It is just two years since the military in Argentina decided to intervene and put an end to the regime of Senora Maria Estela Peron.
It is just two years since the military in Argentina decided to intervene and put an end to the regime of Senora Maria Estela Peron. The coup was led by the Army Commander-in-Chief, General Jorge Rafael Videla, who became, and is still, the country's President.
SYNOPSIS: A political crisis seven months earlier, in which the army was closely concerned, had brought General Videla to the highest military office. He had forced the resignation of his predecessor, General Laplane, on the grounds that he had become too much involved in politics. Videla, a career officer, had clashed before with President Peron; and it was a surprise when she appointed him to the vacant post of Commander-in-Chief. It was also to lead directly to her downfall.
Demands had been mounting for months that Senora Peron should go. General Videla himself had demanded an end to corruption and immorality in the government. Senora Peron had taken over when her husband, Juan Peron, died in office. Her 21-months' Presidency was a time of increasing chaos in Argentina. Inflation was rampant and public order on the point of collapse. On March 24th, 1976, she was deposed and arrested.
Five days later, General Videla was sworn in as President. All but two posts in the government were filled by service officers.
President Videla gave warning that his regime would use force where necessary to ensure social peace; and promised more scope for private enterprise and foreign capital in developing the economy.
Many people in Buenos Aires, and among those the President has met on his provincial tours, have welcomed his firm hand. They say they feel safer now than when murders and kidnappings by rival political groups were an everyday occurrence. Nonetheless, the Videla government is still being criticised abroad for repression and denial of human rights; and it is known that political dissidents disappear and are held without trial.
Argentina has reasonably good relations with its neighbours. President Videla and President Mendez of Uruguay met to open a new bridge across the river which marks their border. Argentina and Chile have a long-standing dispute about their southern waters. But their two presidents have made every effort to find a settlement.
The President on a social occasion: it is rare for him to appear in civilian clothes, as he did at a Foreign Press reception. It is also rare for his wife, Alicia, to accompany him to a public function. She and her husband have seven children.
President Videla's military regime has brought a measure of stability to Argentina -- at the cost of some limitation of freedom. It has also had some success in restoring the financial situation. Inflation last year was down to about 160 percent -- high enough, but way below that of the last days of the Peron regime. There is no sign that President Videla sees any prospect of a return to elected government.