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Domestic Political Affairs Civilian rule

Military rule

Argentina: Military rule

Gen. Perón died in July 1974 and was succeeded as President by his widow, María Estela (Isabelita) Martínez de Perón, hitherto Vice-President. The Government’s economic austerity programme and the soaring rate of inflation led to widespread strike action and demands for the President’s resignation. In March 1976 the armed forces, led by Gen. Jorge Videla, overthrew the President and installed a three-man junta. The junta substantially altered the Constitution, dissolved the Congress, suspended political and trade union activity and removed most government officials from their posts. Several hundred people were arrested, while Isabelita Perón was detained and later went into exile. The military regime launched a ferocious offensive against left-wing guerrillas and opposition forces. The imprisonment, torture and murder of suspected left-wing activists by the armed forces provoked domestic and international protests. Repression eased in 1978, after all armed opposition had been eliminated.

In March 1981 Gen. Roberto Viola, a former junta member, succeeded President Videla and made known his intention to extend dialogue with political parties as a prelude to an eventual return to democracy. Owing to ill health, he was replaced in December by Lt-Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, who attempted to cultivate popular support by continuing this process of political liberalization.

In April 1982, in order to distract attention from an increasingly unstable domestic situation, and following unsuccessful negotiations with the United Kingdom in February over Argentina’s long-standing sovereignty claim, President Galtieri ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas—see the chapter on the Falkland Islands). The UK recovered the islands after a short conflict, in the course of which about 750 Argentine lives were lost. Argentine forces surrendered in June, but no formal cessation of hostilities was declared until October 1989. Humiliated by the defeat, Galtieri was forced to resign, and the members of the junta were replaced. The army installed a retired general, Reynaldo Bignone, as President in July 1982. The armed forces were held responsible for the disastrous economic situation, and the transfer of power to a civilian government was accelerated. Moreover, in 1983 a Military Commission of Inquiry into the Falklands conflict concluded in its report that the main responsibility for Argentina’s defeat lay with members of the former junta. Galtieri was sentenced to imprisonment, while several other officers were put on trial for corruption, murder and insulting the honour of the armed forces. In the same year the regime approved the Ley de Pacificación Nacional, an amnesty law which granted retrospective immunity to the police, the armed forces and others for political crimes that had been committed over the previous 10 years.

Citation: Military rule (Argentina), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. Retrieved 18 December 2017 from http://www.europaworld.com/pub/entry/EE000244

Domestic Political Affairs Civilian rule


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