Argentina Dirty War 1976 - 1983
The Dirty War, from 1976-1983, was a seven-year campaign by the Argentine government against suspected dissidents and subversives. Many people, both opponents of the government as well as innocent people, were "disappeared" in the middle of the night. They were taken to secret government detention centers where they were tortured and eventually killed. These people are known as "los desaparecidos" or "the disappeared."
After the death of the controversial President Juan Peron in 1974, his wife and vice president, Isabel Peron, assumed power. However, she was not very strong politically and a military junta led a coup against her and removed her from office. This military junta maintained its grip on power by cracking down on anybody whom they believed was challenging their authority. Casualty counts from this war range from 10,000 to 30,000 people.
Although the military dictatorship carried out its war against suspected domestic subversives throughout its entire existence, it was ironically a foreign foe which brought the regime to an end. In the early 1980s, it became clear to both the world and the Argentine people that the government was behind the tens of thousands of kidnappings. The junta, facing increasing opposition over its human rights record, as well as mounting allegations of corruption, sought to allay domestic criticism by launching a successful campaign to regain Las Islas Malvinas (the Falkland Islands).
The Falkland Islands have been a source of contention between England, which administers them, and Argentina, which claims them, since 1820. The junta had thought that it could reclaim these islands relatively easily, that England wouldn't mind their loss, and that the government would regain its popularity and control over its people. However, the government was wrong in its anticipations when 72 days after the invasion of the Islands, the British military won the war, having captured 9,800 Argentine POWs.
This unexpected loss was the final blow for the military regime, and in 1982, it restored basic civil liberties and retracted its ban on political parties. The Dirty War ended when Raul Alfonsin's civilian government took control of the country on December 10, 1983.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|