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March 24, 1976: the last days of the victim

During 1975, the Argentine Republic, the victim, was in the midst of an escalation of civil and military violence unparalleled. 45 years after the coup d'état, voices from the past tell us a tragic present.

24 de marzo de 1976

 “ The Armed Forces, in fulfillment of an indispensable obligation, have assumed the leadership of the State,” signed Videla, Massera and Agosti a coup proclamation at 3.20 in the morning of March 24, 1976, extending the notorious communiqué number one, that ended the state of law in the country and printed with blood letters the repressive sign of the self - called National Reorganization Process.  “ This decision is intended to end misgovernance, corruption and subversive scourge, and is directed only at those who have committed crimes or abuses of power. It is a decision for the Fatherland... so the Republic will reach the unity of the Argentines and the recovery of the National Being... in this new stage there is a place of struggle for every citizen ... the severe exercise of authority is imposed to eradicate the vices that are definitively affect the country... The Armed Forces have taken control of the Republic... - which will achieve, with God's help, full national recovery”, ended the declaration of a civic-military process that fueled social and cultural cracks, violated the rights human beings, perfecting State Terrorism on an unknown scale, destroyed the productive apparatus, astronomical elevated foreign and internal debt, led the disaster of the Falkland War, and  plunged the same military institution into a discredit that seems irremontable to 45 years of the worst time in contemporary national history.   But these words of the genocides, condemned in  Alfonsín's presidency , perfectly fit the  last months of President Isabel Perón, who were not only the anteroom. of the social and economic horror to come, but they cemented the attitude of a society that claimed a hard hand:  “The end is imminent. Everything is said,” called the exultant evening  La Razón  on March 23, 1976, while later the Peronist financier Jorge Antonio declared, “If the Armed Forces come to place order, respect and stability, welcome be.” Unlike him, who was compensated with 80 million dollars on his return in 1976, millions of Argentines had no order, no respect or stability during the last dictatorship.  

“Perón has put Peronism at the center... has opted... for a synthesis of programs and a coalition of forces rather than to establish a... authoritarian movement”, analyzed the conservative daily  La Nación  after the September 1973 victory of the Juan Pero formula. oacute; N-Isabel Perón, historically anti-Peronist, “a pluralistic regime of political parties has been unquestionably consolidated. We are thus making a new experience... the genuinely novel thing about Argentine politics is this widespread sense of commitment.” Until the death of the justicialist leader on 1 July 1974, the “experience” threw a profound setback in democratic guarantees, far from the pluralism that was envizorated a year earlier, mainly by the turn to the right supported by the trade union bureaucracy, and executed by the sinister minister López Rega.  Any left-wing tendency, one of the “novelties” in the so-called Camporista Spring in 1973, was unlooked erased, several provinces intervened, universities with direct-fascist appointments, and the widespread persecution of dissident militants, especially the younger, and grassroots workers.   Although during the dictatorship of Onganía there were signs of State Terrorism, there was never before in the twentieth century since the government a parastatal group such as the Triple A (Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance), harassing and murdering leaders, intellectuals and artists. “The government is committed to liberating the country not only from colonialism but from these infiltrators who work inside, and who are traitorously more dangerous than those who work outside.  Today it turns out that some unberbals claim to have more merits than they fought for 20 years,” Perón said in the fundamental speech of May 1, 1974, the definitive farewell to institutionalizing ties with guerrilla organizations, which emptied Plaza de Mayo, and also with the slightly from the previous left, that “new experience”, in which Minister Gelbard's unprecedented social pact was a hope of openness between opposing sectors of the economy and labour. And the end repressive of Perón's third government was much like the hardening after Evita's death in 1952.  

From there all roads led to the confrontation at any neighbor's door, with an explosive detonating every three hours in Argentina, one dead every five, violent attempts at copamientos from Azul to Formosa alternated with military assonates such as the “Navarrazo” in Córdoba - and that derived in a bloody cleansing of the Peronist “Tendency” - on par with an increasing militarization of guerrilla groups - Montoneros reached 5 thousand combatants, a number similar to the PRT-ERP, the Revolutionary Workers Party, and its military structure, the People's Revolutionary Army. These guerrilla groups denoted an ostensible departure from their very bases, and the reality of the popular classes and middle sectors, and were fighters isolated in an ideological bubble. In the middle, the civilian population remained, between resigned and fearful,  “the apparent turning to the right in the political field has its dangers if the reaction to subversion becomes unreasonable”, noted an editorial in the newspaper La Nación at the end of 1974. added Heriberto Kahn, also horrified in the progressive newspaper La Opinión, as a balance sheet: “1974 has been one of the most violent years in Argentina's history. The number of political deaths and injuries has reached unprecedented figures since the National Organization.” And the kingdom of nonreason and terror was established in 1975.  


