The Argentine military seized political power during the March 1976 coup over the presidency of Isabel Perón, widow of former President Juan Domingo Perón; a time of state terrorism against civilians started, with the dictatorship labeling its own use of torture, extrajudicial murder and systematic forced disappearances as "a Dirty War". After starting and then losing the Falklands War to the United Kingdom in 1982, the military junta faced mounting public opposition and finally relinquished power in 1983.
Almost all of the surviving Junta members are currently serving sentences for crimes against humanity and genocide.
The military has always been highly influential in Argentine politics, and Argentine history is laced with frequent and prolonged intervals of military rule. The popular Argentine leader, Juan Perón, three-time President of Argentina, was a colonel in the army who first came to political power in the aftermath of a 1943 military coup. He advocated a new policy dubbed Justicialism, a nationalist policy which he claimed was a "Third Position," an alternative to both capitalism and communism. After being re-elected to the office of president by popular vote, Perón was deposed and exiled by the Revolución Libertadora in 1955.
After a series of weak governments, and a seven-year military government, Perón returned to Argentina in 1973, following 18 years exile in Francoist Spain, amidst escalating political unrest, divisions in the Peronist movement, and frequent outbreaks of political violence. His return was marked by 20 June 1973 Ezeiza massacre, after which the right-wing of the Peronist movement became dominant.
Peron was democratically elected President in 1973, but died in July 1974. His vice president and third wife, Isabel Martínez de Perón, succeeded him, but she proved to be a weak, ineffectual ruler. A number of revolutionary organizations – chief among them Montoneros, a group of far-left Peronists – escalated their wave of political violence (including kidnappings and bombings) against the campaign of harsh repressive and retaliatory measures enforced by the military and the police. In addition, right-wing paramilitary groups entered the cycle of violence, such as the Triple A death squad, founded by José López Rega, Perón's Minister of Social Welfare and a member of the P2 masonic lodge. The situation escalated until Mrs. Perón was overthrown. She was replaced on 24 March 1976 by a military junta led by Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla.
Official investigations undertaken after the end of the Dirty War by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons documented 8,961 desaparecidos (victims of forced disappearance) and other human rights violations, noting that the correct number is bound to be higher. Many cases were never reported, when whole families were disappeared, and the military destroyed many of its records months before the return of democracy. Among the "disappeared" were pregnant women, who were kept alive until giving birth under often primitive circumstances in the secret prisons. The infants were generally illegally adopted by military or political families affiliated with the administration, and the mothers were generally killed. Thousands of detainees were drugged, loaded into aircraft, stripped naked and then thrown into the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean to drown in what became known as "death flights."
The film The Official Story (1984), which won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Film category in 1985, addresses this situation. The Argentine secret service SIDE (Secretaría de Inteligencia del Estado) also cooperated with the DINA in Pinochet's Chile and other South American intelligence agencies. Eight South American nations supported endeavours to eradicate left-leaning terrorist groups on the continent, known as Operation Condor. It is estimated to have caused the deaths of more than 60,000 people. SIDE also trained – for example in the Honduran Lepaterique base – the Nicaraguan Contras who were fighting the Sandinista government there.
The regime shut down the legislature and restricted both freedom of the press and freedom of speech, adopting severe media censorship. The 1978 World Cup, which Argentina hosted and won, was used as a means of propaganda and to rally its people under a nationalist pretense.
Corruption, a failing economy, growing public awareness of the harsh repressive measures taken by the regime, and the military defeat in the Falklands War, eroded the public image of the regime. The last de facto president, Reynaldo Bignone, was forced to call for elections by the lack of support within the Army and the steadily growing pressure of public opinion. On 30 October 1983, elections were held, and democracy was formally restored on 10 December with President Raúl Alfonsín being sworn into office.
As Argentina’s new de facto president, Videla faced a collapsing economy racked by soaring inflation. He largely left economic policies in the hands of Minister José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, who adopted a free trade and deregulatory economic policy.
Martínez de Hoz took measures to restore economic growth, reversing Peronism in favour of a free market economy. His economic measures were moderately successful.
