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Process of National Reorganization


El Palmar national park in Argentina
El Palmar national park in Argentina

The “Process of National Reorganization,” as the new military junta called its program, proved more repressive than any previous government in Argentina. The armed forces and the police hunted down opponents and imposed a reign of terror on the population in what became known as the “dirty war.” An estimated 30,000 people disappeared into secret prisons and were executed after weeks of torture. They became known as the desaparecidos (Spanish for “disappeared ones”)—people who vanished without trace under the military government.

When a new military government under General Roberto Viola took over in 1981, the Argentine economy collapsed completely. The government devalued the currency, which led to a flight of foreign capital. At the end of 1981 General Leopoldo Galtieri overthrew and replaced Viola. Unable to control the economy, Galtieri feared an outbreak of popular opposition and the resurgence of leftist opposition. Signs of popular protest appeared in 1982 when the hitherto repressed unions organized street demonstrations against the government. Galtieri sought to deflect the popular challenge by seizing the Falkland Islands, known in Argentina as the Islas Malvinas, territories that Argentina claimed but Britain had occupied since 1833.

On April 1, 1982, Argentine troops forced a token British force to surrender and took possession of the islands. The apparent success of the campaign converted swelling opposition to the government into massive popular support. However, Britain struck back and dispatched a large military and naval force to the South Atlantic. Many efforts to settle the conflict through diplomacy failed. In early June 1982 British troops landed on the islands. In three weeks, they defeated the poorly led, often starving Argentine soldiers. Within days of the surrender, Galtieri resigned. Another junta announced elections while trying to protect military officers from reprisals as they left the government. A year after the Falkland Islands debacle, the elections of 1983 brought an unexpected result. As the Peronistas remained divided, the smaller Radical Party under Raúl Alfonsín gained its first absolute majority since 1928. "Argentina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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