Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Argentina: The night before the coup

"The commanders suggested, gently but firmly, that if the president holds power what she has to do is wield it."
On the eve of the anniversary of the 1976 coup, Argentine paper Perfil carries extracts from an interview with one of the leaders of that coup, Jorge Videla. He answered the questions in writing from his prison cell where he is serving life for crimes against humanity.

This is a really interesting account of the final months of 1975 and the beginning of 1976, when top army figures began holding private meetings in the face of president Isabel Peron's manifest lack of leadership. Videla describes a meeting in January 1976 in which the three leaders of the armed forces were asked what suggestions they could make to solve the political crisis. He claims that they produced a document to this effect, but the matter was then immediately dropped and never mentioned again.

The day before the coup, on 23 March 1976, they met with the defence minister José Alberto Deheza and told him they could not give Peron their support, saying it was her job to exercise power. And the rest, as they say, is history. But this stresses the combination of factors that go into provoking a coup: Argentina had a shaky democratic tradition and there had been five previous coups that century; institutions were weak; inflation was very high; the Montoneros had committed some emblematic acts of political violence; and Isabel Peron was undoubtedly an incapable president. None of this is to excuse Videla and co., on the contrary, but it is to see how these events could come about.

Videla: “Le dijimos a Isabel que no sabíamos cómo darle nuestro apoyo”
The night before the Argentine military coup 24 March 1976, according to Videla (Mercopress)

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