He enjoyed the personal friendship of David Rockefeller, who facilitated Chase Manhattan Bank and International Monetary Fund loans of nearly US$1 billion after of his arrival.
He eliminated all The Official Story (1984), which won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Film category in 1985, addresses this situation. The Argentine secret service SIDE (Secretaría de Inteligencia del Estado) also cooperated with the DINA in Pinochet's Chile and other South American intelligence agencies. Eight South American nations supported endeavours to eradicate left-leaning terrorist groups on the continent, known as Operation Condor. It is estimated to have caused the deaths of more than 60,000 people. SIDE also trained – for example in the Honduran Lepaterique base – the Nicaraguan Contras who were fighting the Sandinista government there.
The regime shut down the legislature and restricted both freedom of the press and The regime shut down the legislature and restricted both freedom of the press and freedom of speech, adopting severe media censorship. The 1978 World Cup, which Argentina hosted and won, was used as a means of propaganda and to rally its people under a nationalist pretense.
Martínez de Hoz took measures to restore economic growth, reversing Peronism in favour of a free market economy. His economic measures were moderately
He eliminated all price controls and the exchange controls regime. The black market and shortages disappeared.
He freed exports (removed existing prohibitions and quotas and export taxes were repealed) and imports (removed existing prohibitions, quotas, and licenses and gradually reduced import tariffs).
During his tenure, the foreign debt increased fourfold, and disparities between the upper and lower classes became much more pronounced. The period ended in a tenfold devaluation and one of the worst financial crisis in Argentine history.
Viola appointed Lorenzo Sigaut as Finance Minister, and it became clear that Sigaut were looking for ways to reverse some of the economic policies of Videla's minister José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz. Notably, Sigaut abandoned the sliding exchange rate mechanism and devalued the peso, after boasting that "they who gamble on the dollar, will lose". Argentines braced for a recession after the excesses of the sweet money years, which destabilized Viola's position.
He appointed conservative economist and publisher Roberto Alemann as Economy Minister. Alemann inherited an economy in deep recession in the aftermath of José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz's economic policies of the late 1970s. Alemann slashed spending, began selling off government-owned industries (with only minor success), enacted a tight monetary policy, and ordered salaries frozen (amid 130% inflation).
The Central Bank Circular 1050, which tied mortgage rates to the value of the US dollar locally, was maintained, however, leading to further deepening of the crisis; GDP fell by 5%, and business investment by 20% over the weakened levels of 1981.
Bignone chose Domingo Cavallo to head the Argentine Central Bank. Cavallo inherited a foreign debt installment guarantee program that shielded billions of private debt from the collapse of the peso, costing the treasury billions. He instituted controls over the facility, such as the indexation of payments, but this move and the rescission of Circular 1050 threw the banking sector against him; Cavallo and Dagnino Pastore were replaced in August.
The President of the Central Bank, Julio González del Solar, undid many of these controls, transferring billions more in private foreign debt to the Central Bank, though he stopped short of reinstating the hated "1050."
Six years of intermittent wage freezes had left real wages close to 40% lower than during Perón's tenure, leading to growing labor unrest. Bignone's decision to restore limited rights of speech and right to assembly, including the right to strike, led to increased strike activity. Saúl Ubaldini, leader of the General Confederation of Labour, Argentina's largest labor union, was particularly active. The new Economy Minister, Jorge Wehbe, a banking executive with previous experience in the post, reluctantly granted two large, mandatory wage increases in late 1982.
The United States provided military assistance to the junta and, at the start of the Dirty War, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave them a "green light" to engage in political repression of real or perceived opponents.
The US Congress approved a request by the Ford Administration, to grant $50,000,000 in security assistance to the junta. In 1977 and 1978 the United States sold more than $120,000,000 in spare military parts to Argentina, and in 1977 the US Department of Defense granted $700,000 to train 217 Argentine military officers.
But the new president Jimmy Carter in 1978 secured a congressional cutoff of all US arms transfers for the human rights violations.
