Dictator admits ‘disappearing’ leftist rivals

Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla has admitted for the first time that the country’s brutal 1976-83 dictatorship “disappeared” leftist opponents, a euphemism for kidnapped and murdered, and said that babies were taken from their parents.

Videla, 86, who was jailed for life in 2010 for murder, torture, and kidnapping, has repeatedly justified the brutality of the military junta in the “Dirty War” crackdown on left-wing opponents. Until now, he had denied the forced disappearances.

Videla admitted in interviews for a new book that the dictatorship killed 7,000 or 8,000 people. “In every war people are crippled, killed and disappeared, their whereabouts unknown, that is a fact,” he said in an interview on local television.

“How many there were can be debated, but the problem does not lie in the number but in the fact — a fact which occurs in every war — that we allowed the pejorative term of disappeared to... remain as a term to cover up something dark that was wanted to be kept secret, and that is what is weighing — that there was something dark which has not been sufficiently cleared up.”

“The error was using and abusing disappeared like a mystery,” he added. “And that’s not the case, it is the unfortunate result of a war.”

Videla denied babies were systematically stolen from leftist opponents and then put up for adoption, but said there were some cases in which babies were taken.

“I am the first to admit... at this time children were taken, some with the best intention that the child would go to a good, unknown home,” Videla said. “But it was not a systematic plan.”

Human rights groups say up to 30,000 people were kidnapped and murdered or vanished during the dictatorship, which began when Videla and two other military leaders staged a coup on Mar 24, 1976.

“Let’s say there were 7,000 or 8,000 people who needed to die to win the war against subversion,” newspaper La Nación quoted Videla as saying in the book, Final Mandate, by Ceferino Reato, based on a series of interviews with Videla.

“There was no other solution,” La Nación reported Videla as saying. “We were agreed that was the price to win the war against subversion and that we needed it not to be evident so that society didn’t notice.”

“For that reason, to avoid provoking protests inside and outside the country, it was decided that those people disappear..”

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