I’ve decided to keep the theme of military dictatorships in South America going this week. Last week, I focused on the presidents of Brazil’s twenty-one year military dictatorship. This week focuses on Argentina’s military government and the “Dirty War” of 1976-1983. In the face of increasing political polarization and a worsening economy (and in the context of the Cold War), the Argentine military took power from Isabel Perón, who took over the presidency when Juan Perón died in 1974 (Isabel was Perón’s third wife and married him nine years after Eva “Evita” Perón died in 1952). Dissatisfied with the job Isabel did in stemming political turmoil, the military took over in 1976, establishing one of the more brutal military governments in South America. Between 1976 and 1983, the military ruled with a series of juntas that targeted anybody who was “subversive” in what came to be called the “Dirty War”. The military arrested, tortured, and regularly murdered anybody it deemed “radical,”; evidence of “radicalism” could include symbols as innocuous as men with long hair or women who wore pants. The regime’s human rights record was appalling: in seven and a half years, the Argentine military murdered tens of thousands of its own citizens; upper-estimates put the number at 30,000 (by comparison, the 17-year Pinochet regime in Chile murdered upwards of 4,000 citizens, and the higher estimates for Brazil’s twenty-one year regime are about 700 people). Ultimately, the military overestimated its power when it went to war with England over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands; the defeat the military suffered was so overwhelming that, within a year, civilian rule had returned to Argentina.
However, as this story reminds us, the legacies of the “Dirty War” are still felt on a daily basis in Argentina. This was evident when I visited there in 2007; public graffiti and displays condemning the regime more than 30 years later were still very visible on the streets. Thus, rather than focusing on the leaders themselves, this week’s images are of some of the anti-dictatorship expressions I photographed while in Buenos Aires.