Rocco DiTrolio
Missionary to Argentina
"you can help make a difference"

"Children are not only our future, they are the future of the church."

First explored in 1516 by Juan D’az de Solis,Argentina developed slowly under Spanish colonial rule. Buenos Aires was settled in 1580;the cattle industry was thriving as early as 1600. Invading British forces were expelled in 1806Ð1807,and after NapolŽon conquered Spain(1808),the Argentinians set up their own government in 1810. On July 9,1816,independence was formally declared.

As it had in World War I,Argentina proclaimed neutrality at the outbreak of World War II,but in the closing phase declared war on the Axis powers on March 27,1945. Juan D. Per—n,an army colonel,emerged as the strongman of the postwar era,winning the presidential elections of 1946 and 1951. Per—n’s political strength was reinforced by his second wifeÑEva Duarte de Per—n (Evita)Ñand her popularity with the working classes. Although she never held a government post, Evita acted as de facto minister of health and labor, establishing a national charitable organization, and awarding generous wage increases to the unions, who responded with political support for Per—n. Opposition to Per—n’s increasing authoritarianism led to a coup by the armed forces,which sent Per—n into exile in 1955,three years after Evita

In 1975,terrorist acts by left-and right-wing groups killed some 700 people. The cost of living rose 355%,while strikes and demonstrations were constant. On March 24,1976,a military junta led by army commander Lt. Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla seized power and imposed martial law. The military began the dirty war to restore order and eradicate its opponents. The Argentine Commission for Human Rights,in Geneva,has charged the junta with 2,300 political murders,over 10,000 political arrests,and the disappearance of 20,000 to 30,000 people. While violence declined,the economy remained in chaos. In March 1981 Videla was deposed by Field Marshal Roberto Viola,who in turn was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri.

On April 2,1982,Galtieri invaded the British-held Falkland Islands,known as Las Islas Malvinas(Malvinas Islands)in Spanish,in what was seen as an attempt to increase his popularity. Great Britain,however,won a decisive victory,and Galtieri resigned in disgrace three days after Argentina’ssurrender. Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Bignone took over June 14, amid increasing prodemocratic public sentiment. As the 1983 elections approached, inflation hit 900% and Argentina’scrippling foreign debt reached unprecedented levels.

In the presidential election of Oct. 1983,Raœl Alfons’n,leader of the Radical Civic Union,handed the Peronist Party its first defeat since its founding. Growing unemployment and quadruple-digit inflation,however,led to a Peronist victory in the elections of May 1989. Alfons’n resigned a month later in the wake of riots over high food prices,in favor of the new Peronist president,Carlos Menem. In 1991,Menem promoted economic austerity measures that deregulated businesses and privatized state-owned industries