Images of a proposed design for new banknotes have been published online depicting Argentina’s new 5,000-peso, which is scheduled for circulation next month. The design has generated great interest and derision as the decision to print these banknotes bears the likeness of a doctor who expressed support for Nazi ideology and backed Josef Mengele’s experiments on Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz during the Second World War. Dr. Ramon Carrillo (1906-1956) was a renowned doctor of sanitation who gained notoriety as Argentina’s first Minister of Health from 1949 until 1954, during the administration of President Juan Peron. He was a neurosurgeon and gold medal recipient at the Medical School in Buenos Aires. Carillo is remembered for his successful sanitation campaigns and which during his eight years as Health Minister, he oversaw the opening of 244 hospitals, he headed a campaign which ended malaria, and also helped to bring down the tuberculosis death rate while extinguishing an epidemic of bubonic plague in Buenos Aires. His activities saw him travelling the country for four months each year by train to extend national health care policies. Carrillo’s controversial and dark side, however, has also come to the forefront of this dispute, as he also believed in eugenics, with the idea of achieving the perfect fighting soldier. He also helped to develop methamphetamine, or “speed,” which was instrumental in combatting fatigue in German troops.
However, according to the surviving family of Carillo, they have rejected that Dr. Carillo was ever a Nazi sympathiser. Facundo Carrillo, the grandson of the former minister, denies his grandfather ever supported the work of the Nazi regime, and, as proof of this assertion, provided evidence of a silver chest that the State of Israel gave his grandfather in 1954, when he left public office. The present was delivered by the-then Israeli Health Minister, Joseph Serlin, in recognition of Dr. Carillo’s work in public health, as well as his support for the recognition of the newly-formed Jewish state.
The image is also accompanied by the image of Argentina’s first woman to receive a medical degree, Cecilia Grierson (1859–1934), who earned her accreditation as a physician in 1885. Born into an Irish-Scottish family, she first became a teacher while living in the province of Entre Rios and in Uruguay before registering as the first woman at the all-male Argentine School of Medicine. Also depicted on the face of the banknote as part of the background design is the Malbran Institute, which is Argentina’s main microbiology laboratory.
As Argentina once again experiences an economic crisis and conditions of hyperinflation not seen since the late 1980s, the peso is currently at unsustainable exchange rates against the U.S. dollar. As a consequence, the Argentine government has authorised the printing of new higher-value banknotes depicting several notable Argentinians from the country’s history. Argentine government officials confirmed that the banknotes had been printed with the likeness of Carrillo. The bills are scheduled for release in June, but following the controversy surrounding their proposed issue, their release may either be postponed or scrapped entirely.
Presently, a family of colourful vertically-designed banknotes, first issued in 2016, depict animal life indigenous to Argentina, in addition to flora and fauna. The largest note currently circulating is the 1,000-peso banknote with an exchange rate value of U.S. $14.70. The 5,000-peso note would currently represent U.S. $73.50. For additional information about Argentinian banknotes and coins, please visit the website of the Banco Central de la Republica Argentina.
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