September 23, 2014
Former Raúl Alfonsín Official Aldo Neri Talks To The HeraldThursday, January 9, 2014
An ambitious project that goes back to the ‘80s
Julián Domínguez’s suggestion to move the capital to Northern Argentina conjured memory of late former president Raúl Alfonsín’s proposal of turning Viedma, Río Negro’s capital city, into the the capital of the country.
Former Health minister Aldo Neri was the man appointed in 1986 by Alfonsín to lead the so-called National Commission for the development of Patagonia and the transfer of the republic’s capital to Viedma.
Neri talked to the Herald yesterda, expressing his opinion on Domínguez’s project and highlighting the differences with the one sponsored in the 1980s by the Radical party (UCR) party.
“I’m not familiar with his project but the important thing is not where the capital city is suggested to be located, in the south or in the north — the important thing is reopening the discussion,” Neri told the Herald.
The two main political parties in the country have made suggestions to move the capital elsewhere. Now, it was Domínguez who suggested moving it north. On the other hand, Radical leaders were planning to take it to the south of the country.
“Alfonsín made that proposal because he was a statesman,” Neri highlighted as he started to explain the proposal.
Less than three years after he took office, Alfonsín made an unexpected announcement: he wanted to take the capital to Viedma.
“Alfonsín knew that Argentina has always been a centralized country. Two thirds of the GDP is in Buenos Aires province and the coast, which also means that political power is concentrated there,” Neri recalled the grounds of the bill, which then became a national law that was never applied.
“We did not just want to move the Government House, we wanted to increase federalism and to make it real rather than nominal,” he added. Viedma is the first city between Buenos Aires and the Patagonia region. For that reason, Viedma could have operated as a bridge between the two areas and as a region where roads were also acceptable, so that industries could also set up shop.
Neri said that they were not following any other example in the Southern Cone but that they had analyzed Brazil’s decision to make Brasilia its political capital.
Alfonsín’s proposal hit the headlines for some time but the national situation did not help turn it into a reality. The economy was doing badly as inflation soared. The government was also facing military uprisings while judges were trying to make certain military officers accountable for the crimes perpetrated during the last dictatorship that ruled the country before Alfonsín was elected. In that period, the government ended up sponsoring the Full Stop and Due Obedience laws to prevent military and police agents from being taken to court and to alleviate the heavy political atmosphere.
“The project was good,” Neri highlighted and added: “I’m sure it’s going to be revived.” But Neri made it clear that he did not know if he would support Domínguez’s idea: “I’m afraid it’s an opportunistic proposal.”