Leopoldo Galtieri

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Leopoldo Galtieri
Galtieri.jpg
President of Argentina
De facto
In office
22 December 1981 – 18 June 1982
Preceded by Roberto Viola
Succeeded by Alfredo Oscar Saint Jean
Personal details
Born (1926-07-15)15 July 1926
Caseros, Buenos Aires Province[1]
Died 12 January 2003(2003-01-12) (aged 76)
Buenos Aires City
Nationality Argentine
Spouse(s) Lucia Noei Gentile
Children 3
Alma mater Colegio Militar de la Nación
Profession Military
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance Argentina Argentina
Service/branch Coat of arms of Argentina.svg Argentine Army
Years of service 1943–1982
Rank Teniente General.PNG Lieutenant General
Battles/wars Falklands War

Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri Castelli (15 July 1926 – 12 January 2003) was an Argentine general and President of Argentina from 22 December 1981 to 18 June 1982, during the last military dictatorship[2] (known officially as the National Reorganization Process). The death squad, Intelligence Battalion 601, directly reported to him.[3] He was removed from power soon after the British re-took the Falklands Islands, whose invasion he had ordered.

Early life[edit]

Galtieri was born to working class, Italian immigrant parents.[4] At 17 he enrolled at the National Military Academy to study civil engineering, and his early military career was as an officer in the engineering branch. As well as rising through the ranks of the military, he continued his studies in engineering until the mid-1950s. In 1958, he became a professor of engineering at the Senior War College.[5]

Galtieri was married to Lucia Noei Gentile, and the couple had one son and two daughters.[6]

Rise to power[edit]

In 1975, after more than 25 years as a combat engineer, Galtieri became commander of the Argentine engineering corps. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the military coup that started the self-styled National Reorganisation Process in 1976 and rose further, becoming a major general in 1977, and commander-in-chief in 1980 with the rank of lieutenant general. During the junta's rule, Congress was suspended, unions, political parties, and provincial governments were banned, and in what became known as the Dirty War, between 9,000 and 30,000 people deemed left-wing "subversives" disappeared from society. Torture and mass executions were both commonplace. The economy, which had been in dire condition prior to the coup, recovered for a short time, then deteriorated further.[citation needed]

In March 1981, Galtieri visited the United States and was warmly received, as the Reagan administration viewed the regime as a bulwark against communism. National Security Advisor Richard V. Allen described him as a "majestic general". An adherent to the Argentine military's Cold War-era doctrine of "ideological frontiers", Galtieri secured his country's support for rebel groups opposing the government in Nicaragua, the Contras; in August, he sent advisers to help organize the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN, for a time the principal Contra group), as well as training FDN leaders in Argentine bases. His support for this initiative allowed Galtieri to remove a number of rival generals. In December 1981, he rose to the Presidency of Argentina via a coup that ousted General Roberto Viola. Argentine support became the principal source of funds and training for the Contras during Galtieri's tenure.[7]

Galtieri retained direct control of the army and did not appoint a new commander-in-chief. He appointed conservative economist and publisher Roberto Alemann as Economy Minister. Alemann inherited an economy in deep recession in the aftermath of José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz's deregulatory and free trade policies of the late 1970s.[citation needed] Alemann slashed spending, began selling off government-owned industries (with only minor success), enacted a tight monetary policy, and ordered salaries frozen (amid 130% inflation). The Central Bank Circular 1050, which tied mortgage rates to the value of the US dollar locally, was maintained, however, leading to further deepening of the crisis; GDP fell by 5%, and business investment by 20% over the weakened levels of 1981.[8]

One of Galtieri's closest allies, the head of the First Army Corps, General Guillermo Suárez Mason, was named Chairman of Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), at the time the state petroleum concern, and the largest company of any type in Argentina. Suárez Mason's turn at YPF would help result in a US$6 billion loss for the company – the largest recorded corporate loss in the world, up to that point.[9]

Galtieri instituted limited political reforms which allowed the expression of dissent, and anti-junta demonstrations soon became common, as did agitation for a return to democracy.[10]

Falklands War[edit]

See also: Falklands War

In April 1982, after Galtieri had been in office for four months and with his popularity low,[citation needed] Argentine forces invaded the lightly defended Falkland Islands, governed by the United Kingdom and subject to a long-standing Argentine territorial claim. The UK and other countries condemned the annexation, while Peru and other Latin American countries supported it (the U.S. and Chile eventually joined the group of countries supporting the British position).

Initially the invasion was enormously popular in Argentina, and the anti-junta demonstrations were replaced by patriotic demonstrations in support of Galtieri. On 2 April 1982, the first day of the invasion, a small group of people gathered in the historic Plaza de Mayo, across from the Casa Rosada, the government site. After a while Galtieri showed up on one of the balconies (not the same one used by Perón but one to the left of it) and raised his hands to cheer the small group of supporters. A few minutes later a siren was heard and many bystanders started to flee in panic, reminiscent of the tough repression that had happened just a few days before in the same place, on 30 March.

Galtieri and most of his government believed that the UK would never respond militarily [11] and that the United States would not interfere because the junta had given support to the Central Intelligence Agency in its fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and because Galtieri had received a warm welcome during his visit to Washington, D.C.

After diplomatic pressure and negotiations on 3-4 April led nowhere, the UK government, led by the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, decided to re-take the islands, and deployed a combined army and naval task force to do so. Despite the numerical and geographic advantages held by Argentina, the superior training and technology of the British armed forces ensured British victory in the Falklands War within two months.

