Jorge Rafael Videla
|“||As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure.||„|
|~ Jorge Rafael Videla, 1975.|
Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo (August 2nd, 1925 - May 17th, 2013) was an Argentine military officer and dictator of Argentina from his coup de'tat in 1976 to 1981. His dictatorship was one of the many military dictatorships in South America established by Operation Condor during the Cold War.
Videla first came to power after deposing President Isabel Perón in a successful military coup on March 24, 1976.
The chaotic rule of the Videla regime was known as the Dirty War. Like many other South American dictators like (such as Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Hugo Banzer in Bolivia) Videla had thousands arrested, killed, tortured or kidnapped. He also had babies of mothers born in detention centers adopted by supporters of the regime. Particularly targeted by Videla's regime were leftist politicians or anyone who was believed to have left-wing sympathies. A death squad called the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance was formed specially to eliminate them.
Argentine Jews also served as prime targets of the Videla regime; between 1,900 and as high as 3,000 Jews were among the 30,000 who were targeted by the Argentine military junta. It is a disproportionate number, as Jews comprised between 5–12% of those targeted but only 1% of the population. Though the official reason given by the government (and some historians) was that there were many Jews that were members of the Leftist and Marxist rebel groups that opposed the dictatorship, but it has been widely accepted that the real reason was because of Anti-Semitism. Many torture victims were said to have seen pictures of Adolf Hitler and swastikas on walls of torture chambers and interrogators uttering anti-Semitic epithets.
During a human rights investigation in September 1979, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denounced Videla's government, citing many disappearances and instances of abuse. In response, the junta hired the Burson-Marsteller ad agency to formulate a pithy comeback: Los argentinos somos derechos y humanos (Literally, "We the Argentines are righteous and humane"). The slogan was printed on 250,000 bumper stickers and distributed to motorists throughout Buenos Aires to create the appearance of a spontaneous support of pro-junta sentiment, at a cost of approximately $16,117.
The actual dictatorship, known as the National Reorganization Process, ceased in 1983, as a result of the Falklands War, and with the end of the dictatorship, the Dirty War came to an end as well. Videla had stepped down two years previously, but continued to remain active in the dictatorship's affairs until 1983.
The Trial of the Juntas convened in 1985 to prosecute any officials associated with the junta, particularly their involvement in perpetuating the Dirty War. Videla was convicted of perpetrating numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity and was sentenced to life in prison.
However, Videla would only remain imprisoned for five years. In 1990, President Carlos Menem pardoned Videla and many other imprisoned former members of the military regime. Menem also pardoned the leftist guerrilla commanders accused of terrorism. In a televised address to the nation, President Menem said, "I have signed the decrees so we may begin to rebuild the country in peace, in liberty and in justice ... We come from long and cruel confrontations. There was a wound to heal."
After several stints in and out of prison from 1998 to 2012, he was finally handed down a new prison sentence after a federal court had ruled President Menem's pardons unconstitutional. On July 5, 2012, Videla was convicted and sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment for his participation in a scheme to steal babies from parents detained by the military regime. According to the court decision, Videla was an accomplice "in the crimes of theft, retention and hiding of minors, as well as replacing their identities." The children were given to military families for illegal adoption, and their identities were hidden. An estimated 400 children were stolen during this period, often from mothers who gave birth in prison and who were later "disappeared." By the summer of 2014, 113 of these adoptees had their identities restored.
Videla died in prison on May 17, 2013, only one year into his new prison sentence. An autopsy revealed he died from multiple fractures and internal hemorrhaging caused by him falling during a shower. He was 87 years old.