Hipólito Yrigoyen

Hipólito Yrigoyen
19th and 21st President of Argentina
In office
October 12, 1916  October 11, 1922
Vice President Pelagio Luna
None (1919–22)
Preceded by Victorino de la Plaza
Succeeded by Marcelo T. de Alvear
In office
October 12, 1928  September 6, 1930
Vice President Enrique Martínez
Preceded by Marcelo T. de Alvear
Succeeded by José Félix Uriburu
Personal details
Born July 12, 1852
Buenos Aires
Died July 3, 1933(1933-07-03) (aged 80)
Buenos Aires
Nationality Argentine
Political party Republican Party
Civic Union
Radical Civic Union
Profession Lawyer, farmer, police commissioner, teacher
Religion Roman Catholicism

Juan Hipólito del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Yrigoyen Alem (Spanish pronunciation: [iˈpolito iɾiˈɣoʝen]; July 12, 1852 July 3, 1933) was a two-time President of Argentina (from 1916 to 1922, and again from 1928 to 1930). His activism became the prime impetus behind the obtainment of universal (male) suffrage in Argentina in 1912. Known as “the father of the poor,” Yrigoyen presided over a rise in the standard of living of Argentina's working class[1] together with the passage of a number of progressive social reforms, including improvements in factory conditions, regulation of working hours, compulsory pensions, and the introduction of a universally accessible public education system.[2]

Freedom activist

He was born in Buenos Aires, and worked as a school teacher before entering politics. In 1882 he became a Freemason.[3] In 1891 he co-founded the Radical Civic Union (Unión Cívica Radical), together with his uncle, Leandro Alem. Yrigoyen (he signed that way to distinguish himself from Bernardo de Irigoyen's political ideas) was popularly known as "el peludo" (the hairy armadillo) due to his introverted character and aversion to being seen in public. Following Alem's suicide in 1896, Hipólito Yrigoyen assumed sole leadership of the Radical Civic Union. It adopted a policy of intransigency, a position of total opposition to the regime known as "The Agreement". Established by electoral fraud, this was an agreed formula among the political parties of that time for alternating in power.

The Radical Civic Union took up arms in 1893 and again in 1905. Later, however, Yrigoyen adopted a policy of nonviolence, pursuing instead the strategy of "revolutionary abstention", a total boycott of all polls until 1912, when President Roque Sáenz Peña was forced to agree to the passage of the Sáenz Peña Law, which established secret, universal, and compulsory male suffrage.

First presidency (1916–1922)

Hipólito Yrigoyen's official portrait, 1916.

Yrigoyen was elected President of Argentina in 1916. He frequently found himself hemmed in, however, as the Senate was appointed by the legislatures of the provinces, most of which were controlled by the opposition. Several times, Yrigoyen resorted to federal intervention of numerous provinces by declaring a state of emergency, removing willful governors, and deepening the confrontation with the landed establishment. Pro-Yrigoyen political supporters were known as "personalistas", a blunt suggestion that they were sycophants of Yrigoyen, anti-Yrigoyen elements were known as "anti-personalistas".

Yrigoyen was popular, however, among middle and working class voters, who felt integrated for the first time in political process, and the Argentinian economy prospered under his leadership. Yrigoyen preserved Argentine neutrality during World War I, which turned out to be a boon, owing to higher beef prices and the opening up of many new markets to Argentina's primary exports (meat and cereals). Yrigoyen also promoted energy independence for the rapidly growing country, obtaining Congressional support for the establishment of the YPF state oil concern, and appointing as its first director General Enrique Mosconi, the most prominent advocate for industrialization in the Argentine military at the time. Generous credit and subsidies were also extended to small farmers, while Yrigoyen settled wage disputes in favour of the unions.[4]

Following four years of recession caused by war-related shortages of credit and supplies, the Argentine economy experienced significant economic growth, expanding by over 40% from 1917 to 1922. Argentina was known as "the granary of the world", its gross domestic product per capita placing it among the wealthiest nations on earth.[5] Yrigoyen also expanded the bureaucracy and increased public spending to support his urban constituents following an economic crisis in 1919, although the rise in urban living standards was gained at the cost of higher inflation, which adversely affected the export economy.[6] Constitutionally barred from re-election, Yrigoyen was succeeded by Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear.

Second presidency (1928–1930)

On the expiration of Alvear's term in 1928, Yrigoyen was overwhelmingly elected President for the second time. In December of that year, U.S. President-elect Herbert Hoover visited Argentina on a goodwill tour, meeting with President Yrigoyen on policies regarding trade and tariffs. Radical anarchist elements attempted to assassinate Hoover by attempting to place a bomb near his rail car, but the bomber was arrested before he could complete his work. President Yrigoyen accompanied Hoover thereafter as a personal guarantee of safety until he left the country.

In his late seventies, he found himself surrounded by aides who censored his access to news reports, hiding from him the reality of the effects of the Great Depression, which hit towards the end of 1929. On December 24 of this year he survived an assassination attempt.

Fascist and conservative sectors of the army plotted openly for a regime change, as did Standard Oil of New Jersey, who opposed both the president's efforts to curb oil smuggling from Salta Province to Bolivia, as well as the existence of YPF, itself.[7] On September 6, 1930, Yrigoyen was deposed in a military coup led by General José Félix Uriburu. This was the first military coup since the adoption of the Argentine constitution. After the coup d'état Enrique Pérez Colman, minister of finance in the Yrigoyen cabinet; General Moscini, former director of oil fields; General Baldrich and a number of Yrigoyenist deputies were under arrest by the provisional government of General Uriburu. The new government of Uriburu adopted the most severe measures to prevent reprisals and counter-revolutionary tactics by friends of the ousted administration of ex-president Hipólito Yrigoyen. The aforementioned Yrigoyenist personalities were later released. [8]

Ministry Minister Period
Ministry of Interior Elpidio González 12th of October 1928 - 6th of September 1930
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Horacio Oyhanarte 12th of October 1928 - 6th of September 1930
Ministry of Finance Enrique Pérez Colman 12th of October 1928 - 6th of September 1930
Ministry of Justice and Education Juan de la Campa 12th of October 1928 - 6th of September 1930
Ministry of Agriculture Juan B. Fleitas 12th of October 1928 - 6th of September 1930
Ministry of Public Works José Benjamín Ábalos 12th of October 1928 - 6th of September 1930
Ministry of War Luis Dellepiane 12th of October 1928 - 3th of September 1930
Ministry of Admiralty Tomás Zurueta 12th of October 1928 - 6th of September 1930

Late life

After his overthrow, Yrigoyen was placed under house arrest and confined several times to Isla Martín García. He died in Buenos Aires in 1933.

Hipólito Yrigoyen was buried in La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Political offices
Preceded by
Victorino de la Plaza
President of Argentina
Succeeded by
Marcelo T. de Alvear
Preceded by
Marcelo T. de Alvear
President of Argentina
Succeeded by
José Félix Uriburu


  1. Argentina: The Bradt Travel Guide by Erin McCloskey and Tim Burford
  2. Argentina: The Bradt Travel Guide by Erin McCloskey and Tim Burford
  3. The Penguin History of Latin America by Edwin Williamson
  4. Lewis, John. The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism. University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
  5. The Penguin History of Latin America by Edwin Williamson
  6. Wirth, John. The Oil Business in Latin America. Beard Books, 2001.
  7. Associated Press Despatch. New Govt. Takes Speedy Action Against Enemy. Ottawa Citizen, Sep 9 1930

See also

External links

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