General Albano Harguindeguy: Minister who waged the 'Dirty War' in Argentina


As Interior Minister during most of Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship, General Albano Harguindeguy won an infamous reputation as el cerebro [the brain] behind the nation's "Dirty War" – the murder, torture or disappearances of at least 30,000 of his compatriots.

Harguindeguy's boss, General Jorge Videla, was the public face of the military dictatorship but it was up to Harguindeguy, in charge of the federal police and citing a "communist threat" to his nation, to decide who lived, died or simply disappeared.

His years as Interior Minister (1976-81) were probably the bleakest and most tragic in his nation's history. There was never any evidence that Harguindeguy personally shot a human being but there is much evidence that he ordered his police officers to "disappear" opponents of the military government. Much of the Argentinian media to this day label him El Genocida [the Genocide Man].

When Harguindeguy died he was under house arrest and on trial – in what the Argentinian media call la Megacausa [the Mega-Case] – for crimes against humanity, which prosecutors predicted would bring him life imprisonment. Given his age, his lack of remorse, at least publicly, and his ongoing military connections, he knew he was never likely to be in the sort of bare jail cell experienced by his alleged victims (those who were "fortunate" enough to make it to jail).

In the end, Harguindeguy, who had long since forfeited the right to be called General, died without being convicted of a single crime – death, torture or disappearance – a fact which has caused anguish among tens of thousands of relatives of his alleged victims. He was also due to face trial next March for his alleged key role in the so-called Plan Condor, under which the South American military regimes of the time co-operated to get rid of their opponents even beyond their own borders.

When Argentinians took to the streets to demand a return to democracy in the late 1970s, Harguindeguy – the name is of Basque origin – famously appeared on national TV and said: "Las urnas está* bien guardadas" – the ballot boxes are well-guarded. The message was clear: any vote would be controlled by the military or his police. Many years later, confronted by families of his alleged victims and facing trial for crimes against humanity, he said: "We committed errors. If we didn't commit errors, we'd be Gods."

Albano Eduardo Harguindeguy was born in the village of Villa Valeria, in Argentina's Córdoba province, in 1927, entering the Military Lyceum in 1943 at the age of 16. One of his classmates was Raúl Alfonsí*, who would become Argentina's first democratically elected president after the military dictatorship collapsed in 1983. Harguindeguy graduated as a second lieutenant in the 9th Cavalry Regiment and by then was a fine polo player who became nationally known as a referee. Having moved through the military ranks, he was appointed chief of the federal police in 1975 by the then president María Estela Martínez de Peró*, nicknamed Isabelita, widow of the former president Juan Peró*. For Isabelita, appointing him was a mistake. He was widely seen as backing the coup which ousted her in 1976 and launched seven years of military dictatorship, and with it the Falklands war and the domestic "Dirty War". The new de facto president, General Jorge Rafael Videla, euphemistically calling his regime a Process of National Re-organisation, appointed Harguindeguy as Interior Minister on 29 March 1976, a job he held for five years to the day.

Videla, now 87, eventually accepted full responsibility for what he called "the internal war". He is serving life in prison for multiple murders and a concurrent 50 years for the systematic kidnapping of the children of many of the regime's victims, most of them for "adoption" by military personnel. In 1990, the Argentinian president Carlos Menem, under the old boy's network, pardoned Videla, Harguindeguy and others for their alleged crimes but a judge later overturned Menem's ruling, allowing the former military leaders to face trial.

Until his house arrest Harguindeguy was a fervent big game hunter who travelled regularly to Africa, often with his friend José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, who was Minister of the Economy during the military dictatorship and is currently under house arrest facing similar charges relating to the Dirty War.

Albano Harguindeguy died in his home in Eva Peró* street in a suburb of Buenos Aires now known as Malvinas Argentinas, in reference to the Argentinians' claim to the Falkland Islands. Details of his family survivors were not immediately known.

Albano Eduardo Harguindeguy, army general and politician: born Villa Valeria, Argentina 11 February 1927; died Buenos Aires 29 October 2012.

sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Life and Style
The reindeer pen at the attraction
lifeLaurence Llewelyn-Bowen's 'Magical Journey' and other winter blunderlands
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'