Former Dictator Jorge Rafael Videla Dead

May 18, 2013 by  

Former Dictator Jorge Rafael Videla Dead, Jorge Rafael Videla, the remorseless Argentine army commander who came to power in a coup that launched the most barbaric period of the country’s modern history, including thousands of extrajudicial killings and kidnappings, died May 17 at a prison near Buenos Aires. He was 87.

A government spokesman announced the death. A cause was not reported.

Gen. Videla, whose family was entrenched in the elite ranks of the country’s military and political life for generations, was the last surviving member of the three-man junta that seized power in Argentina in 1976.

He had spent his final decades consumed by legal battles stemming from the dictatorship and, in recent years, was convicted of human rights abuses such as the systematic abduction of infants from suspected left-wing radicals.

Skeletal in appearance and outwardly colorless except for a prominent moustache, Gen. Videla was a central, wily and ruthless player in the military dictatorship’s reign of institutionalized t*rror*sm. He served as president from 1976 to 1981, the worst years of bloodletting before the military stepped down in 1983.

“They wanted to believe they were fighting this third-world war against communism while the rest of the world was sleeping,” said Robert Cox, the editor of the Buenos Aires Herald who endured constant threats for his coverage of the forced disappearances.

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