They say that history is an incorruptible judge that in the long run gives its decision for both. 54 years after the coup that evicted him from power, the figure of Arturo Illia It gains more and more prestige and recognition.
Although honesty is one of its political capitals, when it should be normal among public men, it is fair to recognize that Arturo Illia was also an efficient and visionary ruler.
In 1964, given the difficulties in placing an exceptional wheat crop on international markets, Illia made the decision to sell several million tons to Popular China, still governed by Mao Tse Toss, and when the country was not even part of the United Nations (UN). Argentina thus became the first western country to trade with China, and open a market that today is coveted by the entire world. Just six years later, US President Richard Nixon was traveling to China for the same purpose.
With statesman’s vision, Illia considered that the future was in Asia. Without having diplomatic relations with China, the sale operation was carried out without leaving the Government House. There were no bombastic delegations or trade missions. For this, the Argentine president had the help of Josué de Castro, founder of the Nutrition Institute of the University of Brazil, and elected in 1952 president of the Executive Council of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) . Furthermore, the Brazilian manager was one of Mao’s advisers to the Agrarian Reform and had lived in China for several years.
At Illia Castro’s request, he traveled to China and set up the operation. The Chancellor Miguel Ángel Zabala Ortíz and the head of the National Institute of Industrial Technology (Inta) and Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock, Walter Kugler, the latter through the National Grain Board, also intervened.
The sale was carried out with complete success, and the harsh Maoist regime paid for the purchase in pounds sterling in cash, through the Bank of London in Hong Kong, which acted as Chinese financial agent.
Illia intended to pay $ 8 a quintal, so that a profitability would remain for the small producer, but the big marketers offered $ 5.50. By not agreeing, the government carried out the sale directly through the National Grain Board. Logistics was not easy as there were few ports to match the circumstances, and little capacity of silos as private ones were left out of the commercial operation. Everything was finally resolved. The Chinese contributed the ships and paid the freight, and thus the producers received the price that the Argentine president proposed.. In this way, the production capacity of the national agricultural sector expanded with new horizons.
The Argentine president had already warned that the country did not have competitive ports and that it was also necessary to achieve an exit through the Pacific. That is why he managed and managed an interview with Chilean President Eduardo Frey on October 28, 1965 in Mendoza.
“We need a port in the Pacific and we offer one in the Atlantic. You need it to get copper and we need it for grains. Furthermore, Latin American integration is at stake here,” said the Argentine Head of State in said interview. Illia was already thinking of Asian countries, future buyers of Argentina and Latin America. He knew that the future was in Asia. Even Illia and Frei advanced in the formation of an Argentine-Chilean Federation with capital in the city of Córdoba, so that the two countries could commercialize their products across the two oceans..
Exactly eight months after this meeting, a coup d’etat overthrew President Illia and a few years later, two military governments on either side of the mountain range were within minutes of leading the two countries to war.
Argentina had to wait several decades to understand the geopolitical vision of a president who at the same time valued Asian markets and the integrity of Latin America.