Juan Peron was a communist

Facts about the Argentine military dictatorship

The initially bloodless military coup in Argentina did not come as a surprise to many observers and even aroused new hope in many Argentines. When President Isabel Perón resigned on March 24, 1976 and a three-man military junta under the leadership of the Army Commander-in-Chief Jorge Videla took power, the country was in a state of civil war. Even some members of the opposition believed that a mild dictatorship could restore order in the troubled country and pave the way to democracy.

This somewhat naive hope was dashed after a very short time. The last dictatorship in South America - in the neighboring countries Chile (1973), Paraguay (1954) and Uruguay (1973) were dictators in power for a long time - was to become one of the bloodiest tyranny. As early as 1975, at a conference of American armed forces, Videla left no doubt that he was entitled to any means to implement what the military called it - "the process of national reorganization" in Argentina. "As many people will die in Argentina as is necessary to restore order," he threatened even then.

Split in the Peronist movement

The country had been in turmoil since the late 1960s. The reason was the increasingly acute conflict between the wings of the Peronist movement against the background of a rampant economic crisis. On the left, workers, trade unionists and students organized themselves to demand a fundamental transformation of the economic and social order. Opposite them were the traditional Peronists who were looking for a place within the existing system.

In 1973 the father of the movement, Juan Domingo Perón, returned from exile in Spain - he was overthrown by the military in 1955 - and shortly afterwards achieved a brilliant victory in the presidential election with 62 percent of the vote. But even he cannot make peace. When he died on July 1, 1974 and his wife Isabel had to take over official duties, the unrest escalated. Left-wing guerrilla groups such as the Montoneros and the ERP (People's Revolutionary Army) murder corrupt union officials and the military, while left-wing Peronists, journalists, workers and students are kidnapped and killed by government-tolerated death squads.

The coup was no surprise

It was only a matter of time before the military intervened. Shortly after taking power, they established a bloody machinery of repression. They systematically made people "disappear". Not even teenagers or pregnant women were spared. Videla defined the opponents as follows: "A terrorist is not only someone with a gun or a bomb, but also someone who spreads thoughts that are contrary to Western and Christian civilization." Anyone who does not suit the junta is declared a communist and ruthlessly persecuted. Friends and family members of those arrested are also not safe.

Human rights organizations today speak of over 30,000 people who have disappeared. The kidnappings mostly took place at night and were often carried out by armed men in plain clothes in front of the relatives of the victims. The prisoners were tortured and eventually killed in secret detention centers. Many were drugged, handcuffed, and dropped from airplanes over the open sea, or the bodies were simply buried in mass graves. Officially, the military stubbornly denied illegal arrests of people. In doing so, the military junta wanted to ensure that they could not be held responsible for the fate of the disappeared, either by their relatives or by foreign governments.

Disgraceful defeat for the Argentine military

Their own overconfidence was to be the undoing of the military. In the Falklands War of 1982 they suffered a shameful defeat by Great Britain. When they resigned in 1983 and democratic elections were called, they not only left thousands of terrorized and traumatized families behind. The country was also down economically. Argentina's current high national debt dates back to the 1970s. Above all, astronomical arms spending and a sell-off of the domestic economy were responsible for this. The neoliberal economic policy of the Economics Minister José Alfredo Martínez Hoz brought domestic industry to its knees, but brought enormous profits to foreign companies.