How Did the Dirty War in Argentina Start?

The Dirty Way in Argentina started after a military junta overthrew President Isabel Martínez de Perón and established a military dictatorship. The junta instigated a regime that exerted power through extreme repression, illegal arrests and summary executions of political dissidents, most who had been left-wing supporters of former President Juan Perón.

The junta, which was led by Jorge Rafael Videla until 1981 and co-led by Roberto Viola and Leopoldo Galtieri until 1983, used the government's security forces to arrest rivals and keep them incarcerated without due process, eventually torturing and killing an estimated 30,000 people. Many of these people became known as "los desaparecidos" (Spanish for "the disappeared") because they would be taken from their families and homes, never to be seen again. Revelations after the fall of the junta made clear that some of these victims were simply tortured and executed, while others were taken in planes over the sea and tossed out while still alive, so their bodies could never be claimed.

Civil protests against the political actions of the junta grew in the early 1980s, led by such groups as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. In turn these protests led to Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands, which was the junta's attempt to reestablish its authority. The junta, however, fatally misread the United Kingdom's response to such actions. The sound defeat of the Argentine forces in the Falklands War led to the fall of the junta dictatorship in 1983.