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Template:Fascism sidebar The Movimiento Nacionalista Tacuara (MNT, Tacuara Nationalist Movement) was an Argentine far right group in the 1960s, which, after having violently opposed Peronism, later integrated Juan Perón's right-wing “Special Formations”. Linked to the more conservative sectors of the Peronist movement, and directly inspired by Julio Meinvielle's Catholic predications, Tacuara defended nationalist, Catholic, anti-communist, antisemitic and anti-democratic ideas, and had as its first model Primo de Rivera's fascist Falange. Its main leaders were Alberto Ezcurra Medrano, Joe Baxter, Oscar Denovi and Eduardo Rosa. The Tacuara movement became the street and political university for many young people, and various contradictory tendencies emerged from this group, spanning from the far-right to the far-left. After three important splits in the early 1960s, both contradictory tendencies of the group were dismantled by the police in the same month of March 1964. A year later, President Arturo Illia (UCR) outlawed the MNT. Composed of right-wing young people from wealthy backgrounds, it has been called the "first urban guerrilla group in Argentina".[1]

A "tacuara" was an improvised weapon used by gaucho militias during the Argentine war of independence. It consisted of a knife tied to a stalk of sugarcane, resulting in a rudimentary lance.

1957 creation and antecedents

Tacuara was officially created at the end of 1957, first under the name of Grupo Tacuara de la Juventud Nacionalista (Tacuara Group of Nationalist Youth), then under its current name. It was mostly formed by young offspring of Buenos Aires’ high and medium bourgeoisie (almost all males), who were active in the Unión de Estudiantes Nacionalistas Secundarios (UNES) students’ union and the Alianza de la Juventud Nacionalista (Alliance of Nationalist Youth). Although strongest in Buenos Aires, during its peak the group spread all over the country, especially in Rosario, Santa Fe and Tandil. They used their own publications and various nationalist reviews for propaganda of their ideas.

The first issue of Tacuara review was published in 1945, during the military government headed by Edelmiro Farrell, by a group of students affiliated to the UNES.[2] Argentina, an important economic power at the beginning of the 20th century, had been drastically affected by the 1929 Great Depression. Furthermore - as in other parts of the world - it was affected by a wave of authoritarianism, whilst Argentine nationalism was influenced by Fascism and Nazism. This influence was reinforced by the arrival of Nazi exiles fleeing from Germany after 1945.

Ideology

The Tacuara inherited from the UNES’ aesthetics, inspired by Nazi parades and rituals. They called each other “comrades”, instead of using their first names (and using ‘tutearse’, i.e. addressing each other informally with “tu” and “te”). With almost-shaved hair, they used grey armbands with the insignia of the Knights of Malta.

Formed by youth brought up in military high-schools and religious schools, the Tacuaras took advantage of the conflict issued from the enactment of the law on secularization of schools a few years earlier. They advocated reestablishment of Catholic teaching, suppressed by Perón's government before his overthrow in 1955 by General Aramburu, and struggled against “Judaism” and the left-wing. They opposed what they named “liberal democracy” and admired Hitler and Mussolini. Inspired by Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish Falange, "Tacuara rejected elections and the parliamentary system, were strongly anti-Marxist, revindicated social justice, proclaimed the Fatherland's and the Catholic religion's superiority over any other violence and exalted violence as a form of permanent mobilization."[3]

From 1945 to Frondizi (1958)

When Juan Perón acceded to the presidency for the first time in 1945, nationalists in Argentina debated on whether to support him or not. At first, most decided to join him. However, two events pushed them apart from him: first, the Acta de Chapultepec (signed by Edelmiro Farrel, it was to be approved in 1947), which was a plan aimed at Latin America's integration under the leadership of the USA. Perón was publicly strongly opposed to it but was rumored to be considering acceding, under pressure from military and business interests. Nationalists organized a protest against it, which ended with 200 being jailed. The Peronist John William Cooke, and the radical Arturo Frondizi (who became President under the banner of the Radical Civic Union, opposed to Peronism) supported this movement, among others.

Agitation continued. On April 15, 1953, two bombs exploded in the Casa Rosada, seat of government, killing five. Perón ordered a reprisal raid. The second event which pushed various nationalists to oppose Perón was his suppression of mandatory Catholic education in 1954. Thus, the nationalists acclaimed Eduardo Lonardi's arrival by plane at the cries of Cristo Vence (Christ Victorious), after the so-called Revolución Libertadora which ousted Perón in September 1955. However, as early as 1956, the nationalists turned again towards the opposition, upset by General Aramburu's control of the junta – Aramburu bringing with him the old liberal establishment.[2]

