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Children of Cain Chapter on the Argentina Dictatorship

  • The military dictatorship came into power March 24, 1976, calling itself 'El Proceso de Reorganización Nacional,' but was later referred to as 'La Guerra Sucia.' The leader of
    the military junta was initially Jorge Rafael Videla, later Emilio Massera, and eventually Armando Lambruschini, Galtieri, and Bignone. Rosenberg traces the dictatorship to "a disregard for law and politics as a way for countries marked by enormous social contrasts to solve their problems," (p.82). In the 60's and 70's there was mounting violence in Argentina, as the principal guerilla group, the Montoneros (a leftist faction of peronism), employed tactics of terrorism, bombing banks, public buildings, military sights, and police stations, and killing police officers and military officials (p.121). The dictatorship's goal
    was to save the nation by eradicating 'communist' insurgency by disappearing an estimated 30,000 people- mostly students, lawyers, professors, and other non-guerilla members. In fact, by1976 at the start of the dirty War, right-wing death squads (Perón's second wife was president at this time, after his death) had already eradicated the
    majority of the guerilla resistance. However, the dictatorship exaggerated the threat of the Montoneros, and justified many disappearances as fatalities in 'battle' (p.122).

  • The military pursued the 'internal enemy.' General Ibérico Saint Jean, who became governor of the province of Buenos Aires, explained this military tactic, "First we must kill the subversives, then their sympathizers; then those who are indifferent; and finally, we must kill all those who are timid," (p.124).

  • The dictatorship implemented the systematic use of 'disappearing' people. Guerillas and civilians were kidnapped out of their homes by military members and brought to detention centers (essentially concentration camps in garages or abandoned buildings) where they were most almost always tortured and murdered. A common method of murder was throwing people off of planes into the ocean where it would be impossible to ever determine their whereabouts. (p.85)

  • Factions of the Argentine Catholic Church collaborated with the Military during the dictatorship, helping to find 'subversives' and torture them, and to justify the atrocities in
    the name of Christianity. (p.125)

  • The Argentine navy was the most notorious for the brutality, kidnapping, and torture. The ESMA Escuela Mecánica Armada- Navy Mechanics School, was the largest and most notorious death camp of the 'Dirty War.' · Prisoners were monitored by television and tortured daily.

  • Massera formed an opposition party, the Social Democracy Party, to try to gain popular support for the dictatorship and present a façade of democracy. This party manipulated Peronist ideas, and employed captured Montonero members to help write propaganda.

  • Many notorious Latin American war criminals have attended the United States School for America, where it is believed that soldiers are were either directly trained to disappear and torture people as a military tactic, or for the very least, they have not been actively discouraged from doing so. The military training in these institutions has focused on counterinsurgency, as the United States actively fought 'communism,' during the Cold
    War. Many repressive dictatorships received training, arms, and manuals from the United States. In the case of Argentina, General Videla attended the school for Americas in
    1963, and Admiral Massera was a graduate of the Inter-American Defense College in Washington in 1963 (p.113).

  • In the beginning of the 80's the military was losing power. To divert attention from the declining economy, the junta invaded the British owned Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas to reclaim them. They mistakenly believed that the English would not fight back, which would result in overwhelming victory, therefore creating patriotism and returning power to the military. However, England did fight back, and was supported to the United States, and bitterly defeated Argentina. (p.132)

  • After the dictatorship Raúl Alfonsín became president. In 1983 He named a group of prominent Argentines to form a National Commission on the Disappeared. The groups collected testimony inside of Argentina and in other Latin American countries and
    Europe, which revealed the extent of the atrocities committed during the dictatorship.
    The book which revealed these atrocities is entitled 'Nunca Mas,'- Never Again. 'Nunca Más' recounts personal testimonies from survivors of the concentration camps who graphically explain the physical and psychological torture they endured (p. 83).

  • After the dictatorship Videla and Masseri were convicted and sentenced for crimes during the dictatorship. During Alfonsín's term, amnesty laws were executed that virtually protected war criminals. In 1986 the Law of Due Obedience 'La ley de Obediencia Debida' was granted, which exonerated lower-ranking officials from trials, on the grounds that they were following orders. In 1987 the Full Stop Law 'La Ley del Punto Final' was created, which set an end to trials altogether, within 3 months. Menem became president after Alfonsín and pardoned both Videla and Massera in 1990 (p.137).

  • One legacy of the Dictatorship (1976-83) is the Mothers of the Plazo de Mayo (Las Madres del Plazo de Mayo), who circle around the Argentine Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires every Sunday, protesting against the loss of their 'disappeared' children. They wear white handkerchiefs cross-stitched with their children's names, and continue marching even today (p.80).

  • The Mothers of the Plazo de Mayo began operating in 1977, even though it was extremely dangerous to do so.

  • A navy member, Alfredo Astiz, infiltrated the Mother's group, revealing the founder's identity- Azucena Villaflor- to the military, and she subsequently disappeared. Astiz has become an international symbol of the dirt.