A Government in Transition: Raúl Alfonsín and Argentina’s Return to Democracy

Gabrielle Esparza


This project analyzes the process of democratic transition that began in Argentina after the fall of the military dictatorship, known as the Process of National Reorganization, on December 10, 1983. The democratic transition, following the country’s most repressive dictatorship, occurred at the beginning of a wave of similar transitions throughout Latin America. Consequently, it developed methods to address state terrorism nearly in tandem with the global development of transitional justice. As one of the first Latin American countries to transition from a military to a democratic government in the late 20th century, Argentina pioneered new methods of addressing state sponsored human rights violations. Under President Raúl Alfonsín, Argentina published the first report documenting the findings of a truth commission and became the first country to hold trials against its own former leaders for crimes committed during the exercise of power.  Alfonsín would later limit this initial momentum toward accountability through the authorization of Full Stop and Due Obedience laws, which narrowed the scope of the trials in order to maintain democratic stability. Despite these limitations, his presidency remains revolutionary as a result of the transitional justice mechanisms he initiated. Argentina became the first country that did not seek complete amnesty for human rights violations committed by the military regime but rather pursued an end to impunity through trials and truth seeking mechanisms.  The Alfonsín government marked a major shift in transitional justice strategy up to this point in history. Therefore, it should be judged not only by the laws which limited progress against impunity but also by the precedents it set in the fight for truth and accountability.  Drawing upon oral and written sources gathered while studying in Buenos Aires, I conclude that Alfonsín had to limit the trials in order to maintain social and political stability in Argentina.



state sponsored terrorism; democratic transitions; Argentina Dirty War, 1976-1983;

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