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Perils of Peron


Some time before the election of Juan Domingo Peron to the Argentine Presidency, the U.S. State Department decided that a Peronista government was intolerable to American interests. Working from this premise, Spruille Braden issued the famous Blue Book, which catalogued the Nazi leanings of the Strong Man and the wartime sins of his militarist clique. The Blue Book failed miserably to swing Argentine opinion, while at the same time it boomeranged toward its authors the old cries of "Yanqui interference" that have plagued our dealings with Latin America for a century. The failure of the Braden experiment seems to point to determined and long-term economic measures as the only means of exerting pressure upon the six-year hegemony of Fascism in the colossus of the South.

While the Americans meddled with the political dynamite that blew up in their faces, Peron has proceeded to consolidate his political support and, what is more dangerous, to use Argentine food as a means of intimidating its neighbors. Taking a leaf out of the Nazi textbook, the dictator has brought labor into line with promises that might be taken word-for-word from the Nuremberg harangues of 1932-33. With the centralization of the National Bank, the government now has a percentage of the credits it needs to carry on the military and naval expansion that will divert the Argentines from the things they will not be able to say, the free newspapers they will not be able to read and the great amounts of consumers' goods they will not be able to buy.

In the same weeks the spectre of wheat and meat shipments has forced important oil and rubber concessions out of Peru, a customs union out of Bolivia, and has brought the Peron-sponsored candidates into a favored position in the coming Uruguayan elections. The U.S. may propose hemisphere military cooperation, but unless it supplements surface collaboration with effective economic opposition to Peron, the vital Spanish-speaking belt will be lost to American leadership as it is forced into the orbit of the power state below the Mar Del Plata. The past conduct of the Argentine government during the war is ample illustration of the consequences of this threat during any future emergency. As far as the United States is concerned, Peron is not to be trusted.

At the same time he does not hold all of the chips. The Argentine application for credit at the Chase National Bank in New York shows that under all the bluster, Buenos Aires must use American credits to finance its steel and bullets economy. Coupled with the loan request came a demand for greater American meat imports. The loan should be turned down, the meat imports curtailed beyond the present quota. Neither Kansas farmers nor Polish peasants (who will never get Argentine beef, spoiling while the Strong Man haggles over price) will object to these measures. To give these measures scope, the food concessions offered Argentina's satellite countries by Peron must be matched with make-do grants of consumers' goods until we can manage to fill all of our food commitments.

The State Department, an old hand at economic warfare, chased the Nazi investments out of South America. The same methods can be used to spell doom to the next six years of Juan Peron's experiment in South American fascism.

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