|“||If they want to come, let them come. We will present them battle!||„|
|~ Leopoldo Galtieri about the British in a speech during the Falklands War.|
Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri Castelli (15 July 1926 – 12 January 2003) was an Argentine general and President of Argentina from December 1981 to June 1982, during the National Reorganization Process' rule of the country.
The death squad, 601 Intelligence Battalion, directly reported to him. Having ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands in April 1982, he was removed from power soon after the Argentine defeat by British armed forces in the Falklands War.
Born to a working class Italian-Argentine family, he went to the National Military Academy to study civil engineering. He was an officer in the engineering branch early on in his career. He continued climbing the ranks while studying, eventually becoming a professor of engineering at the Senior War College in 1958.
Following 25 years as a combat engineer, he was appointed commander of the Argentine engineering corps in 1975. He was a strong supporter of Jorge Rafael Videla's coup that created the NRP, continuing to rise the ranks until becoming commander-in-chief as lieutenant general in 1980.
During this time, the Dirty War occurred, where between 9,000 and 30,000 people branded as left wing dissenters disappeared, along with the suspension of Congress and the abolition of trade unions. He was supported by the United States in the fight against communism, and he also supported the Contra program in Nicaragua, training early groups in Argentine bases. This allowed him to remove enemies, before finally becoming head of state after overthrowing General Roberto Viola.
Galtieri maintained his control over the army during his presidency and did not appoint a separate commander-in-chief. His initial rule was beneficial for the economy, where his economic minister cut spending and reduced bloated government managed companies. However, the Central Bank still tied mortgages to the US Dollar locally, causing a 5% GDP decrease and worsened economic stagnation. One of his close allies was also appointed as head of the state's petroleum company, where mismanagement caused a $6 billion dollar loss in company profits. He also instituted limited reform, allowing minor dissent. This saw protests against the junta increase, however.
In 1982, after four months in office, Galtieri was very unpopular. To supplement this, he ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands, a British territory in the South Atlantic Ocean which had been claimed by Argentina for many decades. The move worked, and his popularity increased drastically, causing anti-junta protests to transform to demonstrations in great support of Galtieri. However, contrary to his assumption that Britain would not respond, Margaret Thatcher ordered a task force to push back Argentine forces from the islands. The capital of the islands, Stanley, was retaken quickly and Argentine forces surrendered on 14 June 1982.
Galtieri was removed 4 days after, and he fled to a country estate where he watched Argentina restore to democracy. He was arrested in 1983 and was prosecuted under the Code of Military Justice for his actions during the Dirty War and the Falklands War. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 1986. He was stripped of his ranks, but received a presidential pardon with the rest of the generals involved with the dictatorship in 1989.
Following his release, he moved to the suburbs of Buenos Aires and lived a modest life, with a military pension of $1,800 a month. He attempted to claim a presidential pension, but was denied on the grounds that his term was illegal as he had not been elected. He further had to pay for all court costs. He refused all interviews by Argentine press, but did state he had no regrets about the Dirty War. He caused controversy by appearing at a military parade in 2002 for Argentine Army Day, where he was confronted by journalists. Charges were later brought against him that year for the kidnapping of children and the disappearance of 18 leftist supporters while he was commander of the Second Army Corps, but remained at home due to poor health. He died on 12 January 2003.