Leopoldo Galtieri

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Leopoldo Galtieri
Retrato Oficial Galtieri.jpg
President of Argentina
Appointed by the military junta
In office
22 December 1981 18 June 1982
Preceded by Carlos Lacoste (interim)
Succeeded by Alfredo Oscar Saint Jean (acting)
Personal details
Born(1926-07-15)15 July 1926
Caseros, Argentina [1]
Died12 January 2003(2003-01-12) (aged 76)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Nationality Argentine
Political partyNone
Spouse(s)Lucía Noemí Gentili (1949–2003; his death)
Alma mater Colegio Militar de la Nación
Profession Military
Signature Firma Galtieri vec.svg
Military service
Allegiance Flag of Argentina.svg Argentina
Branch/service Seal of the Argentine Army.svg Argentine Army
Years of service1944–1982
Rank GD-EA.png (Pre-1991 epaulette) Lieutenant General
Battles/wars Falklands War

Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri Castelli (Spanish pronunciation:  [leoˈpoldo foɾtuˈnato ɣalˈtjeɾi kasˈteli] ; 15 July 1926  12 January 2003) was an Argentine general and President of Argentina from December 1981 to June 1982, during the last military dictatorship. [2]


The death squad, 601 Intelligence Battalion, directly reported to him. [3] 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.

Early life

Galtieri was an Italian Argentine born to working-class immigrant parents. [4] At 17 he enrolled at the National Military Academy to study civil engineering, and his early military career was as an officer in the engineering branch. As well as rising through the ranks of the Military, he continued his studies in engineering until the mid-1950s. In 1949 he graduated from the US Army School of the Americas. [5] In 1958, he became a professor of engineering at the Senior War College. [6]

Galtieri was married to Lucía Noemí Gentili, and the couple had one son and two daughters. [7]

Rise to power

In 1975, after more than 25 years as a combat engineer, Galtieri became commander of the Argentine engineering corps. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the military coup that started the self-styled National Reorganisation Process in 1976 and rose further, becoming a major general in 1977, and commander-in-chief in 1980 with the rank of lieutenant general. During the junta's rule, Congress was suspended, trade unions, political parties, and provincial governments were banned, and in what became known as the Dirty War, between 9,000 and 30,000 people deemed left-wing subversives disappeared from society. Torture and mass executions were both commonplace. The economy, which had been in dire condition prior to the coup, recovered for a short time, then deteriorated further.

In March 1981, Galtieri visited the United States and was warmly received, as the Reagan administration viewed the regime as a bulwark against communism. National Security Advisor Richard V. Allen described him as a "majestic general". An adherent to the Argentine military's Cold War-era doctrine of "ideological frontiers", Galtieri secured his country's support for rebel groups opposing the government in Nicaragua, the Contras; in August, he sent advisers to help organize the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN, for a time the principal Contra group), as well as training FDN leaders in Argentine bases. His support for this initiative allowed Galtieri to remove a number of rival generals.


Galtieri, in his first day. Galtieri en Casa Rosada.jpg
Galtieri, in his first day.

In December 1981, he rose to the Presidency of Argentina in a coup that ousted General Roberto Viola. Argentine support became the principal source of funds and training for the Contras during Galtieri's tenure. [8]

Galtieri retained direct control of the army whilst President of the governing Military Junta and did not appoint a new commander-in-chief. [9]

Political policy

Galtieri in the Casa Rosada. St. Jean-Galtieri-Moya.jpg
Galtieri in the Casa Rosada.

