Alfredo Bravo

Popular Argentine socialist leader who lived to see the disintegration of his party
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Alfredo Pedro Bravo, teacher and politician: born Concepción del Uruguay, Argentina 30 April 1925; married 1952 Marta Isabel Beccerini (two sons, one daughter); died Buenos Aires 26 May 2003.

Alfredo Bravo was one of Argentina's few well-liked politicians and the last of the veteran leaders of the ailing Socialist Party.

Much of the high regard Bravo was held in originated in his life as a rural teacher, a job he held from his 18th birthday in schools in the northern Chaco, and in his defence of human rights during the military dictatorship of the 1970s. In September 1977 he was abducted from his class in an adult education school, tortured savagely for seven days, and then held without trial for two years. During the trials of the armed forces commanders in 1985, his testimony secured the imprisonment of the former chief of police who had tortured him.

In 1984, with the return of constitutional government, he had been made an education under-secretary, but resigned from the job when the former president Raul Alfonsín stopped the trials of military personnel in 1987, under a "law of due obedience" which protected lower ranks from prosecution. Bravo entered Congress for the first time soon afterwards.

A few days before his death, Bravo had written a long letter to his dwindling party membership taking full responsibility for the failure in Argentina's presidential elections on 27 April (when the Socialists took less than 2 per cent of the vote nationwide). He was one of only two Socialists in the Chamber of Deputies and the party's public image largely turned on his fame. The message to members also regretted that the party had chosen the wrong allies in the last two elections and had to walk out of its alliances.

Bravo had joined the Socialist Party at 17, in 1942, and had risen through its ranks, remaining in the main branch when it split into three different factions, eventually to secure a reunited party a few years ago, which he bitterly watched break up again soon after. For years the party had been a club for some of the country's most prominent intellectuals but, in an age of "populism", it had lost its following. Bravo's final letter to party members was as much an obituary for socialism in Argentina as his own farewell.

Andrew Graham-Yooll