Reynaldo Bignone, the last “de facto president” (aka dictator) to rule Argentina during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, died this morning at 90-years-old.
Infobae reported that Bignone was hospitalized yesterday after he broke his hip and femur. He was scheduled to undergo surgery today, but suffered from heart and respiratory failure. Sources say he died at 11 AM.
Argentina’s 13th president, Bignone ruled from July 1, 1982 through December 10, 1983. Raúl Alfonsín, a democratically-elected president, took over afterwards.
During the Trials of the Junta in 1985, Bignone was acquitted by then-president Alfonsín. In 2003, Bignone justified the crimes of the dictatorship in a French documentary, and then-president Néstor Kirchner called for his arrest for “justifying the crimes of the dictatorship.” He was granted house arrest in 2006 due to his old age (he was 78 at the time).
However, a year later in 2007, he was again arrested. This time, not just for justifying human rights abuses, but also committing them. Because there is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity, the government was able to imprison Bignone decades after the abuses.
The charges included the kidnapping, torture and murder of 56 people, and the trafficking of more than 500 infants stolen from mothers who were abducted by the government (“disappeared” is the oft-used euphemistic term.)
In the end, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2010, and life in prison in 2011 for crimes against humanity.
If you’re interested in learning more about this dark time in Argentina’s history, here’s some deeper reading recommendations:
Or, visit the ex-ESMA (Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos), an excellent and harrowing museum located here in Buenos Aires, in one of the former torture centers during the dictatorship.