Anthem: Himno Nacional Argentino
|Religion||Catholic (de facto)|
|Government||Federal republic under military dictatorship|
|President of Argentina|
|Jorge Rafael Videla|
|Roberto Eduardo Viola|
|Alfredo Óscar Saint-Jean|
|Historical era||Cold War|
|March 24 1976|
|October 30 1983|
|Currency||Argentine peso (1975–90)|
|ISO 3166 code||AR|
The National Reorganization Process (Spanish: Proceso de Reorganización Nacional, often simply el Proceso, "the Process") was the name used by its leaders for the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. In Argentina it is often known simply as última junta militar ("last military junta"), última dictadura militar ("last military dictatorship") or última dictadura cívico-militar ("last civil-military dictatorship"), because there have been several in the country's history.
The Argentine military seized political power during the March 1976 coup over the presidency of Isabel Perón, widow of former President Juan Domingo Perón; a time of state terrorism against civilians started, with the dictatorship labeling its own use of torture, extrajudicial murder and systematic forced disappearances as "a Dirty War". After losing the Falklands War to the United Kingdom in 1982, the military junta faced mounting public opposition and finally relinquished power in 1983.
The military has always been highly influential in Argentine politics, and Argentine history is laced with frequent and prolonged intervals of military rule. The popular Argentine leader, Juan Perón, three-time President of Argentina, was a colonel in the army who first came to political power in the aftermath of a 1943 military coup. He advocated a new policy dubbed Justicialism, a nationalist policy which he claimed was a "Third Position," an alternative to both capitalism and communism. After being re-elected to the office of president by popular vote, Perón was deposed and exiled by the Revolución Libertadora in 1955.
After a series of weak governments, and a seven-year military government, Perón returned to Argentina in 1973, following 18 years exile in Francoist Spain, amidst escalating political unrest, divisions in the Peronist movement, and frequent outbreaks of political violence. His return was marked by June 20, 1973 Ezeiza massacre, after which the right-wing Peronist movement became dominant.
Peron was democratically elected President in 1973, but died in July 1974. His vice president and third wife, Isabel Martínez de Perón, succeeded him, but she proved to be a weak, ineffectual ruler. A number of revolutionary organizations – chief among them Montoneros, a group of far-left Peronists – escalated their wave of political violence (including kidnappings and bombings) against the campaign of harsh repressive and retaliatory measures enforced by the military and the police. In addition, right-wing paramilitary groups entered the cycle of violence, such as the Triple A death squad, founded by José López Rega, Perón's Minister of Social Welfare and a member of the P2 masonic lodge. The situation escalated until Mrs. Perón was overthrown. She was replaced on March 24, 1976 by a military junta led by Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla.
Official investigations undertaken after the end of the Dirty War by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons documented 8,961 desaparecidos (victims of forced disappearance) and other human rights violations, noting that the correct number is bound to be higher. Many cases were never reported, when whole families were disappeared, and the military destroyed many of its records months before the return of democracy. Among the "disappeared" were pregnant women, who were kept alive until giving birth under often primitive circumstances in the secret prisons. The infants were generally illegally adopted by military or political families affiliated with the administration, and the mothers were generally killed. Thousands of detainees were drugged, loaded into aircraft, stripped naked and then thrown into the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean to drown in what became known as "death flights."
The film The Official Story (1984), which won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Film category in 1985, addresses this situation. The Argentine secret service SIDE (Secretaría de Inteligencia del Estado) also cooperated with the DINA in Pinochet's Chile and other South American intelligence agencies. Eight South American nations supported endeavours to eradicate left-leaning terrorist groups on the continent, known as Operation Condor. It is estimated to have caused the deaths of more than 60.000 people. SIDE also trained – for example in the Honduran Lepaterique base – the Nicaraguan Contras who were fighting the Sandinista government there.
The regime shut down the legislature and restricted both freedom of the press and freedom of speech, adopting severe media censorship. The 1978 World Cup, which Argentina hosted and won, was used as a means of propaganda and to rally its people under a nationalist pretense.
Corruption, a failing economy, growing public awareness of the harsh repressive measures taken by the regime, and the military defeat in the Falklands War, eroded the public image of the regime. The last de facto president, Reynaldo Bignone, was forced to call for elections by the lack of support within the Army and the steadily growing pressure of public opinion. On October 30, 1983, elections were held, and democracy was formally restored on December 10 with President Raúl Alfonsín being sworn into office.
Videla appointed José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz as Minister of Economy, charged with stabilizing and privatizing state-owned companies, along what would later be known as neoconservative lines. The Junta borrowed money abroad for public works and social welfare spending. Martínez de Hoz was forced to rely on high interest rates and an over-valued exchange rate to control inflation, which hurt Argentine industry and exports. Before the military government took office, 9% of the population lived in poverty (less than in France or the United States at that time) while the unemployment rate stood at 4.2%. The Junta's economic policies, however, led to a diminishing of living standards and an increase of inequalities.
