1976 Argentine coup d'état

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1976 Argentine coup d'état
Part of the Operation Condor / the Dirty War and the Cold War
Jorge Rafael Videla Oath.PNG
Jorge Rafael Videla swearing in as President on 29 March 1976
Date 24 March 1976
Location Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires
Result Overthrow of Isabel Martínez de Perón. Jorge Rafael Videla becomes President of Argentina
Argentina Argentine Government

Argentina Argentine Armed Forces

Supported by:
United States United States
Commanders and leaders
Argentina Isabel Perón Argentina Jorge Rafael Videla
Argentina Emilio Eduardo Massera
Argentina Orlando Ramón Agosti

The 1976 Argentine coup d'état was a right-wing coup that overthrew Isabel Perón as President of Argentina on 24 March 1976. A military junta was installed to replace her; this was headed by General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier-General[1] Orlando Ramón Agosti. The junta took the official name of "National Reorganization Process", and remained in power until December 10, 1983.

The coup had been planned since October 1975, and the United States Department of State learned of the preparations two months before its execution.[2] The American secretary of state Henry Kissinger would meet several times with Argentinian military leaders after the coup, urging them to destroy their opponents quickly before outcry over human rights abuses grew in the United States.[3]

Prelude to the coup[edit]

President Juan Perón died on July 1, 1974. He was succeeded by his wife María Estela Martínez de Perón, affectionately called "Isabelita." Despite her claim as the country's rightful ruler, María rapidly lost political influence and power. A group of military officials, tasked by Perón himself to aide María, took control in an effort to revitalize Argentina's deteriorating political and social climate. This shift in governance paved the way for the ensuing coup.

On February 5, 1975 Operativo Independencia was launched. This Vietnam-style intervention aimed to eliminate the guerrillas in the Tucumán jungle, who had maintained strongholds in the area as early as May 1974. In October the country was divided into five military zones, with each commander given full autonomy to unleash a carefully planned wave of repression.

On December 18, a number of warplanes took off from Morón Air Base and strafed the Casa Rosada in an attempt to overthrow Isabel Perón. The rebellion was brought to a halt four days later through arbitration by a chaplain.

However, the military did succeed in removing the only officer remaining loyal to the government, Air Force commander Héctor Fautario. Fautario drew harsh criticism from the Army and Navy owing to his vehement opposition to their repressive plans, and for his refusal to mobilize the Air Force against the guerrillas' strongholds in the north. Fautario was Videla's final obstacle in his pursuit of power.

By January 1976 the guerrilla presence in Tucumán had been reduced to a few platoons. In the meanwhile, the military, fully backed by the local élite and the United States, bided its time before ultimately seizing power.[3][4]

The coup[edit]

Shortly before 01:00 am, President Martínez de Perón was detained and taken by helicopter to the El Messidor residence. At 03:10 all television and radio stations were interrupted. Regular transmissions were cut and replaced by a military march, after which the first communiqué was broadcast:

[...] People are advised that as of today, the country is under the operational control of the Joint Chiefs General of the Armed Forces. We recommend to all inhabitants strict compliance with the provisions and directives emanating from the military, security or police authorities, and to be extremely careful to avoid individual or group actions and attitudes that may require drastic intervention from the operating personnel. Signed: General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti.

A state of siege and martial law were implemented, as military patrolling spread to every major city. The morning was seemingly uneventful, but as the day progressed, the detentions multiplied. Hundreds of workers, unionists, students, and political activists were abducted from their homes, their workplaces, or in the streets.

Subsequent events[edit]

Human rights activists state that in the aftermath of the coup and ensuing Dirty War, some 30,000 people, primarily young opponents of the military regime, were "disappeared" or killed.[5] Military men responsible for the killings often spared pregnant women for a time, keeping them in custody until they gave birth, before killing them and giving their infants to childless military families.[5] Kissinger privately assured the military regime that they would have the full support of the United States government in their war and associated actions, a promise that was opposed by the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina at the time, Robert Hill.[3]

The 24th of March anniversary of the coup is now designated the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The rank of brigadier-general in the Argentine Air Force is equivalent to 3-star or 4-star rank. See Brigadier-general#Argentina for more information.
  2. ^ "Military Take Cognizance of Human Rights Issue" (PDF). National Security Archive. 16 February 1976. 
  3. ^ a b c "Kissinger approved Argentinian 'dirty war'". The Guardian. 6 December 2003. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Transcript: U.S. OK'd 'dirty war'" (PDF). The Miami Herald. 4 December 2003. 
  5. ^ a b Goni, Uki (22 July 2016). "How an Argentinian man learned his 'father' may have killed his real parents". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2016.