Defeat, fall from power, trial and prison[edit]

On 14 June 1982, the Falklands' capital, Stanley, was retaken by British forces. Within days Galtieri was removed from power, and he spent the next 18 months at a well-protected country retreat while democracy was restored to Argentina. Along with other members of the former junta, he was arrested in late 1983 and charged in a military court with human rights violations during the Dirty War and with mismanagement of the Falklands War. The Argentine Army's internal investigation, known as the Rattenbach report after the general who led it,[12] recommended Galtieri be stripped of all rank, dismissed and face a firing squad, but in 1986 he was sentenced to twelve years in prison.[13]

He was cleared of the civil rights charges in December 1985 but (together with the Air Force and Navy commanders-in-chief) in May 1986 he was found guilty of mishandling the war and sentenced to prison. All three appealed in a civil court, and the prosecution appealed for heavier sentences. In November 1988 the original sentences were confirmed, and all three commanders were stripped of their rank. In 1989, Galtieri and 39 other officers of the dictatorship received President Carlos Menem's pardon.[14]

Later life, further accusations[edit]

Galtieri was heavily blamed for Argentina's humiliating defeat in the Falklands War. Following his release from prison, he moved to the Villa Devoto suburb of Buenos Aires, and lived modestly with his wife Lucia. He became a recluse and refused most requests for interviews by journalists, though in one rare interview he stated that he had "no regrets" over anything he had done during the Dirty War. He lived on an army pension of about $1,800 per month, and attempted to claim a Presidential pension, but a judge denied it. In her ruling, the judge stated that his presidency had been illegal in the first place due to his never having been elected, and she also ordered him to pay court costs.

In July 2002, new civil charges were brought concerning the kidnapping of children and disappearance of 18 leftist sympathizers in the late 1970s (while Galtieri was commander of the Second Army Corps), and the disappearance or death of three Spanish citizens at about the same time. Galtieri faced prosecution along with 28 other officials, but due to his poor health, he was allowed to remain at home. He died several months later.[15][16]

Death[edit]

Leopoldo Galtieri underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer on 16 August 2002 at a hospital in Buenos Aires. He died there of a heart attack on January 12, 2003, aged 76.[17] Galtieri was interred in a small mausoleum in La Chacarita Cemetery in the capital.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Argentina's Military Dictatorship (in spanish)
  2. ^ Dark Years: Murió Galtieri, el general que llevó al país a la guerra
  3. ^ New Documents Describe Key Death Squad Under Former Army Chief Galtieri, National Security Archive
  4. ^ Oriana Fallaci, Cambio 16, June 1982, Available Online [1] "Si, señora periodista, desciendo de italianos. Mis abuelos eran italianos. Mi abuelo de Génova y mi abuela de Calabria. Vinieron aquí con las oleadas de inmigrantes que se produjeron al comienzo de siglo. Eran obreros pobres, pronto hicieron fortuna." ("Yes, madam reporter, I'm descended from Italians. My grandparents were Italian. My grandfather came from Genoa and my grandmother Calabria. They came here with the waves of immigration that occurred at the beginning of the century. They were poor workers, soon made a fortune.")
  5. ^ http://mps.mpsomaha.org/mnhs/Drummond/Dictator%20Genome%20Project/Database/Leopoldo%20Galtieri.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.soaw.org/soaw/index.php?view=article&catid=6&id=1924&format=pdf&option=com_content&Itemid=64
  7. ^ Scott, Peter Dale; Marshall, Jonathan. Cocaine Politics. University of California Press, 1991. (ISBN# needed)
  8. ^ Argentina: From Insolvency to Growth. World Bank Press, 1993.
  9. ^ Poneman, Daniel. Argentina: Democracy on Trial. Paragon House, 1987.
  10. ^ "Galtieri grows old with his Falklands secrets", The Scotsman, 2 April 2002
  11. ^ "Que tenía que ver con despertar el orgullo nacional y con otra cosa. La junta —Galtieri me lo dijo— nunca creyó que los británicos darían pelea. Él creía que Occidente se había corrompido. Que los británicos no tenían Dios, que Estados Unidos se había corrompido. ... Nunca lo pude convencer de que ellos no sólo iban a pelear, que además iban a ganar." ("This was neither about national pride nor anything else. The junta — Galtieri told me — never believed the British would respond. He thought the Western World was corrupt. That the British people had no God, that the U.S. was corrupt. ... I could never convince him that the British would not only fight back but also win.") La Nación/Islas Malvinas Online. "Haig: "Malvinas fue mi Waterloo"" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 8 September 2006. Retrieved 21 September 2006. 
  12. ^ Informe Rattenbach
  13. ^ Informe Rattenbach
  14. ^ "Pardon of Argentine Officers Angers Critics of the Military". The New York Times. 9 October 1989. 
  15. ^ Hilton, Isobel (13 January 2003). "General Leopoldo Galtieri". The Guardian (London). 
  16. ^ http://en.mercopress.com/2001/08/01/frail-pathetic-galtieri-british-profile-of-former-argentine-president
  17. ^ "Former Argentine dictator Galtieri dies". BBC News. 12 January 2003. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Carlos Lacoste
President of Argentina
1981-1982
Succeeded by
Alfredo Saint-Jean