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The National Front Against Poverty: The Struggle for Income Redistribution


  • Luis Ernesto Campos CONICET



This article describes the campaign developed by unions, human rights organisations and other social movements in Argentina at the end of the 1990s in order to push the government to implement measures to eliminate poverty and extreme poverty. It also refers to the results of this campaign in the following years, highlighting not only its direct impact but also its indirect consequences in the medium term, in particular on the public debates related to the social policies implemented by the new centre–left government since 2003. This campaign, popularly known as FRENAPO (National Front Against Poverty), was organised in the context of the implementation of neo-liberal macroeconomic policies in Argentina, which led the country to the biggest crisis in its history at the end of 2001. The members of the campaign proposed a package of economic and social measures oriented to unemployed workers (a basic income grant plus a professional education scheme), to the children and to the elderly (a basic income grant for both). The proposal was supported in a referendum by more than three million people all over the country during December 2001, but it was not considered by the Parliament. Although the alliance that supported FRENAPO eventually crumbled, the campaign was successful in its objective of influencing the public debates on how to respond to poverty and extreme poverty. Several measures implemented by the new centre–left government since 2003 were inspired by those debates, particularly those aimed at guaranteeing an income for children and the elderly. This article analyses the context of the campaign, identifies its concrete goals, origins and members, and explains how FRENAPO built power in order to achieve those objectives. Finally, it addresses the main consequences of FRENAPO, both in the short and long term, and highlights its lessons for future campaigns.