 1975: the year of what will come 

“To overturn all forces to lead the popular resistance against the imperialist offensive that has actually taken up positions of government” was  Montoneros's manifesto in September 1974, when they again move into armed struggle, now against a government elected at the polls . A few months earlier, President Isabel Perón had authorized the military to unrestricted occupation of Tucumán. The “Operativo Independencia” not only deactivated the ERP's guerrilla ties with villagers, it also annihilated outside the law, “of them there were only semicalcinated remains,” Héctor Simeoni collected from a lieutenant, and, in addition, inaugurated against anyone who did not square in Argentina's “property, tradition and family”, a wave of illegal detentions-disappearances, and clandestine centers, which would be the painful reality and geography for the following year.  When in October 1975, President Luder, exercising on the license of Isabel Perón, put into the hands of the military the repression and “extermination” of the subversives, this plan was under way much earlier.  Throughout the justicialist government of Perón-Perón, the armed forces were subordinating, and bending, province to province in the face of the inaction, and contubernio, of the three powers.

The power vacuum was evident in mid-1975 but the military's strategy was patience, “the strategy of the rotten block”, they repeated, and in front of the other previous blows, there was no need to knock on barracks doors.  In public light throughout 1975, the related sectors were enlisted for a military government that was known to be inexorable “today is attacked as never before in subversion, the things of the university have been straightened up and the opposition collaborates with the institutionalization of the country. government changes its economic policy will have broad support,” he praised, did he threaten? , the Rural Society.   The successive Orthodox plans of Celestino Rodrigo, the destructive Argentine industry “Rodrigazo”, and Emilio Mondelli, “was the first time that explicit and public objectives of a reduction in real wages were included in a Peronist economic program,” he notes Guido Di Tella, mediated by Antonio Cafiero's ephemeral gradualism, served as concrete test benches of the new order after March 1976, aimed at a phenomenal redistribution of wealth (in 1974 a recovery in wages reached 44 per cent despite inflation had been achieved. None of that was left by 1975), the primacy of the agro-export sector (machinery, steel and chemicals were being exported despite the high labor conflict, and it seemed that at last in 1975 it was shaping towards an industrial model. None of that was left by 1980) and exponential external indebtedness (which had remained stable since the 1960s and went from 8 billion to 45 billion in the 1975-1983 cycle. From there  the heavy inheritance of the debt was Argentine karma )

 “ The discretionary use of power that tends to generate unprecedented clashes in the history of our Movement, between the head of the Movement and her workers” was the last phrase of the CGT's call - the Peronist General Confederation of Labour - to the national strike of 7 and 8 July, the first one held against a Peronist government . The mobilization of more than 100,000 people, and the pressure against the trade union bureaucracy that handles the threads of power with the remnant lopezreguism of Raúl Lastiri, won a setback in unpopular measures and the resignation of López Rega, from there a fugitive from Argentine justice, and the Minister Rodrigo.  Political parties and trade unions renewed their votes of confidence in the democratic order as the military moved forward in the armed of the future government and tempted José Martínez de Hoz for an essential ministry of the de facto regime, Economy.   The constitutional order was wounded by death and President Isabel, on November 6, 1975, said “to continue in the struggle” because “I count on the support of the constitutional order I represent have repeatedly expressed to me by the institutions that form our national life: Armed Forces Armades of the Nation, the Catholic Church, organized labor movement, business centers, political parties”. Another window of how the estates of the  “National Reorganization” would be understood, with armed forces first and foremost, imbued with a messianic spirit; with the idea that they would not only save the country from terrorism but from all civil errors since 1916.  

The future de facto president Videla would trigger Christmas Eve 1975 in Tucumán, before the soldiers of the repressive and illegal “Operativo Independencia”, “we accept the task - with patriotism and spirit of service, we look dismayed around us and observe with grief, but with  the healthy rage of the true soldier, the incongruous - historical - difficulties in which the country is debated, without fooling a solution... peace is not only begged, happiness is not only expected, but also won” 


