The military ousts the constitutional government in 1943 and proceeds to suppress democratic activity. Political parties are abolished under Perón. The press becomes increasingly critical of the government, which retaliates with legislation providing prison terms for people who show "disrespect" for government leaders. Many opponents of the regime are jailed, and opposition press is suppressed.
After Perón's departure, his followers are forbidden to function as a party. The new government crushes a Peronist revolt, arresting thousands and executing many. Just as the opposition was crushed while Perón was in power, so now are Peronists and perceived Communists barred from national elections in 1963.
Successive governments fail to suppress violent strikes, student riots, and terrorist activities. Political transitions take place through military coup or rigged elections. General Lanusse, who takes office in 1971, begins to take steps toward reinstituting civilian rule. This time, Peronists succeed in nominating Hector Cámpora as a stand-in for Perón.
Extremists on the left and right carry out terrorist acts, each declaring loyalty to Perón. The two main guerilla groups are responsible for more than 600 assassinations. The government resorts to a series of emergency decrees, allowing itself to imprison a person indefinitely without charge and responding to violence with its own death squad. The incidence of kidnappings soars.
The armed forces restore basic order through harsh measures. The costs of the "dirty war" are massive in terms of lives lost and basic human rights violated. Thousands of people "disappear." Charges of corruption among government officials multiply, further discrediting the regime.
With a return to constitutional rule, the government lifts many of the restrictions on personal and political freedoms. President Alfonsín attempts to account for those who "disappeared" and reduces the role and influence of the armed forces. But he walks a fine line between seeking justice and trying not to provoke the military into overthrowing him.
President Menem slashes the military's budget and personnel so drastically that it no longer poses a threat to civilian power. At the same time, however, he pardons some of the leaders of the "dirty war." Allegations of public sector corruption become more frequent and the justice system, frequently politically influenced, is slow to provide due process.
Corruption is rampant in the political and legal systems. Several senators are accused of selling their votes; then the judge overseeing the case is accused of taking bribes. Ex-president Menem is indicted on charges of arms-trafficking involvement. In 2002, hopes rise that leaders of the "dirty war" will be prosecuted when former dictators Videla and Galtieri are charged with human rights abuses.
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