Presentation by Argentine economist Alexis Dritsos

By Nandini Puri

In order for us to gain a thorough and well-rounded understanding of the last dictatorship in Argentina and its domino effect on human rights, it was crucial for our Learning Cluster to understand and familiarize ourselves with the dynamics of the Argentine economy. Speaking with economist Alexis Dritsos about the financial system was a revelation for me as it helped me understand the correlation between human rights and the economy. He gave us a systematic overview of the fiscal market since the time of the Spanish colonial times to present day Argentina. Oscillating between an oligarchy (when the wealthy elite, who comprise a small minority of the population, primarily hold the political power) to the emergence of a middle class after the turn of the Twentieth Century where the idea of neutrality of globe issues (inspired by Gandhi’s theory of not involving one’s country in world problems) was followed. We were also introduced to the political ideas of Peronism, the period of hyperinflation, and the phase during which the peso equaled the dollar. Insight into this was the fundamental basis for understanding the military coup d’état and the economic crisis that followed.

Alexis Dritsos, Photo by Norito Hagino
Perón was responsible for introducing the concept of a mixed economy in Argentina and nationalizing the railroads. However, during the time of Alfonsin’s presidency, the Argentine economy went through a period of hyperinflation, leaving Argentina in a huge debt with a chronic deficit and most human rights violations, which occurred during the dictatorship, were unresolved. When Menem took over in 1989, all private debt was nationalized and he pegged the Peso to the US Dollar. What made Menem thoroughly unpopular with the working class is that he gave amnesty to everyone guilty of human rights violations during the dictatorship. Moreover, he left Argentina in a lurch with a huge debt, unemployment, and recession. Following that, Néstor Kirchner announced the cancellation of Argentina’s debt to the IMF in full and offered a single payment, which was met with controversy.

To wrap up our session, Alexis Dritsos asked us to write a summary on how we could relate the topic of our learning cluster to the economic crisis. Initially, all of us were a little confused and did not know how to link human rights to something as technical as the economy. However, we soon realized that there is no way for a country to have sustainable economic growth without respecting the basic human rights of their citizens. There might be a point in every country’s history where there was rapid monetary growth but that was stunted by the fact the wellbeing of the people was overlooked.

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