The economic policy of the dictatorship included recipes from the International Monetary Fund, benefited a select group of monopolies and began a process of record indebtedness, which was essentially a criminal operation executed by national and foreign companies, military and economic agents , according to the judicial sentence on July 13, 2000 in the case "Alejandro Olmos c / Martínez de Hoz and others s / Defraudation" . The level of debt rose from 7,875 million dollars at the end of 1975, to 45,087 million dollars at the end of 1983.
In 2003, French journalist Marie-Monique Robin said she had found in the archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs a document that proved a 1959 agreement had been made between Paris and Buenos Aires that authorized a 'permanent French military mission' being assigned to Argentina. The group was formed of soldiers who had fought in the Algerian War and dealt with insurgents. It was located in the offices of the chief of staff of the Argentine Army. She documented that Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's government secretly collaborated with Videla's junta in Argentina and with Augusto Pinochet's regime in Chile.
Green deputies Noël Mamère, Martine Billard and Yves Cochet passed a resolution in September 2003 for a Parliamentary Commission to be convened on the "role of France in the support of military regimes in Latin America from 1973 to 1984," to be held before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Assembly and presided over by Edouard Balladur. Apart from Le Monde, newspapers remained silent about this request. Deputy Roland Blum, who was in charge of the Commission, refused to let Marie-Monique Robin testify.
In December 2003, his staff published a 12-page document that said no agreement had been signed between France and Argentina about military forces. But, Marie-Monique Robin had sent them a copy of the document she found showing such an agreement.
Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón unsuccessfully attempted to question former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a witness in his investigations into the Argentine disappearances during one of Kissinger's visits to Britain, and Peter Tatchell was unable to have Kissinger arrested during the same visit for alleged war crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act.
Following a decree of President Alfonsín mandating prosecution of the leaders of the Proceso for acts committed during their tenure, they were tried and convicted in 1985. (See Juicio a las Juntas) In 1989, President Carlos Menem pardoned them during his first year in office, which was highly controversial. He said the pardons were part of healing the country. The Argentine Supreme Court declared amnesty laws unconstitutional in 2005. As a result, the government resumed trials against military officers who had been indicted for actions during the Dirty War.
Adolfo Scilingo, an Argentine naval officer during the junta, was tried for his role in jettisoning drugged and naked political dissidents from military aircraft to their deaths in the Atlantic Ocean during the junta years. He was convicted in Spain in 2005 of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 640 years in prison. The sentence was later raised to 1080 years.
Cristian Von Wernich, a Catholic priest and former chaplain of the Buenos Aires Province Police, was arrested in 2003 on accusations of torture of political prisoners in illegal detention centers. He was convicted at trial, and on October 9, 2007, the Argentine court sentenced him to life in prison.
A major trial, nicknamed "the ESMA mega-trial", of 63 people accused of crimes against humanity (lesa humanidad) during the 1976–1983 dictatorship, including those involved in death flights, was reaching its close in July 2015. 830 witnesses and 789 victims were heard. There had been two previous trials after the Supreme Court struck down an amnesty the military dictatorship had granted its members; in the first the one accused committed suicide before a verdict was reached; in a 2009 trial twelve defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment.
In December 2018, two former executives of a local Ford Motor Company plant near Buenos Aires, Pedro Muller and Hector Sibilla, were convicted for their involvement in the abduction and torture of 24 workers during the reign of the military junta. Lawyers involved in the case say this is the first time former executives of a multinational corporation operating in Argentina under the military junta have been convicted of crimes against humanity.
In 2002, the Argentine Congress declared the date of March 24 as the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice, in commemoration for the victims of the dictatorship. In 2006, thirty years after the coup d'état that started the Proceso, the Day of Memory was declared a national public holiday. The anniversary of the coup was remembered by massive official events and demonstrations throughout the country.
During the Process, there were four successive military juntas, each consisting of the heads of the three branches of the Argentine Armed Forces:
|Commander-in-Chief of the Army||Commander-in-Chief of the Navy||Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force|
|First Junta (1976–1978)|
Lieutenant General Jorge Videla
Admiral Emilio Massera
|Second Junta (1978–1981)|
Lieutenant General Roberto Viola
Admiral Armando Lambruschini
Brigadier General Omar Graffigna
|Third Junta (1981–1982)|
Lieutenant General Leopoldo Galtieri
Admiral Jorge Anaya
|Fourth Junta (1982–1983)|
Lieutenant General Cristino Nicolaides
Admiral Rubén Franco
|Brigadier General Augusto Hughes|