Lorenzo Miguel - Life and Times - The Peronist Revival

The Peronist Revival

This opposition to leftists within the labor movement intensified following Peronists' return to power in a March 1973 electoral landslide. Finding common cause with Perón's influential private assistant, José López Rega, Miguel helped him finance El Caudillo ("The Strongman"), a fascist periodical that served as the public relations arm of López Rega's newly-organized death squad, the Triple A. Miguel's ties to the group were first exposed after June 20, 1973, when UOM heavies reportedly helped the Triple A ignite a riot at a massive gathering in honor of Perón's return to Argentina. The UOM's presumptive role, though minor, forced Miguel attend a summit with his archenemies, the violently leftist Montoneros, in which he denied complicity and arrived at a mutual understanding. This cordiality was shattered, however, by the September 25 assassination of CGT head José Ignacio Rucci, an act for which the Montoneros took credit and which turned Miguel into their implacable enemy. The UOM then took part in a February 1974 police coup that led to the violent exit of leftist Córdoba Province Governor Ricardo Obregón Cano, elected in 1973 as a Peronist (FREJULI) candidate, and Miguel helped persuade the aging Perón to promote a right-wing Admiral and personal friend, Emilio Massera, as Head of the Navy, as well as to break with leftist Peronists shortly before his July 1974 passing.

UOM's Buenos Aires headquarters then became a base of operations for the Triple A, one of whose operatives, Alejandro Giovenco, died when a bomb intended for the leftist Peronist Youth detonated in his possession, instead. The unwanted attention this brought on Miguel was compounded by the discovery of the murder of Hugo Dubchek - Miguel's bodyguard - reportedly during a large movement of arms through the building, in whose furnace his remains were found. The November 1974 election of leftist shop steward Alberto Piccinini at ACINDAR's important Villa Constitución steel mill prompted Miguel to help the company lobby President Isabel Perón (the leader's widow) for an armed intervention, which took place in a March 1975 police assault on the facility. The resulting arrests led to the "disappearances" of over 100 of some of the first victims of the later infamous Dirty War.

Miguel's allegiance with López Rega was strained when, in May, the mercurial death squad leader prevailed on Mrs. Perón to install a protégé as head of the critical Economy Ministry, Celestino Rodrigo. Rodrigo quickly unveiled an austerity package which, attempting to deal with the country's yawning trade gap, shocked markets with a sudden halving of the peso's value, which paralyzed new construction and industrial spending and threw the CGT (particularly steelworkers) against the plan. This forced Miguel to lead the reluctant CGT leadership into a general strike in July, the first ever against a Peronist administration. Mrs. Péron yielded by dismissing Rodrigo and López Rega, who was exiled to Spain; but the crisis led most public figures to call for her resignation, raising the possibility of a military coup d'état. Advising her to advance elections five months, Miguel became the leading voice among the few who still supported seeing the President complete her term in office. His call for loyalty, a stance he described as "verticalist", lost its little support following a new, sharp devaluation of the shredded peso in February 1976 and a violent March 24 coup resulted in Miguel's arrest, along with the President and thousands of others.

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