argentina cafe travel guide logoargentina cafe travel guide photo

The Dirty War (1976-1983)

The men behind the 1976 coup installed a junta under the leadership of the army's highest general, Jorge Videla. President Videla had the full backing of the army, navy, and air force—plus the broad support of a dazed and desperate public—to implement what he called the Process of National Reorganization. The Process, as it came to be known, aimed first to tame the rampant inflation that had engulfed Argentina's economy. Second, it would root out the guerrillas—whatever the cost.

Videla turned out to be a lackluster inflation fighter; as for the guerrillas, he and his cronies showed true zeal. One general called the guerrillas a "cancer" that needed surgical removal. Another proclaimed that all the subversives would first be killed—"then we will kill their collaborators; then their sympathizers, then . . . those who remain indifferent; and finally we will kill the timid." Criticism of the Process was made illegal: any display of dissent would brand you an enemy of the state.

As many as 19,000 Argentines were killed in order to eliminate an estimated two thousand left wing extremists. The typical victim was abducted at home, in the dead of night, by a band of soldiers or policemen driving trademark green Ford Falcons. The victim's house was usually ransacked and the victim was taken to a detention center, interrogated and tortured, then dumped into the sea from an airplane. The victims' babies were sometimes adopted by military officers involved in the operations.

An unsettling awareness crept into the Argentine psyche as rumors spread of the desparecidos (disappeared ones). In 1977 a group known as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo began a weekly protest in front of the Casa Rosada, holding up pictures of their missing loved ones in a silent vigil. Despite harassment and a media blackout, the Mothers kept up their drumbeat of criticism through the worst years of the Dirty War.

By the start of the 1980s the public had its doubts about the junta's handling of the economy and its human rights record, but it was the Falklands War (1982) that ultimately nailed the lid on the military regime's coffin. In a crisis of confidence among the military elite, General Galtieri stepped in for Videla and launched an invasion of the British Falkland islands (known in Argentina as the Malvinas), which the United Nations had recommended be returned to Argentina. Galtieri enjoyed enormous support among Argentines and hoped that the United States, which admired his regime's "anti-communist" credentials, would intervene on his side. Instead, Ronald Reagan sided with his friend Margaret Thatcher, and Britain's navy retook the Falklands in short order. Amidst mass protests by an infuriated public, the military quickly granted amnesty to all officers involved in the Process and called elections for 1983.

Alfonsin and the Dirty War's Aftermath

 -Argentina Brochure
 -Emergency Contacts
 -Metric Conversions
 -Argentina at Night
 -Argentina Flag
©2005-2007 Argentina Cafe Travel Guide. All rights reserved. Site by Dave Brown Web Design.