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Military


Roberto Eduardo Viola Prevedini

By the end of Videla's administration in 1981, the political stability long sought by Argentina had finally been achieved, but at the price of much suffering and injustice. Despite the beginnings of dissension within the military over its future course, the transfer of power to Viola was carried out within the institutional procedures dictated by the National Reorganization Process during the presidential succession of 1981. After his designation as president in March, Viola continued to meet with the political parties as part of the dialogue initiated by Videla in March 1980.

Opposition to the government by both workers and entrepreneurs, however, did not end. The Viola administration inherited the problem of accounting for the thousands of "disappeared" persons and other charges relating to human rights violations during the dirty war. In February 1981 a report by the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights attested that 13,000 cases had been brought to its attention that included "disappearances" of children, adolescents, pregnant women, and entire families.

Viola was willing to allow for a normalization of Argentina's political life through party and union participation. In July he released Isabel de Pern from house arrest, after which she left for exile in Spain. By mid-month he accepted the formation of what became known as the Multipartidaria (Multiparty Commission)an alliance that included the most important political groups in Argentina: the UCR, the Peronists, the Christian Democratic Federal Union, the Movement for Integration and Development, and the Intransigent Party.

The objective of this alliance was to exert pressure on the military for elections without, however, antagonizing the military. The ongoing economic crisis hampered Viola's efforts at liberalization; the Multipartidaria was ambiguous about the prospects of assuming power at a time when the whole economic system was collapsing under the weight of inflation, unemployment, bankruptcies, foreign debt, and growing balance of payments deficits.

The military establishment for its part resented Viola's overtures toward the civilian political groups. In November the president was taken ill. That same month a mass demonstration for "peace, bread, and work" was held in Buenos Aires with the participation of church, political, labor, and human rights organizations. On December 11 the military forced Viola to resign from office and appointed the army commander, General Leopoldo Galtieri, to the presidency.




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