U.S Argentina relations improved dramatically with Ronald Reagan, which asserted that the previous Carter Administration had weakened US diplomatic relationships with Cold War allies in Argentina, and reversed the previous administration's official condemnation of the junta's human rights practices.
The re-establishment of diplomatic ties allowed for CIA collaboration with the Argentine intelligence service in arming and training the Nicaraguan Contras against the Sandinista government. Argentina also provided security advisors, intelligence training and some material support to forces in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to suppress local rebel groups as part of a U.S.-sponsored program called Operation Charly.
Following a decree of President Alfonsín mandating prosecution of the leaders of the Proceso for acts committed durin
Following a decree of President Alfonsín mandating prosecution of the leaders of the Proceso for acts committed during their tenure, they were tried and convicted in 1985. (Juicio a las Juntas). In 1989, President Carlos Menem pardoned them during his first year in office, which was highly controversial. He said the pardons were part of healing the country. The Argentine Supreme Court declared amnesty laws unconstitutional in 2005. As a result, the government resumed trials against military officers who had been indicted for actions during the Dirty War.
Adolfo Scilingo, an Argentine naval officer during the junta, was tried for his role in jettisoning drugged and naked political dissidents from military aircraft to their deaths in the Atlantic Ocean during the junta years. He was convicted in Spain in 2005 of <
Adolfo Scilingo, an Argentine naval officer during the junta, was tried for his role in jettisoning drugged and naked political dissidents from military aircraft to their deaths in the Atlantic Ocean during the junta years. He was convicted in Spain in 2005 of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 640 years in prison. The sentence was later raised to 1080 years.
Cristian Von Wernich, a Catholic priest and former chaplain of the Buenos Aires Province Police, was arrested in 2003 on accusations of torture of political prisoners in illegal detention centers. He was convicted at trial, and on 9 October 2007, the Argentine court sentenced him to life in prison.
On March 25, 2013, Federal Criminal Oral Court No. 1 of La Plata rendered decision on a public trial for crimes committed during the civilian-military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983) in the network of clandestine detention, torture and extermination centers (“clandestine centers”) known as the “Camps Circuit” . By conventional view, genocide requires intention to destroy a group in whole or in part. Where the intention is to destroy a group in part, that part must be “substantial”, either in the numerical sense, or in the sense of being important to the physical survival of the group . The facts being prosecuted involves attacks against “subsersive elements”, which does not appear, on first sight, to be a "substantial" part of the group defined by nationality, by sheer numerical representation. This decision is significant in adopting the theory, originating from genocide scholar Daniel Feierstein, that the targeted victims are significant to the national group, as their destruction fundamentally altered the social fabric of the nation .
A major trial, nicknamed "the ESMA mega-trial", of 63 people accused of crimes against humanity (lesa humanidad) during the 1976–1983 dictatorship, including those involved in death flights, was reaching its close in July 2015. 830 witnesses and 789 victims were heard. There had been two previous trials after the Supreme Court struck down an amnesty the military dictatorship had granted its members; in the first the one accused committed suicide before a verdict was reached; in a 2009 trial twelve defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment.
In December 2018, two former executives of a local Ford Motor Company plant near Buenos Aires, Pedro Muller and Hector Sibilla, were convicted for their involvement in the abduction and torture of 24 workers during the reign of the military junta. Lawyers involved in the case say this is the first time former executives of a multinational corporation operating in Argentina under the military junta have been convicted of crimes against humanity.
In 2002, the Argentine Congress declared the date of 24 March as the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice, in commemoration for the victims of the dictatorship. In 2006, thirty years after the coup d'état that started the Proceso, the Day of Memory was declared a national public holiday. The anniversary of the coup was remembered by massive official events and demonstrations throughout the country.
29 March 1976 – 29 March 1981.
29 March – 11 December 1981.
11 – 22 December 1981.
22 December 1981 – 18 June 1982.
18 June – 1 July 1982.
18 June – 1
11 – 2
1 July 1982 – 10 December 198
1 July 1982 – 10 December 1983.