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History, World War II

military junta, Axis powers, military group, Allied victory, domestic policies

In July 1940, President Ortiz, unable to function because of illness, designated Vice President Ramon S. Castillo as acting president. A Conservative, Castillo broke with the foreign and domestic policies of his predecessor. At the Pan-American Defense Conference, held at Rio de Janeiro in January 1942, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Argentina and Chile were the only American nations to refuse to sever relations with the Axis powers.

Castillo, who had officially succeeded to the presidency following the resignation of Ortiz in June 1942, was removed from office one year later by a military group headed by General Arturo Rawson, who favored severance of relations with Germany and Japan. On the eve of his assumption of office as provisional president, however, Rawson’s associates forced him to resign. The provisional presidency went to General Pedro Ramirez, one of the leaders of the revolt. Ramirez shortly abolished all political parties, suppressed opposition newspapers, and generally stifled the remnants of democracy in Argentina. In January 1944, in a complete reversal of foreign policy, his government broke diplomatic relations with Japan and Germany.

Fearful that war with Germany was imminent, a military junta, the so-called Colonels, forced Ramirez from office on February 24, 1944. The central figure in the junta was Colonel Juan Domingo Peron, chief of labor relations in the Ramirez regime. Despite protestations of sympathy with the Allied cause, the government continued the policy of suppression of democratic activity and of harboring German agents. In July the U.S. government accused Argentina of aiding the Axis powers. Finally, on March 27, 1945, when Allied victory in Europe was assured, the country declared war on Germany and Japan. In the following month the government signed the Act of Chapultepec, a compact among American nations for mutual aid against aggressors. Argentina, with U.S. sponsorship, became a charter member of the United Nations in June. Shortly afterward, it was announced that elections would be held early in 1946.

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