When democratically elected president Arturo Frondizi acceded to power, in 1958, he enforced a nonreligious education program, alongside his brother, Risieri Frondizi, rector of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). This new attack against Clericalism prompted a violent response from the Catholic nationalist sectors. Created the year before, the Tacuara movement took advantage of the weakening of the Peronism movement (with Perón in exile in Franquist Spain) and became one of the most important opposition force. It was hence at its strongest between 1960 and 1962, attracting many young people who later took various political itineraries. These include a nationalist and anti-imperialist born to working class immigrants Joe Baxter, (who later founded the ERP guevarist guerrillas); Alberto Ignacio Ezcurra Uriburu, who had been expelled from the Jesuits and remained a staunch defender of the radical right line... Moisés Ikonicoff, a Jewish socialist who had also opposed Peronism in 1955, was also sometimes present in the reunions of the Tacuaras. And Carlos Mugica, a young theology teacher, who broke with the group after supporting Che Guevara as a courageous man, and finally turned toward Peronism (before being murdered by the Triple A death squad in 1974). Three brothers named Guevara Lynch, who turned out to be cousins of the Che, also participated in the movement.

1960s splits

However, the Tacuaras split between 1960 and 1963 over ideological axis.

Lots of the new members were attracted by Peronism, while some of the old leaders were starting a slow and progressive process of ideological transformation towards Peronism and the left-wing. The 1959 Cuban Revolution was a major change and an axis of division between political forces. Joe Baxter was fascinated by the Cuban experience and its stand against the USA — which only became complete in 1961, when Fidel Castro announced his choice in favor of socialism. At that time, Alberto Ezcurra and his followers became serious opponents of the Cuban revolution. Furthermore, many activists struggled alongside the trade-unions and associated themselves with the Peronist Youth (JP), which wasn’t well viewed in all sectors of the Tacuaras.

Thus, in March 1960, the priest Meinvielle, opposed to the alliance with Peronism, accused the original core of Marxist deviations. Meinvielle then created the Guardia Restauradora Nacionalista (GRN) which demanded European ascendency and more than five generations of residence in Argentina to become a member of it.[4] The creation of Meinvielle's GRN marked the first split, whilst they maintained the most radical line of Ultracatholicism, antisemitism, taking as motto "Dios, Patria y Hogar" (God, Fatherland and Home) and as model José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Spanish fascist Falange.

A bit later, Dardo Cabo headed another split, forming the Movimiento Nueva Argentina (MNA, Movement New Argentina), which struggled for Perón's return from exile. The MNA was one of the first right-wing Peronist organizations, and was officially launched on June 9, 1961, in commemoration of General Juan José Valle's Peronist uprising in 1956. It became the ancestor of all modern Catholic nationalist groups in Argentina.[4]

During the visit of Dwight Eisenhower to Argentina, in February 1962 (Eisenhower had been until 1961 President of the United States), the Tacuara headed nationalist demonstrations against him, leading to the imprisonment of several of their leaders, among whom Joe Baxter.[5]

During the 1962 elections, Tacuara presented candidates in Buenos Aires city and in Entre Ríos through the Unión Cívica Nacionalista (Civic Nationalist Union). However, sectors headed by Joe Baxter and José Luis Nell decided to join the Peronist movement (Justicialist party) believing in its revolutionary capacities. With Perón in exile, the movement named after him attracted people from various backgrounds – the ambiguity would be lifted only with his return, during the 1973 Ezeiza Massacre. In 1963, after the Aramburu decree which banned even the use of Perón's name, and the subsequent prohibition of Peronism because of its success at the previous elections, Joe Baxter and José Luis Nell created the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario Tacuara (MNRT, Revolutionary Nationalist Tacuara Movement) which, without forsaking nationalism, cut away from the Church, the right-wing and antisemitism. Baxter's MNRT became progressively more left-wing and attracted by Marxism. Many of the Montoneros and of the ERP's leaders would come from this party.

On the other hand, Ezcurra's MNT was expecting a military coup. His group progressively became more and more instrumentalized by the secret services in the framework of a strategy of tension which was to justify the repression of the left-wing.[2]

Operations

The Tacuara maintained contacts with the police as well as with some former Nazi bureaucrats exiled in Argentina, which helped them gain easy access to weapons, an advantage which put them apart from other political organizations. They were also engaged in racket, demanding a “revolutionary tax” from many Jewish shops in the Once neighborhood of Buenos Aires, at least until the shops organized themselves to confront the Tacuara together.

At first mainly engaged in street-fights with other rival students’ organizations, in particular concerning the conflict between nonreligious and religious schooling, the Tacuara also engaged in antisemitic acts (profanations in the Jewish cemetery of La Tablada in 1959, etc.). The Tacuara's antisemitism became even stronger after Adolf Eichmann's May 1960 kidnapping by the MOSSAD, Israel's intelligence agency, leading to a violent antisemitic campaign which lasted until 1964, when the MNT was almost completely dismantled.[4]. This led the Jewish association DAIA to pressure the government to taking actions against Tacuara.

