been initiated. The dialogue will be oriented toward achieving responsible, full and continuous participation, so that, starting from the agreement on the basic principles and political leadership are ensured. The political parties, as essential institutions of the political system, will be the main formative school of political activity and the appropriate instruments to channel the activities of the citizenry.”