Dirty War

The term dirty war generally refers to a program of state terrorism in response to perceived subversion that threatens a country's stability. Such wars typically include the violent repression by right-wing fascists of left-wing dissidents and rebels — often by means of torture and murder.

The name Dirty War (in Spanish: Guerra Sucia) is often used in particular to refer to the purges of dissident citizens carried out between 1976 and 1983 by the military government in Argentina (during the so-called National Reorganization Process). During this period, the several military juntas were responsible for killing or "disappearing" between 10,000 and 30,000 Argentinans (while many thousands more were imprisoned and tortured).

There has been a long running debate in Argentina over the issue of amnesty for officials of the Dirty War. A form of amnesty was controversially adopted as law after the reinstatement of democratic rule and the trials of the top military leaders of the juntas in 1984, but it has remained unpopular. In June 2005, the Argentine Supreme Court overturned the amnesty laws, opening the door for prosecutions of former Junta officials. [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4093018.stm)


Rise to power

In 1975, President Isabel Martínez de Perón, under pressure from the military establishment, appointed Jorge Rafael Videla commander-in-chief of the Argentine Army. He was one of the military heads of the coup d'état that would overthrow Perón on March 24, 1976. In her place, a military junta was installed, which was headed by Admiral Emilio Massera, General Orlando Agosti and Videla himself.

By mid-1975, the country was in chaos. Extreme right-wing death squads used their hunt for far-left guerrillas (like the Montoneros) as a pretext to exterminate their ideological opponents on the left and as a cover for common crimes. In July, there was a general strike. Wealthy, conservative landowners encouraged the army, which prepared to take control by making lists of people who should be "dealt with" after the planned coup. "As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure", Videla declared in 1975 in support of the death squads.

Human rights violations

The junta was responsible for the slaughtering of an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 Argentinians, mostly trade-union members, students and people thought to espouse left-wing views.

Relatives of the victims, however, continued to uncover evidence that some children taken from their mothers soon after birth were being raised as the adopted children of military men, as in the case of Silvia Quintela. For 15 years, a group called The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo has been demanding the return of these kidnapped children, estimated to number as many as five hundred. Some victims were even pushed out of planes and into the water of the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean to drown (this form of disappearence was termed vuelos de la muerte, "death flights").

In 1977, Videla told British journalists: "I emphatically deny that there are concentration camps in Argentina, or military establishments in which people are held longer than is absolutely necessary in this ... fight against subversion". Yet, there are people such as Alicia Partnoy, who was tortured and has written her story in "The Little School", who claim otherwise.

In 1980 Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a Catholic human rights activist who had organized the "Servicio de Paz y Justicia" and suffered torture while held without trial for 14 months in a Buenos Aires concentration camp, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the defense of human rights in Argentina.


The junta's mission was allegedly to defend against international communism. They worked closely with the Asian-based World Anti-Communist League and its Latin American affiliate, the Confederación Anticomunista Latinoamericana. In 1980, the Argentine military helped Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and major drug lords mount the bloody Cocaine Coup in neighboring Bolivia.

The Reagan administration believed that former President Jimmy Carter's emphasis on human rights had weakened U. S. diplomatic relationships with Cold War allies, 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 training and arming the Nicaraguan Contras against the Cuban-backed Sandinista government (see Iran-Contra Affair).

In 1981 Videla retired and General Roberto Eduardo Viola replaced him, but nine months later, Viola stepped down for health reasons, and General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri took the post.

Invasion of the Falkland Islands

Main article: Falklands War

In 1982, the Argentine military invaded the British-controlled Falkland Islands, but was quickly defeated by the British, who retook the islands. The loss of the war led to the resignation of Galtieri on June 17 of the same year and a third (and last) junta was placed in power under a new president, Reynaldo Bignone. The occupation of the Falklands accelerated the end of the junta rule.

Truth commission

The junta relinquished power in 1983. After democratic elections, incoming president Raúl Alfonsín created a truth commission to collect evidence about the Dirty War crimes. The gruesome details shocked the world. Videla was among the generals convicted of human rights crimes, including "disappearances", torture, murders and kidnappings. In 1985, Videla was sentenced to life imprisonment at the military prison of Magdalena. However, on December 29, 1990, President Carlos Menem pardoned Videla and other convicted generals.

Some viewed the pardons as a pragmatic decision of national reconciliation that sought to please the military and thus prevent further uprisings. Others condemned it as unconstitutional, noting that the constitutionally acknowledged right of the president to pardon does not extend to those who have not yet been convicted — which was the situation in the case of some military officials. Others yet consider that this presidential privilege is inappropriate for modern times, a relic of monarchic rule that should be abolished.

Ironically, dictator Videla was de facto incapable of leaving his house, since every time he went out in public he risked insults or assault. At one time, the street was painted with enormous arrows pointing to his house, and the words: 30,000 disappeared, assassin on the loose.

Foreign governments whose citizens were victims of the Dirty War are pressing individual cases against the former military regime. France has sought the extradition of Captain Alfredo Astiz for the kidnapping and murder of its nationals.

In 1998, Videla received a prison sentence for his role in the kidnapping of eleven children during the regime and for the falsification of the children's identity documents.

In 2001, Jorge Zorreguieta, a civilian who was former Undersecretary of Agriculture in the Videla regime, became the focus of attention when his daughter Máxima became engaged to the Crown Prince of the Netherlands. The significance of his potential connection to the Dutch royal family, and his possible presence at a royal wedding was hotly debated for several months. Zorreguieta claimed that, as a civilian, he was unaware of the Dirty War while he was a cabinet minister; however, that would have been unlikely for a person in such a powerful position in the government. Formal charges have never been brought against him, but he was banned from attending the royal wedding which was held in Amsterdam on February 2, 2002.

Allegations against Cardinal Bergoglio

On April 15, 2005, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Argentine cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, accusing him of conspiring with the junta in 1976 to kidnap two Jesuit priests. So far, no hard evidence has been presented linking the cardinal to this crime. It is known that the cardinal was the superior figure in the Society of Jesus of Argentina (Jesuits) during 1976 and had asked the two priests to leave their pastoral work following conflict within the Society over how to respond to the new military dictatorship, with some priests advocating a violent overthrow. Bergoglio's spokesman has flatly denied the allegations. [2] (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050416.wkidnap0416/BNStory/Front)

It should be noted that Bergoglio was a key figure in securing the priests' release following their abduction by an Argentine navy squad, as he pressured Navy Chief of Staff Emilio Massera.

The complaint was filed as the Roman Catholic Conclave prepared to convene to select a new pope, likely as a means of protesting Bergoglio's candidacy.

Related articles

External links

Vanished Gallery]es:Guerra sucia en Argentina it:Guerra sporca


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