Leopoldo Galtieri

Last updated
Leopoldo Galtieri
Retrato Oficial Galtieri.jpg
President of Argentina
De facto
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
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 Teniente General.PNG Lieutenant General
Battles/wars Falklands War

Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri Castelli (Spanish pronunciation:  [leoˈpoldo foɾtuˈnato ɣalˈtjeɾi kasˈteʎi] ; 15 July 1926  12 January 2003) was an Argentine general and President of Argentina from 22 December 1981 to 18 June 1982, during the last military dictatorship [2] (known officially as the National Reorganization Process). The death squad, 601 Intelligence Battalion, directly reported to him. [3] He was removed from power soon after the Argentine defeat in the Falklands War, whose invasion he had ordered.

Argentina Federal republic in South America

Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic, is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi), Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the fourth largest in the Americas, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation. The sovereign state is subdivided into twenty-three provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which is the federal capital of the nation as decided by Congress. The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist under a federal system. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

President of Argentina Head of State of Argentina

The President of Argentina, officially known as the President of the Argentine Nation, is both head of state and head of government of Argentina. Under the national Constitution, the President is also the chief executive of the federal government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Dictatorship form of autocratic government led by a single individual

A dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government, characterized by a single leader or group of leaders with either no party or a weak party, little mass mobilization, and limited political pluralism. According to other definitions, democracies are regimes in which "those who govern are selected through contested elections"; therefore dictatorships are "not democracies". With the advent of the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorships and constitutional democracies emerged as the world's two major forms of government, gradually eliminating monarchies, one of the traditional widespread forms of government of the time. Typically, in a dictatorial regime, the leader of the country is identified with the title of dictator, although their formal title may more closely resemble something similar to "leader". A common aspect that characterized dictatorship is taking advantage of their strong personality, usually by suppressing freedom of thought and speech of the masses, in order to maintain complete political and social supremacy and stability. Dictatorships and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems.


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 1958, he became a professor of engineering at the Senior War College. [5]

Colegio Militar de la Nación

The National Military College is the institution in charge of the undergraduate education of officers of the Argentine Army. It is located at El Palomar, Buenos Aires.

Civil engineering engineering discipline specializing in design, construction and maintenance of the built environment

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewerage systems, pipelines, structural components of buildings, and railways.

Galtieri was married to Lucía Noemí Gentili, and the couple had one son and two daughters. [6]

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. [ citation needed ]

A trade union is an association of workers forming a legal unit or legal personhood, usually called a "bargaining unit", which acts as bargaining agent and legal representative for a unit of employees in all matters of law or right arising from or in the administration of a collective agreement. Labour unions typically fund the formal organization, head office, and legal team functions of the labour union through regular fees or union dues. The delegate staff of the labour union representation in the workforce are made up of workplace volunteers who are appointed by members in democratic elections.

The Dirty War is the name used by the military junta or civic-military dictatorship of Argentina for the period of United States-backed state terrorism in Argentina from 1976 to 1983 as a part of Operation Condor, during which military and security forces and right-wing death squads in the form of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance hunted down any political dissidents and anyone believed to be associated with socialism, left-wing Peronism or the Montoneros movement.

Forced disappearance when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization

In international human rights law, a forced disappearance occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization, or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person's fate and whereabouts, with the intent of placing the victim outside the protection of the law.

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. 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. [7]

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Richard V. Allen United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan 1981-1982

Richard Vincent Allen was the United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1982, having been Reagan's chief foreign policy advisor from 1977. He has been a fellow of the Hoover Institution since 1983. He is a past member of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee.

Cold War Geopolitical tension after World War II between the Eastern and Western Bloc

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. The historiography of the conflict began between 1946 and 1947. The Cold War began to de-escalate after the Revolutions of 1989. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 was the end of the Cold War. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany and its allies, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences.

Galtieri retained direct control of the army whilst President of the governing Military Junta and did not appoint a new commander-in-chief. [8] 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.[ citation needed ] 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). 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. [9]

Roberto Alemann Argentine publisher and economist

Roberto Alemann is an Argentine lawyer, economist, publisher, and academic.

José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz Argentine politician

José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz was an Argentine executive and policy maker. He served as Minister of the Economy under de facto President Jorge Rafael Videla between 1976 and 1981, and shaped economic policy during the National Reorganization Process military dictatorship.

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. [10]

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. [11]

Falklands War

In April 1982, after Galtieri had been in office for four months and with his popularity low, [12] Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands, governed by the [[United Kingdom],] and subject to a long-standing Argentine territorial claim.

Initially the invasion was popular in Argentina, and the anti-junta demonstrations were replaced by patriotic demonstrations in support of Galtieri.

Galtieri and most of his government mistakenly believed the UK would not respond militarily [13] and that the United States would not interfere because the junta had supported the Central Intelligence Agency in its fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, while Galtieri had been warmly welcomed during his visit to Washington, D.C.

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. 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, [14] recommended that those responsible for the misconduct of the war be prosecuted under the Code of Military Justice. [15] In 1986 he was sentenced to twelve years in prison. [16]

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. [17]

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. He died several months later. [18] [19]


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. [20] His body was interred in a small mausoleum in La Chacarita Cemetery in the capital.[ citation needed ]

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  1. Argentina's Military Dictatorship (in Spanish)
  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. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2013-05-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-05-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. Scott, Peter Dale; Marshall, Jonathan. Cocaine Politics. University of California Press, 1991. (ISBN# needed)
  8. "General Leopoldo Galtieri - History Learning Site".
  9. Argentina: From Insolvency to Growth. World Bank Press, 1993.
  10. Poneman, Daniel. Argentina: Democracy on Trial. Paragon House, 1987.
  11. "Galtieri grows old with his Falklands secrets", The Scotsman, 2 April 2002
  12. "General Leopoldo Galtieri - History Learning Site". History Learning Site. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  13. "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.
  14. "Página/12 :: Contratapa :: Rattenbach". www.pagina12.com.ar.
  15. Millan, Antonio. "Malvinas - Encuadramiento jurídico de los responsables". www.cescem.org.ar.
  16. "Informe Rattenbach".
  17. "Pardon of Argentine Officers Angers Critics of the Military". The New York Times. 9 October 1989.
  18. Hilton, Isobel (13 January 2003). "General Leopoldo Galtieri". The Guardian. London.
  19. http://en.mercopress.com/2001/08/01/frail-pathetic-galtieri-british-profile-of-former-argentine-president
  20. "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