"As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure," he declared in 1975 in support of a "death squad" known as the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance. [See A Lexicon of Terror by Marguerite Feitlowitz.]
On March 24, 1976, Videla led the military coup which ousted the ineffective president, Isabel Peron. Though armed leftist groups had been shattered by the time of the coup, the generals still organized a counterinsurgency campaign to wipe out any remnants of what they judged political subversion.
Videla called this "the process of national reorganization," intended to reestablish order while inculcating a permanent animosity toward leftist thought. "The aim of the Process is the profound transformation of consciousness," Videla announced.
Along with selective terror, Videla employed sophisticated public relations methods. He was fascinated with techniques for using language to manage popular perceptions of reality. The general hosted international conferences on P.R. and awarded a $1 million contract to the giant U.S. firm of Burson Marsteller. Following the Burson Marsteller blueprint, the Videla government put special emphasis on cultivating American reporters from elite publications.
"Terrorism is not the only news from Argentina, nor is it the major news," went the optimistic P.R. message. Since the jailings and executions of dissidents were rarely acknowledged, Videla felt he could count on friendly U.S. media personalities to defend his regime, people like former California Gov. Ronald Reagan.
In a grander context, Videla and the other generals saw their mission as a crusade to defend Western Civilization against international communism. They worked closely with the Asian-based World Anti-Communist League and its Latin American affiliate, the Confederacion Anticomunista Latinoamericana [CAL].
Latin American militaries collaborated on projects such as the cross-border assassinations of political dissidents. Under one project, called Operation Condor, political leaders -- centrist and leftist alike -- were shot or bombed in Buenos Aires, Rome, Madrid, Santiago and Washington. Operation Condor sometimes employed CIA-trained Cuban exiles as assassins. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Hitler's Shadow Reaches toward Today," or Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]
For their roles in the baby kidnappings, Videla, who was already in prison for other crimes against humanity, was sentenced to 50 years; Bignone received 15 years.
Earlier in May 2103, Guatemala's ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt, another close ally of Ronald Reagan, was convicted of genocide against Mayan Indians in 1982-83 and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Ronald Reagan: Accessory to Genocide."]
Yet, while fragile democracies in places like Argentina and Guatemala have sought some level of accountability for these crimes against humanity, the United States continues to honor the principal political leader who aided, abetted and rationalized these atrocities across the entire Western Hemisphere, the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.