[Marxism] He should rot in hell

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri May 17 10:29:10 MDT 2013

NY Times May 17, 2013
Jorge Rafael Videla, Jailed Argentine Military Leader, Dies at 87

Jorge Rafael Videla, the military junta leader who oversaw a ruthless 
campaign of political killings and forced disappearances during 
Argentina’s so-called Dirty War against dissidents in the mid-1970s, 
died Friday in the Marcos Paz Prison in Buenos Aires, where he was 
serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity. He was 87.

His death was announced by Argentina’s Secretariat for Human Rights.

At least 15,000 people were killed or “disappeared” during the junta’s 
campaign, according to government estimates. Human rights officials say 
the figure is closer to 30,000.

In 1976, General Videla led a coup against President Isabel Martínez de 
Perón, widow of Juan Domingo Perón, the founder of the country’s 
influential populist movement. Mrs. Perón was arrested and charged with 
corruption, and General Videla, the chief of the armed forces, took 
over. He assumed the presidency and established a military junta.

Despite early promises to restore civilian rule, General Videla declared 
a priority the “eradication” of the leftist guerrillas who had begun a 
fierce offensive against Mrs. Perón’s government. But the anti-guerrilla 
net soon widened to include lawyers, students, journalists and union 
leaders suspected of ties to radical groups. Congress was suspended, 
political parties were abolished, strikes were made illegal and death 
squads roamed the country.

After the collapse of the junta in 1983 and the return of democracy, 
General Videla was sentenced to life in prison for human rights abuses 
that included torture and murder. The 1985 trial of the main junta 
officials had historic implications in a region plagued by autocratic 

“For the first time the members of a military junta are being tried by 
civilian courts for the crimes they committed during a dictatorship,” 
Ernesto Sábato, the Argentine novelist and head of a presidential 
commission to investigate the disappearances, said at the time.

But in 1990, General Videla, along with other junta officials, was 
pardoned by President Carlos Saúl Menem in an effort to move the country 
past its traumatic history.

In 1998 General Videla was arrested again, on kidnapping charges. He was 
accused of organizing the illegal adoption by military families of 
children whose parents disappeared after being kidnapped by death squads.

General Videla was put under house arrest and then sent to a military 
prison. After a judge revoked the 1990 pardons as unconstitutional in 
2007, General Videla and other junta officials faced new charges over 
the torture and execution of political prisoners.

Speaking before a tribunal in July 2010, General Videla assumed full 
responsibility for his actions during the “internal war,” saying his 
subordinates were just following orders. But he said that he would not 
testify in a new trial because he could not be “tried again for the same 
cause,” a reference to his 1985 trial.

Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo was born in Mercedes, Argentina, on Aug. 2, 
1925. The son of an army colonel, he graduated from the National 
Military College in 1944.

He rose steadily through the ranks, becoming a brigadier general by 
1971. He was appointed chief of the army general staff in 1973, and in 
1975 Mrs. Perón named him commander in chief of the armed forces.

By that point the military’s high command was already voicing its 
frustration with the civilian government, which was under siege by 
rampant inflation, corruption and a campaign of bombings and 
assassinations by radical left-wing groups. Mrs. Perón had declared a 
state of emergency in November 1974, giving the army free hand to pursue 
the militants.

As the economy and security deteriorated under the Peronist government, 
leftists and union leaders began warning of the threat of a revolt like 
General Augusto Pinochet’s bloody coup against Salvador Allende in Chile.

But the coup in Argentina was carried out almost without a shot. Mrs. 
Perón left the presidential palace in a helicopter at midnight as 
General Videla and the junta took power, promising to fill a vacuum of 
leadership. Their objective was to install a technocratic government 
capable of regaining control of the economy and restoring security.

The junta economic policies focused on privatizing the large public 
sector created under the populist Peronist system and developing the 
agrarian export sector controlled by landholders. Other measures 
included cutting wages, reducing welfare assistance and raising food 
prices. On security, General Videla intensified the so-called Process of 
National Reorganization, putting the radical groups — including the 
powerful Montoneros, which had broken from the Peronist movement, and 
the Trotskyite Revolutionary Army of the People — on the defensive.

“One becomes a terrorist not only by killing with a weapon or setting a 
bomb but also by encouraging others through ideas that go against our 
Western and Christian civilization,” General Videla declared in 1977.

With support from the military and the police, right-wing death squads 
kidnapped presumed subversives and took them to secret detention 
centers, never to be seen again.

Human rights abuses started to isolate General Videla and Argentina. 
President Jimmy Carter sent diplomatic observers and cut military aid 
significantly to pressure the junta.

As president, General Videla survived numerous assassination attempts, 
including one in 1977 when a bomb exploded on the airport runway in 
Buenos Aires seconds after his plane took off.

As the violence ebbed, he turned to the dysfunctional economy. “The war 
is over,” he said in 1979. “Now we must win the peace.”

In 1981, he relinquished power to Gen. Roberto Viola. Poor health forced 
General Viola to step down only eight months later. He was succeeded by 
Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, who ordered Argentina’s failed invasion of the 
Falkland Islands. Britain’s rapid victory over Argentina destroyed the 
credibility of the army and brought an end to military rule.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Simon Romero contributed reporting.

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