 1976: hell so feared 

“There will be no solution in Argentina if we do not realize the need to achieve a national synthesis that I proposed, in the face of the government disaster, a valid, correct, viable, sensible and precise alternative, that will allow us to get out of the marasmus in which we are living,” said the  leader Radical Raúl Alfonsín, in the face of the inertia of the historic leader of his party Ricardo Balbín, “we have to look for solutions in the field of democracy and that is why every call must originally be motorized by political parties”, recalled in January 1976 trying to save the insurmountable. Alfonsín was one of the promoters of the multi-party party in the chambers that was supposed to hold the president and that would start working on the afternoon of the fateful March 24. It didn't happen, of course . On the side of death, “life counts nothing, violent death becomes a habitual and even desired event, particularly for the adversary... the episode of Monte Chingolo (on December 23, 1975, the ERP attempts to copate an arsenal in the province of Buenos Aires, in what was a terminal failure because the ejr... He was infiltrated in the organization, a dirty war tactic that he would repeat with Montoneros after 1976.  The repression was particularly bloody in the emergency villages against militants of various signs, workers and priests), it produced a feeling of relief: one hundred dead are a hundred enemies less, and if it were more, better, whatever was the way of his death”, appeared in an editorial of the magazine tata Criterion.  

By the beginning of 1976 everything led to the fall of the government of Isabel Perón. “Ninety percent of people talk about the coup d'état,” appeared on the top of  the newspaper La Opinión , the unions, former guarantors of governance, stood up in an irresponsible? plan of struggle “that rejects the reactionary liberal principles of the government” and prevent the late impeachment of Isabel, in Congress there was “calm resignation” (sic), and the military waited for the block to fall alone, “- the liberal politician Alvaro- Alsogaray asks for patience from the military for a while... until it becomes clear that the only alternative is a total intervention... some jokers commented: We are about to reach that point at noon today,” entrusted his superiors the US ambassador.

Along with the political and economic deterioration, guerrilla, paramilitary and repressive violence also influenced the mindset of citizens, who yearned for an order “whatever it is”. The basis for the legitimacy of the repression of the Process must be found there, along with the terrible “for  Intellectuals such as Jorge Luis Borges and Ernesto Sábato, in tune with the mass media, claimed the monopoly of violence for the armed forces, “the weed had grown and there he wants to what national destiny was overflowing”, Videla said in the conservative daily La Razón once the coup had been finished, and that it would be the head of a regime that would effectively monopoly violence and, now, terror . Julio Cortázar, one of the most prestigious Argentine writers abroad, even in the early hours agreed with the military, who had deposed “ a government of improvised, politiciquillos and impatient thieves, headed by a man (López Rega) who became a symbol From Paris, Cortazar would regret as the first testimonies of the worst repression carried out by the modern Argentine State, which included   deleznable executions , cowardly torture, baby robberies and looting against property, “impatient thieves”, on a full scale.  

“The Armed Forces take power, detrue the President,”  La Nación  said on the cover on March 24, 1976, in a special edition since they had less than two hours to assemble the cover (sic), “ a proposal aimed at preventing the breakdown of the institutional order, was rejected. General Commanders Board would take over the government today at 5,  Mrs. de Perón has been transferred to the South”, more precisely arrested at the Hotel El Messidor in Villa La Angostura, Neuquén. Among the purposes of the Process, it appears in the newspaper La Opinión (which would be intervened, like so many other media, and its director Jacobo Timerman, fiercely tortured for his status as a Jew) on March 25, 1976, “the validity of the values of Christian morality, national tradition and dignity of the Argentine being”, with the first lines that triggered the inquisitor's censorship, and the total suppression of freedom of thought and expression.

A few weeks after the coup d'état that would water the national fabric with blood and grudges forever, “-because - the need to deeply reorganize social ties was imposed on the ruling classes, force small and medium-sized entrepreneurs to adapt to the new scenario or to perish, discipline quickly to the working classes, to break the bonds of solidarity that united them with the middle sectors... -it was to erase from the face of the Earth - what some right-wing sectors began to call “populism”... - to remove from the middle - the limits imposed by democratic laws and institutions aacute; ticas”, analyzes  Ezequiel Adamovsky , on April 18 the super classic Boca-River was played. “We are going towards a change in depth,” titled the daily developer Clarín from the statements of dictator Videla, and below, little, mentioned in girls the morning that unusually there were 20,000 tickets left for the most popular, expected and transcendental football match Argentinian. This was the climate of Terror, Fear, Isolation and Paranoia that the last military dictatorship bequeathed to us. And it started at 3.20 in the morning, on March 24, 1976. Even if it sounds trite, once again, Never Again .


Sources: Blaustein, E. Zubieta, M.  We said yesterday. The Argentine press under the Process . Buenos Aires: Colihue. 2015; Di Tella,  Peron-Perón 1973-1976.  Buenos Aires: Hyspamerica. 1983; AAVV “ The fall of Isabel ” in History of Argentina. Address Felix Luna. Buenos Aires: Hyspamerica.1994

Publication Date: 24/03/2021

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