Galtieri instituted limited political reforms which allowed the expression of dissent, and anti-junta demonstrations soon became common, as did agitation for a return to democracy. [10]

Economic policy

He appointed conservative economist and publisher Roberto Alemann as Economy Minister. Alemann inherited an economy in deep recession in the aftermath of José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz's economic policies of the late 1970s. Alemann slashed spending, began selling off government-owned industries (with only minor success), enacted a tight monetary policy, and ordered salaries frozen (amid 130% inflation). [11]

The Central Bank Circular 1050, which tied mortgage rates to the value of the US dollar locally, was maintained, however, leading to further deepening of the crisis; GDP fell by 5%, and business investment by 20% over the weakened levels of 1981. [12]

One of Galtieri's closest allies, the head of the First Army Corps, General Guillermo Suárez Mason, was named Chairman of Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), at the time the state petroleum concern, and the largest company of any type in Argentina. Suárez Mason's turn at YPF would help result in a US$6 billion loss for the company the largest recorded corporate loss in the world, up to that point. [13]

Foreign policy

Galtieri supported the Central Intelligence Agency in its fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, while he was warmly welcomed during his visit to the White House. [14]

Argentine military and intelligence cooperation with the Reagan Administration ended in 1982, when Argentina seized the British territory of the Falkland Islands in an attempt to quell domestic and economic unrest. The move was condemned by the US, who provided intelligence to the British government in its quest to regain control over the islands.

Falklands War

Leopoldo Galtieri in the Falkland Islands. Galtieri-Jofre.jpg
Leopoldo Galtieri in the Falkland Islands.

In April 1982, Galtieri had been in office for four months and his popularity was low. [15] On 2 April, and on his orders, Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands, a United Kingdom territory subject to a long-standing Argentine claim.

Initially the invasion was popular in Argentina, and the anti-junta demonstrations were replaced by patriotic demonstrations in support of Galtieri. A proposal to promote Galtieri to the newly created rank of First Marshal of the Empire initially received broad public support.

Galtieri and most of his government mistakenly believed the UK would not respond militarily [16] and that the United States would not interfere. [17]

The British government led by the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, determined to overturn the invasion. It dispatched a seaborne task force to drive the Argentinian forces from the islands, resulting in the Falklands War and an Argentinian surrender on 14 June 1982.

Defeat, fall from power, trial and prison

On 14 June 1982, the Falklands' capital, Stanley, was retaken by British forces. Within days Galtieri was removed from power, and he spent the next 18 months at a well-protected country retreat while democracy was restored to Argentina. He never received his promotion to First Marshal of the Empire. Along with other members of the former junta, he was arrested in late 1983 and charged in a military court with human rights violations during the Dirty War and with mismanaging the Falklands War. The Argentine Army's internal investigation, known as the Rattenbach report after the general who led it, [18] recommended that those responsible for the misconduct of the war be prosecuted under the Code of Military Justice. [19] In 1986 he was sentenced to twelve years in prison. [20]

Galtieri was cleared of the civil rights charges in December 1985, but (together with the Air Force and Navy commanders-in-chief) in May 1986 he was found guilty of mishandling the war and sentenced to prison. All three appealed in a civil court, and the prosecution appealed for heavier sentences. In November 1988 the original sentences were confirmed, and all three commanders were stripped of their rank. In 1989, Galtieri and 39 other officers of the dictatorship received President Carlos Menem's pardon. [21]

Later life, further accusations

Galtieri was heavily blamed for Argentina's humiliating defeat in the ill-conceived Falklands War. Following his release from prison, he moved to the Villa Devoto suburb of Buenos Aires, and lived modestly with his wife Lucía. He became a recluse and refused most requests for interviews by journalists, though in a rare interview he stated he had "no regrets" over anything he had done during the Dirty War. He lived on an army pension of about $1,800 per month, and attempted to claim a Presidential pension, but a judge denied it. In her ruling, the judge stated that his presidency had been illegal due to his never having been elected, and she also ordered him to pay court costs. In May 2002, he was invited to the military parade of the Argentine Army for the celebrations of Argentine Army Day (Día del Ejército Argentino): the presence of the former "president de facto" caused a huge controversy in public opinion after he was confronted and questioned by the journalist Martín Ciccioli in the television programme Kaos en la Ciudad.

