Interview with former UCR youth leader Jesús Rodríguez, a lawmaker who witnessed the dramatic events of the carapintada uprising firsthandThursday, April 13, 2017
‘Even a spark could have started a fire’
For the Herald
In 1987, Jesús Rodríguez was 32 years old and the chairman of the Budget Commission in Congress. He stayed at the Campo de Mayo military base in Buenos Aires Province while president Raúl Alfonsín met lieutenant-colonel Aldo Rico there. He tried to keep people out of the Infantry School.
“I learned about the crisis on the Thursday (April 16), very early (in the morning), when I was informed and called to the Pink House to be with the president,” he reminisces.
What was it like at the Campo de Mayo?
I went by car with César Jaroslavsky, the leader of the UCR caucus in Congress. It was after Alfonsín’s first speech in the Plaza de Mayo. He got there first, by helicopter. There were a lot of people, with no political direction. They had gone there spontaneously.
So you tried to keep the situation under control while Alfonsín was inside?
Exactly. We tried to keep them far away from the doors. They were just a few steps away from the officers, who were armed and had their faces painted. Meanwhile, we had no idea what was going on between Alfonsín and Rico.
How did you find out about the end of the crisis?
I heard about it on the radio. Alfonsín was already back in Buenos Aires (City) and made the announcement. So, people started to sing the national anthem and left.
How much tension was in there during those hours?
Lots. Even a spark could have started a fire. We helped to avoid any problems, as did (Peronist leader) Antonio Cafiero.
Was the defeat in the 1987 election a consequence of the crisis and the Due Obedience Law?
I don’t see it that way. We won Buenos Aires City, for instance. It may have affected other people, yes, and how the law got passed was complicated, because it was already announced before the uprising, but many people seemed to view it as a sellout, or as the result of pressure from the military. In fact, Rico was arrested immediately, on that Sunday evening.
Was that crisis the most challenging moment for the nation since 1983?
It was probably more challenging than the 1985 trial, because it was a consequence of our human rights policy. The key was the people on the streets. Without that, we might have faced a coup.