The peak was reached on August 17, 1960, when Tacuaras from Sarmiento National High-school attacked Jewish schoolmates and injured a 15-year-old, Edgardo Trilnik, during the celebrations in honor of San Martín, Argentina's libertador or liberator. From then on, the Tacuaras engaged in bombings against synagogues and Jewish institutions, hundreds of antisemitic graffiti, and other intimidatory acts.[4]

Following Eichmann's execution in 1962, the Tacuaras launched 30 antisemitic attacks. On June 21, 1962, they kidnapped a 19 year-old Jewish girl, Graciela Sirota, tortured her and scarred her with Swastika signs.[4] In retaliation against this odious act, which raised public outrage, the DAIA stopped on June 28, 1962 all the activities of Jewish trade, supported by students (many high-schools went on strike) and various political organizations, trade-unions and intellectuals.

These violent actions finally led the government to issue decree 3134/63 which prohibited, in 1963, any Tacuara or GRN activity. However, the influence of the secret services practically countered this decree.

Some members of the MNRT became famous on August 29, 1963, by assaulting the Policlínico Bancario bank, stealing 14 million pesos (equivalent to 100,000 US dollars), a fortune at the time. Two employees were killed in the assault and three injured. This was the first armed political action carried on by an exclusively civil group in Argentina's history, making of the Tacuara the "first urban guerrilla group in Argentina" according to Daniel Gutman.[6][7] However, the police finally traced down the robbers and practically dismantled the MNRT. Most imprisoned activists were freed in May 1973, when center-left (and Peronist) president Héctor Cámpora issued a broad amnesty decree for all political prisoners.

The MNT was invited by the Peronist trade-unions to the CGT's assembly in Rosario in 1964 in order to counter the left-wing. However, in obscure circumstances, gunshots in a closed environment led to the death of two Tacuara activists and one Peronist Youth member. The Tacuaras then retaliated by murdering Raúl Alterman, a Jewish communist chosen only on the basis of his background. This assassination again raised national public outrage, and Joe Baxter, former Tacuara activist who had formed the MNRT, publicly denounced Ezcurra's Nazi ideology on a media show hosted by Bernardo Neustadt. Rodolfo Barra, Justice Minister of Carlos Menem, was forced to resign in 1996 on charges that he had participated to the assassination.[2]

Decline

After the 1963 Policlinico Bancario assault and the 1964 murder of Raúl Alterman, many Tacuaras were arrested or forced into hiding. Thus, in the same month, March 1964, the two rival branches of Tacuaras (MNRT and MNR), were dismantled. The group was officially outlawed in 1965 under president Arturo Illia (UCR). After having met Perón, fought in Vietnam (against the US) and traveled to China, Joe Baxter, one of the founders of the MNT, turned toward the revolutionary left-wing and finally became one of the co-founders of the ERP, alongside Mario Roberto Santucho. He ultimately died on 11 July 1973 in a plane-crash in France .[5]

José Luis Nell, another Tacuara leader, joined the FAR-Montoneros left-wing group. He became a paraplegic after being injured during the 1973 Ezeiza massacre on the day of Perón's return from 20 years of exile, and finally committed suicide two years later.

On the other hand, Alberto Ezcurra Uriburu, who was one of the strongest proponent of antisemitism, became a priest at the end of 1964 and left the organization's direction in the hands of Patricio Collins. Ezcurra would later work for the secret services, and then for the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (Triple A) death squad and the Batallón de Inteligencia 601 elite military secret service squad.

Dardo Cabo later joined the Vandorista trade-union. Alongside three activists, Dardo Cabo also hijacked a plane belong to Aerolíneas Argentinas in 1966, to bring it to the Falkland Islands, where he planted an Argentine flag. He was later killed by the military, whilst held in detention on January 6, 1977.

Endnotes

  1. Daniel Gutman, Tacuara, historia de la primera guerrilla urbana argentina
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Violencia política en Argentina: Tacuara, a summary of Daniel Gutman's book, Tacuara. Historia de la primera guerrilla urbana argentina (Ediciones B Argentina, 2003) (Spanish)
  3. Daniel Gutman, Tacuara. Historia de la primera guerrilla urbana argentina (Ediciones B Argentina, 2003, p.58)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Tacuara salió a la calle, Página/12, May 15, 2005 (Spanish)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Baxter, José Luis entry at the Dictionary of Irish Latin American Biography (English)
  6. Daniel Gutman, Tacuara, historia de la primera guerrilla urbana argentina
  7. El sangriento golpe del grupo Tacuara, El Clarín, April 12, 2004 (Spanish)

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