Argentina’s ‘baby theft general’ Reynaldo Bignone dies

In this file picture taken on April 20, 2010, former Argentine de facto president and Army chief Reynaldo Bignone gestures at the courtroom before being sentenced during his trial, in Munro, Buenos AiresImage copyright AFP
Image caption Reynaldo Bignone was sentenced for crimes against humanity

Argentina’s last military ruler, Gen Reynaldo Bignone, has died aged 90.

Gen Bignone died in a military hospital, where he was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity.

Bignone, who ruled from July 1982 to December 1983, was also serving a sentence for overseeing the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners.

About 30,000 people were killed or disappeared under Argentina’s military rule from 1976 to 1983.

Bignone’s crimes were part of the Dirty War, a brutal plan to silence the left-wing opposition in the country during the 1970s and 80s which included kidnapping, torturing and killing opponents, and handing their children to supporters of military rule.

Among the crimes he was sentenced for were the kidnap and torture of more than 30 factory workers, most of them trade union activists.

He was also found guilty of playing a role in the theft of 34 babies of detained left-wing activists and of abducting, torturing and murdering 56 people held at the Campo de Mayo military base outside Buenos Aires.

He defended his actions until the end, describing them as “a battle against terrorism”.

Gen Bignone served as de facto president of Argentina in 1982-83, at the end of military rule, and oversaw the return to democracy.

But before agreeing to hand over power to the democratically elected Raúl Alfonsín, Bignone granted an amnesty to human rights violators and ordered the destruction of papers which documented the torture and disappearances of opponents of the military regime.

The amnesty was eventually overturned and Bignone as well as other military rulers who had preceded him, such as Jorge Videla, were sentenced.

Argentina’s military regime

Image copyright AFP
Image caption General Videla (right) seized power in 1976

1976: General Jorge Rafael Videla seizes power – thousands of political opponents rounded up and killed

1982: Videla’s successor, General Leopoldo Galtieri, orders invasion of British-held Falkland Islands

1983: Civilian rule returns to Argentina, investigations into rights abuses begin

2010: Videla sentenced to life imprisonment for murders during his term in office

2012: Videla sentenced to 50 years for overseeing systematic theft of the babies of political prisoners

2013: Videla dies in prison, aged 87


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