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
Date24 March 1976
Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires
Result Overthrow of Isabel Martínez de Perón. Jorge Rafael Videla becomes President of Argentina

Argentina Government

Argentina Armed Forces

Supported by:
United States United States[1][2][3]
Commanders and leaders
Argentina Isabel Perón Argentina Jorge Videla

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 Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier-General[4] Orlando Ramón Agosti. The political process initiated on 24 March 1976 took the official name of "National Reorganization Process", and the junta, although not with its original members, remained in power until the return to the democratic process on 10 December 1983. Given the systematic persecution of a social minority, the period has been classified as a genocidal process.[5][6][7] This has been established in the sentences of trials for crimes against humanity.[8][9][10]

The right-wing coup had been planned since October 1975, learned of the preparations two months before its execution. Henry Kissinger met several times with Argentine Armed Forces leaders after the coup, urging them to destroy their opponents quickly before outcry over human rights abuses grew in the United States.[11][2][3]

Prelude to the coup[edit]

When president Juan Perón died of natural causes on July 1, 1974, he was succeeded by his wife (then vice-president) María Estela Martínez de Perón, also known as "Isabelita." Despite her claim as the country's rightful ruler, she rapidly lost political gravitas and power. A group of military officials, tasked by Perón to aide the vice-president,[citation needed] 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. Meanwhile, the military, fully backed by the local élite and the United States, bided its time before ultimately seizing power.[2][12]

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]

The Junta assumed the executive power until March 29 when Videla was designated president. Congress was disbanded and an entity known as Legislative Advising Commission (in Spanish: Comision de Asesoramiento Legislativo - CAL) assumed a Legislative role.[13]

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.[14] 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.[14] 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.[2]

The criminal dictatorship counted on the complicity of civil and ecclesiastical sectors, therefore it is usually characterized as a civic-military-ecclesiastical-business dictatorship.[15][16][17][18]

The Junta remained in power until the election of Raúl Alfonsín as the President of Argentina, in December 1983.

The 24th of March anniversary of the coup is now designated in Argentina as the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Military Take Cognizance of Human Rights Issue" (PDF). National Security Archive. 16 February 1976.
  2. ^ a b c d "Kissinger approved Argentinian 'dirty war'". The Guardian. 6 December 2003. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b Blakeley, Ruth (2009). State Terrorism and Neoliberalism: The North in the South. Routledge. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0415686174.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Crenzel, Emilio (3 July 2019). "The Crimes of the Last Dictatorship in Argentina and its Qualification as Genocide: A Historicization". Global Society. 33 (3): 365–381. doi:10.1080/13600826.2019.1598944. ISSN 1360-0826. S2CID 150960533.
  6. ^ Feierstein, Daniel (1 June 2006). "Political violence in Argentina and its genocidal characteristics". Journal of Genocide Research. 8 (2): 149–168. doi:10.1080/14623520600703024. ISSN 1462-3528. S2CID 55213118.
  7. ^ Levy, Guillermo (1 June 2006). "Considerations on the connections between race, politics, economics, and genocide". Journal of Genocide Research. 8 (2): 137–148. doi:10.1080/14623520600703016. ISSN 1462-3528. S2CID 56220219.
  8. ^ Jelin, Elizabeth (30 June 2016). "The Politics of Memory: The Human Rights Movement and the Construction of Democracy in Argentina". Latin American Perspectives. doi:10.1177/0094582X9402100204. S2CID 53624651.
  9. ^ Layus, Rosario Figari (7 August 2017). The Reparative Effects of Human Rights Trials: Lessons From Argentina. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-62762-7.
  10. ^ Belén Riveiro, María; Rosende, Luciana; Zylberman, Lior (1 November 2013). "Genocide on Trial: Case Note and Extracts of "Circuito Camps" Judgment". Genocide Studies and Prevention. 8 (1): 58–65. doi:10.5038/1911-9933.8.1.7. ISSN 1911-0359.
  11. ^ "Military Take Cognizance of Human Rights Issue" (PDF). National Security Archive. 16 February 1976.
  12. ^ "Transcript: U.S. OK'd 'dirty war'" (PDF). The Miami Herald. 4 December 2003.
  13. ^ Grigera, Juan; Zorzoli, Luciana (2019). The Argentinian Dictatorship and its Legacy Rethinking the Proceso. Palgrave. ISBN 978-3-030-18301-1.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "¿Por qué se dice que la dictadura es cívico-militar?". La tinta (in Spanish). 23 March 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  16. ^ Catoggio, María Soledad (1 June 2013). "Argentine Catholicism During the Last Military Dictatorship: Unresolved Tensions and Tragic Outcomes". Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies. 22 (2): 139–154. doi:10.1080/13569325.2013.803954. ISSN 1356-9325. S2CID 38077134.
  17. ^ "Empresas y dictadura". www.cels.org.ar. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  18. ^ "The Last Military Dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983): the Mechanism of State Terrorism | Sciences Po Mass Violence and Resistance - Research Network". last-military-dictatorship-argentina-1976-1983-mechanism-state-terrorism.html. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  19. ^ Law 25633, Argentine Congress, 22 August 2002.