BUENOS AIRES – Gen. Reynaldo Bignone, Argentina’s last dictator, who was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity in 2010, died on Wednesday, officials told EFE. He was 90.
The retired general, who governed Argentina from 1982-1983, died from complications arising from hip surgery at the Buenos Aires Central Military Hospital, where he was admitted Tuesday, Army Secretariat officials said.
Bignone was appointed president on July 1, 1982, filling in for deposed Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri following Argentina’s defeat in the war against Great Britain over the Falkland Islands.
One of his first acts as president was to hold a general election, but he also ordered the destruction of any records of detentions, torture, abductions and murders.
He was serving several life sentences for his role in crimes against humanity committed during his regime, including torture, unlawful detention, conspiracy and the theft of 34 babies.
In December 1983, following seven years of bloody dictatorship, Bignone handed over power to democratically elected President Raul Alfonsin, who overturned an amnesty granted by the dictator to human rights violators in the military.
Although the general was detained and incarcerated in January 1984 – accused of enforced disappearances and the murder of soldiers and participating in the “dirty war” against subversion – he was freed by the Supreme Armed Forces Council some months later.
Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship is blamed for the abduction, torture and summary execution of between 10,000 and 30,000 real or imagined opponents, depending on the source consulted.
Many of those victims remain “disappeared,” their bodies having been disposed of by the state’s agents in ways that precluded their future discovery, including being dumped from air force planes into the Atlantic.