In July 2002, new civil charges were brought concerning the kidnapping of children and the disappearance of 18 leftist sympathizers in the late 1970s (while Galtieri was commander of the Second Army Corps), and the disappearance or death of three Spanish citizens at about the same time. Galtieri faced prosecution with 28 other officials, but due to his poor health, he was allowed to remain at home. [22] [23]


Leopoldo Galtieri underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer on 16 August 2002 at a hospital in Buenos Aires. He died there of a heart attack on 12 January 2003, aged 76. [24] His body was interred in a small mausoleum in La Chacarita Cemetery in the capital.[ citation needed ]

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  2. Dark Years: Murió Galtieri, el general que llevó al país a la guerra
  3. Evans, Michael. "Argentina: Secret U.S. Documents Declassified on Dirty War Atrocities". www.gwu.edu.
  4. Oriana Fallaci, Cambio 16, June 1982, Available Online [ permanent dead link ] "Si, señora periodista, desciendo de italianos. Mis abuelos eran italianos. Mi abuelo de Génova y mi abuela de Calabria. Vinieron aquí con las oleadas de inmigrantes que se produjeron al comienzo de siglo. Eran obreros pobres, pronto hicieron fortuna." ("Yes, madam reporter, I'm descended from Italians. My grandparents were Italian. My grandfather came from Genoa and my grandmother Calabria. They came here with the waves of immigration that occurred at the beginning of the century. They were poor workers, soon made a fortune.")
  5. Kohut, David; Vilella, Olga (2016). Historical Dictionary of the Dirty Wars. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 180. ISBN   9781442276420.
  6. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2013-05-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-05-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. Scott, Peter Dale; Marshall, Jonathan. Cocaine Politics. University of California Press, 1991. (ISBN# needed)
  9. "General Leopoldo Galtieri - History Learning Site".
  10. "Galtieri grows old with his Falklands secrets", The Scotsman, 2 April 2002
  11. Lewis, Paul. The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism. University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
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  13. Poneman, Daniel. Argentina: Democracy on Trial. Paragon House, 1987.
  14. https://www.elhistoriador.com.ar/ronald-reagan-y-la-guerra-de-malvinas/
  15. "General Leopoldo Galtieri - History Learning Site". History Learning Site. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  16. "Que tenía que ver con despertar el orgullo nacional y con otra cosa. La junta —Galtieri me lo dijo— nunca creyó que los británicos darían pelea. Él creía que Occidente se había corrompido. Que los británicos no tenían Dios, que Estados Unidos se había corrompido. ... Nunca lo pude convencer de que ellos no sólo iban a pelear, que además iban a ganar." ("This was neither about national pride nor anything else. The junta — Galtieri told me — never believed the British would respond. He thought the Western World was corrupt. That the British people had no God, that the U.S. was corrupt. ... I could never convince him that the British would not only fight back but also win.") La Nación /Islas Malvinas Online. "Haig: "Malvinas fue mi Waterloo"" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 8 September 2006. Retrieved 21 September 2006.
  17. https://www.elhistoriador.com.ar/ronald-reagan-y-la-guerra-de-malvinas/
  18. "Página/12 :: Contratapa :: Rattenbach". www.pagina12.com.ar.
  19. Millan, Antonio. "Malvinas - Encuadramiento jurídico de los responsables". www.cescem.org.ar.
  20. "Informe Rattenbach".
  21. "Pardon of Argentine Officers Angers Critics of the Military". The New York Times. 9 October 1989.
  22. Hilton, Isobel (13 January 2003). "General Leopoldo Galtieri". The Guardian. London.
  23. http://en.mercopress.com/2001/08/01/frail-pathetic-galtieri-british-profile-of-former-argentine-president
  24. "Former Argentine dictator Galtieri dies". BBC News. 12 January 2003. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
Political offices
Preceded by
Carlos Lacoste
President of Argentina
Succeeded by
Alfredo Saint-Jean