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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Y1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Y1 Teacher required for a So...

Senior Financial Services Associate - City

Highly Competitive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - FINANCIAL SERVICES - Senior...

Residential Property

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Residential Conveyancer - Wiltshire We have a...

Y5 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Long term position for a KS2...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week