oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - Ensuring today and for all times, democracy and respect for human dignity in Argentina : Argentina - Argentine voices

Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



On 10 December 1983, Raul Alfonsin takes up the presidency of Argentina after seven years of military dictatorship. Forty days earlier he had been elected in the polls with almost 52% of the votes, in elections comparable to the plebiscite victories of Juan Domingo Peron or Hipolito Yrigoyen, undisputed leaders of the Peronist Party and the Radical Civic Union, respectively. Alfonsin decided to deliver his first speech to the Argentine people since the return of democracy on a particular day and place. International Human Rights Day is commemorated on 10 December, and the president, whose campaign speech contrasted with the dominant repressive discourse and had placed emphasis on the restoration of democratic values and on overcoming the authoritarian mentality, chose this date to start a new cycle. The choice of the town council, on the other hand, indicates a difference with the political tradition of speaking from the balcony of the Casa Rosada (Government House) and it restores the historical significance of that building, linked to the founding of the Argentine nation and the significant role of the people. Just as the date and space indicate the beginning of a political era of re-founding, Alfonsin's trajectory itself is linked to the shaping of a new subjectivity. In 1972 he led the renewal of radicalism through the creation of the Movement for Renewal and Change, a division closer to European social democracy, and during the dictatorship he distinguished himself from other politicians when he publicly confronted the military, took up the defence of political prisoners and the claims for the missing persons, and criticised the occupation of the Falkland Islands by the de facto government. Alfonsin's speech at the town council is part of Argentina's rhetorical history. It is a founding speech, or rather, one of re-founding, as it invokes the desire to form a national union, expressed for the first time in the 1853 Constitution, to which he makes explicit reference. Over and above conflicting interests, Alfonsin, before a multiparty and diverse popular demonstration, defines democracy as a collective construction. Through rhetoric, he constitutes a heterogeneous audience, composed of diverse political and ideological affiliations, into a homogeneous democratic subject, united around a civic ethic.

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