1976 Argentine coup d'état

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1976 Argentine coup d'état
Part of Dirty War
Type Coup d'état
Location Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires
Planned by Argentine Armed Forces
Date 24 March 1976
Outcome Overthrow of María Estela Martínez de Perón. Jorge Rafael Videla becomes President of Argentina

The 1976 Argentine coup was a right-wing coup d'état that overthrew Isabel Perón on 24 March 1976, in Argentina. In her place, a military junta was installed, which 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 10 December 1983.

Although political repression (the so-called "Dirty War") began long before the coup, it was heavily extended after the event and resulted in the "disappearances" of between around 9,300 and 30,000 persons, depending on sources.

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]


President Juan Domingo Perón died on 1 July 1974. He was succeeded by his wife, María Estela Martínez de Perón, nicknamed "Isabelita", who proved incapable of controlling the rapidly deteriorating political and social situation.

On 5 February 1975, Operativo Independencia was launched; a Vietnam-style intervention aiming to annihilate the guerrilla strongholds in the Tucumán jungle, which had maintained a presence in the area as early as May 1974. In October, the country was divided into five military zones, and each commander was given full autonomy to unleash a carefully planned wave of repression.

On 18 December, a number of warplanes took off from Morón Air Base and strafed the Casa Rosada in an attempt to overthrow Isabel de Perón. The rebellion was only halted four days later through arbitration by a chaplain. However, the military did succeed in toppling Air Force commander Héctor Fautario, the government's only remaining loyal officer, who had drawn harsh criticism towards himself from the Army and Navy due to his vehement opposition to their repressive plans, and for his refusal to mobilize the Air Force against the guerrillas' strongholds in the north. Crucially, he was Videla's last obstacle on the way to power.

By January 1976, Argentina's fate was sealed. The guerrilla front in Tucumán was reduced to a few platoons, and the military was biding its time, fully backed by the local élite and the United States.[3][4]

The Coup[edit]

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

"[...] 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 all inhabitants the strict compliance of 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."

State of siege and martial law were implemented, and military patrolling in every major city was established. 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, workplaces or in the street.

24 March is now designated the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice.


  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. ^ "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.