Jorge Rafael Videla was born in Mercedes, Argentina on 2 August 1925. He is the son of an army Coronel. He graduated from the National Military College in 1994 and began what would become a long military career. He worked for the Ministry of Defence from 1950 to 1962 when he became director of the Military College. In 1971 he became General and two years later, Chief of the Army General Staff. In 1975, under the presidency of Isabel Perón, successor of her late husband, he is designated Commander in Chief of the Argentine armed forces.
On 24 March 1976, a military junta headed by Jorge Rafael Videla seized power through a military coup. This junta led the country until 10 December 1983. The junta was initially composed of Videla; Naval Commander Admiral, Emilio Eduardo Masseraand; Air Force Commander Sergeant, Ramón Agosti. Videla handed over the presidency of the Junta to General Roberto Eduardo Viola in 1981.
During the year of the dictatorship, known later as the “dirty war” period (1976-1983), the Argentinean military resolved to eradicate what the junta called “subversive thoughts”, as well as “terrorists”, namely “anyone who disseminated ideas contrary to Western Christian civilization”. During the course of the following years, the military murdered or forcibly disappeared between 10,000 and 30,000 people. In addition, about 500,000 opponents of the regime were forced into exile to escape repression.
Several hundred clandestine detention centres were set up throughout the country, the most ill- renowned being the “Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada” (ESMA) were torture was practiced systematically. In such centres, numerous prisoners were murdered or disappeared. The babies born of women detained were taken away by the military and placed in families with falsified documents.
At the same time, since 1976, the junta participated actively in the “Plan Condor”, network of secret services of the military dictatorships of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil with the purpose of eliminating the political opponents of the different regimes, exiled in their territories.
In 1983, the military regime, weakened by its resounding defeat by the British navy in the Falklands war, gave way to a democratically elected civilian government with Raúl Alfonsin, from the party Unión Cívica Radical, as president.
As soon as he became president, Alfonsín set up the National Commission on the Disappeared (CONADEP) which, under the direction of writer Ernesto Sábato, had the task of investigating and shedding light on the forced disappearances committed by the military regime during the previous decade. The CONADEP published a report called “Nunca más” which recognized around 9,000 cases of disappearances, a figure estimated today at more than 15,000.
On 22 April 1985, a historical trial opened in Buenos Aires to judge the main actors of the dictatorship.
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