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International Justice


Former President Of Argentina To Be Charged With Crimes Against Humanity

November 24th 2008

History-Genocide - Jorge Rafael Videla

The former dictator of Argentina, General Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo, has been charged with ordering the deaths of 31 political prisoners when he led the governing military junta of the South American country in the 1970s. Judge Cristina Garzón de Lascano of Córdoba charged him with crimes against humanity perpetrated from 1976 to 1983.

The judge is to investigate the participation of Videla and other Argentine military authorities in human rights abuses and other crimes committed in police facilities and the San Martín prison in Córdoba, an area southwest of Buenos Aires in the foothills of the Andes. This is the first time that Videla has been charged in the Province of Córdoba for crimes against humanity.

In addition to Videla, another 20 persons have been charged and also facing fines and imprisonment. Among them are retired Army officers Vicente Meli, Mauricio Carlos Poncet, Raúl Eduardo Fierro, and Jorge González Navarro.

Videla and fellow junta member Admiral Eduardo Massera and Air Force Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti were both trained at the School of the Americas training facility organized by the U.S. Army in Panamá. In 1999 President Bill Clinton apologized to the people of Guatemala for the role the U.S. played in the repression of human rights in their country, as it was Argentina that provided military advisors to the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador during their civil wars in the 1970s when thousands of innocent persons, along with Marxist guerrillas, were killed by military and security forces.

Videla took power in 1976 in a coup d’etat that overthrew María Estela de Perón, wife of former dictator Juan Perón. He and other members of the ruling military junta began what came to be called the “dirty war,”a nationwide program of repression in which up to 30,000 persons “disappeared” or were killed by Argentine military and police forces. Videla, along with his supporters in government and the right wing of the Peronist movement, even silenced critics within the Argentine military and coordinated acts of repression in neighboring Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay called “Plan Condor.” He continued in power until 1981.

Videla and other members of the junta and Argentine military eventually faced justice in 1985 when the democratically-elected government of President Raúl Alfonsín took power after Argentina’s disastrous invasion of the Falkland Islands. Discharged from the army, he received a life sentence for crimes against humanity. However, Videla was pardoned by President Saúl Menem of the Peronist Party in 1990. President Menem, himself a detainee of the junta’s lockups at one time, said that he wished to close this dark chapter in the history of Argentina. Videla remained at liberty until 1998 when he was convicted of another crime from the 1970s, the abduction of scores of babies born to mothers murdered in his jails, who were given to couples in the Argentine military and police forces for adoption.

Videla, 83 years old, is being held at the Campo de Mayo military installation on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. In October 2008 Judge Norberto Oyarbide ruled that Videla, after being held under house-arrest for a decade, must now serve prison time for his crimes and remanded him to military custody.

Martin Barillas edits www.speroforum.com. Eduardo Szklarz is based in Argentina and heads up the Cutting Edge South America desk.

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