If you lived in Argentina long enough — and by long enough I mean, like, a week — you probably now that every conversation about local politics, as friendly as it may seem at the beginning, has the potential to be the social version of the Cuban missile crisis. Friendships have been broken, family tables have been flipped over and dates have ended in disaster whenever a conversation between two sympathizers of different parties touch on the subjects of politics.
In fact, a recent poll by Management and Fit consulting firm revealed that roughly 40 percent of Argentines believe that the political divide — commonly known as La Grieta — has deepened during the past year. Only 18.5 percent of the 2,000 people polled “slightly disagreed” with this premise.
But even though practically no one can say the name Cristina without having someone else from 50 percent of the population adding in the word “thief” to the conversation, and that there’s an actual Google Chrome extension that changes Mauricio Macri to Macri Gato — a pejorative term in Argentine slang — every time it shows up on the internet, there’s a silver lining. Quite a long one actually — we are officially in the longest period of political stability in Argentine history. In other words, it’s the longest period without a coup or a crisis serious enough for a president to leave their post before they are due to. Go current institutions!
This period, which began on May 25, 2003, when late President Nestor Kirchner took office and continues to date, breaks a record of 5,077 days which, unfortunately, was held for 87 years.
The period we are referring to began in 1916 with the election of Radical Party (UCR) member Hipólito Yrigoyen. It continued with the presidency of fellow Radical Marcelo T. de Alvear and abruptly ended in 1930 when when General Jose Felix Uriburu ousted Yrigoyen throughout his second term.
Ever since, there were 20 presidencies, seven of which were terminated early whether by coups or by economic and social crisis so severe that led them to make the decision to step down early. Those who were ousted by a coup after Yrigoyen were: Ramón Castillo in 1943; Juan Domingo Perón in 1955; Arturo Frondizi in 1962; Arturo Illia in 1966 and María Estela Martínez “Isabelita” Perón in 1976 — that coup, led by Jorge Rafael Videla, began the 7-year long military dictatorship that was the longest and darkest period of Argentine history.
Those who had to leave their post as a result of economic, social and political crisis were Raúl Alfonsín in 1989 and Fernando De la Rúa in 2001. Alfonsín was the first President elected since the return to democracy in 1983 but had to call for early elections months before he was set to step down, a result of a hyperinflation that devastated the country’s economy in 1989.
De la Rúa famously fled the Casa Rosada in a helicopter in December 2001 amid one of the most severe crises in Argentine history, so much so that it led to a period of social instability such that the country had five presidents in a single week.
Considering how incendiary the current political conversation in the country is, there will always be someone willing to scream at a camera or a crowd about the need to fight until a president falls or is impeached. But, in practice at least, we seem to be more respectful or the institutions and it seems quite unlikely Presidents won’t finish their terms, no matter how much the supporters of the opposed political camps despise them.
Fingers crossed the trend because more of an institution than a record to break or maintain.