The Dirty War began as the government became
increasingly fearful and repressive of leftist dissidents.
Analyze the reasons for the outbreak of the
The Dirty War
was the name used by the Argentina Military Government for a period of state
terrorism in Argentina from roughly 1974 to 1983.
supported by a significant number of the general populace involved in the
Radical and Socialist parties, opposed Juan Peron’s populist government and overthrew
his regime in 1955 during the Revolucion Libertadora. Afterwards, Peronism was
other revolutionary groups within Argentina began organizing and militarizing, with many groups combining forces.
By the early
1970s, guerrilla groups were kidnapping and assassinating high-ranking military
and police officers almost weekly, as well as bombing government buildings.
returned from exile and after his death, his widow Isabel Martinez de Peron
held the presidency, only to be ousted from power during a military coup in
junta, led by Jorge Rafael Videla until 1981 and subsequently by Roberto Viola
and Leopoldo Galtieri until 1983, organized and carried out strong repression
of political dissidents via the government’s military and security
forces, which they referred to as their National Reorganization Process.
The junta was forced to resign power in 1983 following their disastrous
defeat to Great Britain in the Falklands War, which paved the way for the
resumption of Argentine democracy.
A person who is secretly abducted or imprisoned
by a state or political organization, or by a third party with the
authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization.
Following abduction, there is a refusal to acknowledge the person’s fate or
whereabouts, essentially placing the victim outside the protection of the law.
Also called Justicialism, an Argentine
political movement based on the political legacy of former President Juan
Domingo Peron and his second wife, Eva Peron.
The Dirty War, also known as
the Process of National Reorganization, was the name used by the Argentina
Military Government for a period of state terrorism in Argentina from roughly
1974 to 1983. During this time, the military, security forces, and right-wing
death squads such as the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (Triple A) hunted
down and killed left-wing guerrillas, political dissidents, and anyone believed
to be associated with the socialist movement. A total of 7,158 left-wing activities, terrorists, and militants, including trade
unionists, students, journalists, and Marxist and Peronist guerrillas, were
victimized. Official records account for 13,000 missing people, known as the
“disappeared.” Meanwhile, leftist guerrillas accounted for 6,000 casualties
among military and police forces as well as civilians.
The military, supported by a
significant number of the general populace involved in the Radical and
Socialist parties, opposed Juan Peron’s populist government and attempted to
overthrow his regime once in 1951 and twice in 1955 before finally succeeding on a third attempt in 1955 during the Revolucion Libertadora. After taking
control, Peronism was outlawed. Peronists began organizing a resistance
movement centered around workplaces and trade unions, and the working classes
sought economic and social improvements. Over time, as democratic rule was
partially restored and promises to allow freedom of expression and other
political liberties to Peronists was not respected, resistance groups
militarized, forming guerrilla groups.
Jorge Ricardo Masetti, the leader
of the Guevarist People’s Guerrilla Army (EGP) that infiltrated Bolivia’s army in 1964, is considered by some to be Argentina’s first disappeared person. Prior to
1973, the major revolutionary groups within Argentina were the Peronist Armed
Forces (FAP), the Marxist-Leninist-Peronist Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR),
and the Marxist-Leninist Armed Forces of Liberation (FAL). Over time, many of
these guerrilla forces combined or were effectively eradicated by the
government. For example, FAR joined the Montoneros, formerly an urban group of
intellectuals and students, and FAP and FAL were absorbed into the Marxist
People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP). Meanwhile, the EGP and the Peronist
Uturuncos were small enough to be overcome by government forces and ceased to
A Decade of Violence
By the early 1970s, the
consolidated guerrilla groups that remained were kidnapping and assassinating
high-ranking military and police officers almost weekly. The extreme left
bombed and destroyed numerous military and police buildings in its campaign
against the government, but unfortunately a number of civilian
and non-governmental buildings were targeted as well. For instance, the
Sheraton Hotel in Buenos Aires was bombed in 1972, killing a woman and injuring
her husband. A crowded theater in downtown Buenos Aires was also bombed in
1975. In 1978, a powerful bomb meant to kill an Argentine admiral ripped
through a nine-story apartment building, killing three civilians and trapping many
others under the debris.
In 1973, as Juan Peron
returned from exile, the Ezeiza massacre marked the end of an alliance between
left- and right-wing factions of Peronism. In the subsequent year, Peron
withdrew his support of the Montoneros shortly before his death. During the presidency
of his widow Isabel Martinez de Peron, the far-right paramilitary death squad
Triple A emerged, increasing armed struggles. In 1975, Isabel signed a number
of decrees empowering the military and the police to step up efforts to destroy
left-wing subversion, particularly the ERP. Isabel was ousted from power the
subsequent year, 1976, by a military coup.
In August 2016, the U.S. State
Department released 1,080 pages of declassified State Department documents that
revealed a growing hostility between the administration of US President Jimmy
Carter and the 1976 junta that overthrew Isabel. Carter took issue in
particular with Argentina’s growing list of human rights violations, although
the previous administration under Gerald Ford was strongly sympathetic to
the junta, with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger even advising Argentina’s
Foreign Minister, Cesar Guzzetti, to carry out anti-Communist policies before
Congress was back in session. Despite this, there is no documentation suggesting
that the U.S. government had direct involvement or knowledge of the developments
leading up to or following the coup that ousted Isabel.
The National Reorganization
The juntas, led by Jorge
Rafael Videla until 1981 and subsequently by Roberto Viola and Leopoldo
Galtieri until 1983, organized and carried out strong repression of political
dissidents via the government’s military and security forces, which they
referred to as their National Reorganization Process. They were responsible for
illegal arrests, torture, killings, and the forced disappearance of an
estimated 9,000 to 30,000 people. Assassinations occurred via mass shootings
and throwing live citizens from airplanes to their death in the ocean
below. Additionally, 12,000 prisoners, many of whom had not been convicted via
any legal processes, were detained in a network of 340 secret concentration
camps located throughout Argentina. The government coordinated actions with
other South American dictatorships as well.
Faced with increasing public opposition and severe economic problems, the
military tried to regain popularity by occupying the disputed Falkland Islands.
It suffered a lopsided defeat against Great Britain, which was in possession of
the territories, during the subsequent Falklands War, and was forced to resign
governing powers in disgrace, paving the way for the restoration of Argentinian