A brutal army commander, who rose to be Argentine president during the period known as the “Dirty War”, has died in prison, aged 87. Jorge Rafael Videla led the military junta during the late seventies and early eighties, an epoch in which more than 30,000 citizens critical of the country’s dictatorial regime were “disappeared”, often killed, kidnapped or tortured.
He seized power in 1976 after a coup d’état deposed the fledgling government of Isabel Peron, who had become president after her husband’s death.
Videla, who was jailed in 1983 for crimes against humanity, remained unapologetic about the routine kidnaps and murders that took place under his leadership. "I was on top of everyone else," he said at a recent trial, taking responsibility for the brutal crimes that scarred the country. The 87-year-old died of natural causes in the Marcos Paz prison in Buenos Aires on Friday.
Speaking to Reuters, Argentine human rights activist Adolfo Perez Esquivel, said: "He spent his life doing great damage, which left a mark on the life of the country. His death ended his physical presence but not what he did to the country."
This year, Videla attended a trial for Plan Condor, the disputed campaign of political repression speared by right-wing dictatorships in the Southern Cone of South America, which aimed to remove Soviet influence from the region's governments.