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Montoneros was an Argentine Peronist urban guerrilla group, active during the 1960s and 1970s. Its motto was venceremos ("we shall overcome"). After Juan Peron's return from 18 years of exile and the June 20, 1973 Ezeiza massacre, which marked the definitive split between left and right-wing Peronism, the Montoneros were expelled from the Justicialist party in May 1974 by Peron. The group was almost completely dismantled in 1977, during Videla's dictatorship. Montoneros means in Spanish "those who pile up".

From 1970 to Videla's military junta

The group formed around 1970 from the confluence of Roman Catholic groups with Social Studies students' groups and with fascist supporters of Juan Domingo Peron. Their best-known leader was Mario Firmenich. Montoneros hoped that Peron would return from exile in Francoist Spain and transform Argentina into a "Socialist Fatherland".

Montoneros initiated a campaign to destabilize by force what they deemed a pro-American regime. Claiming retaliation against the June 1956 Leon Suarez massacre and Juan Jose Valle's execution, the Montoneros kidnapped and executed in 1970 former dictator Pedro Eugenio Aramburu (19551958) and other citizens who they said collaborated with him, such as unionists, politicians, diplomats, and businessmen. In November 1971, in solidarity with militant car workers, Montoneros guerrillas took over a car manufacturing plant in Caseros, sprayed 38 Fiats with petrol, and then set them alight.

In July 1972, they laid booby-trapped explosives in the Plaza De San Isidro in Buenos Aires that injured three policemen, blinded a fireman and killed another. In April 1973, Colonel Hector Irabarren, head of the 3rd Army Corps' Intelligence Service, was gunned down when resisiting a kidnap attempt by the Mariano Pojadas and Susana Lesgart units of the Montoneros. They financed their operations by kidnapping and collecting ransom for businessmen or executives, making as much as $14.2 million in a single abduction for an Exxon executive in 1974.

On March 11, 1973, Argentina held general elections for the first time in ten years. Peron loyalist Hector Campora became president, before resigning in July to allow Peron to win the new elections held in October. However, a feud developed between right-wing Peronists and the Montoneros. The right wing of the Peronist party, the unions, and the Radical Party led by Ricardo Balbin, favoured a social pact between trade unions and employers rather than a violent socialist revolution. Right-wingers and Montoneros clashed at Peron's homecoming ceremony during the June 20, 1973 Ezeiza massacre, leaving 13 dead and more than 300 wounded. Peron supported the unions, the radicals led by Ricardo Balbin and the right-wing Peronists, among whom Jose Lopez Rega, founder of the Alianza Anticomunista Argentina ("Triple A") death squad, which had organized the massacre, along with the Peronist right-wing.

In May 1974, the Montoneros were expelled from the Justicialist movement by Peron. However, the Montoneros waited until after the death of Peron in July 1974 to react, with the exception of the assassination of Jose Ignacio Rucci, general secretary of the CGT (General Confederation of Labour) on September 25, 1973, and some other military actions.

The Montoneros claimed to have what they called the "social revolutionary vision of authentic Peronism" and started guerrilla operations against the government. In the government the more radically right-wing factions quickly took control; Isabel Peron, President since Juan Peron's death, was essentially a figurehead under the influence of former federal police corporal Jose Lopez Rega.

On July 15, 1974, Montoneros assassinated Arturo Mor Roig, a former foreign minister. In September, in order to finance their operations, they kidnapped two members of the Bunge and Born business family. They demanded and received as ransom $60 million in cash and $1.2 million worth of food and clothing to be given to the poor. This ransom is the highest ever paid according to the Guinness Book of Records.

The Triple A under Lopez Rega's auspices began hunting down, kidnapping, and killing the Montoneros and members of the Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) as well as other leftist militant groups, or anyone in general considered a leftist subversive or sympathizer, be it deputies or lawyers.

The Montoneros and the ERP went on to attack business and political figures throughout Argentina as well as raid military bases for weapons and explosives. The Montoneros killed executives from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. On 16 September 1974 about 40 Montoneros bombs exploded throughout Argentina directed against foreign companies and ceremonies commemorating the military revolt which ended Juan Peron's first term as president. Targets included three Ford showrooms; Peugeot and IKA-Renault showrooms; Goodyear and Firestone tire distributors, Riker and Eli pharmaceutical laboratories, Union Carbide Battery Company, Bank of Boston and Chase Manhattan Bank branches, Xerox Corporation; and Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola bottling companies. Discouragement of foreign investement in Argentina came in the form of blowing up executive houses. For example, in 1975 the homes of five executives of Lazar Laboratories were attacked with bombs in the suburb of La Plata in Buenos Aires. On 26 February 1975, the Montoneros kidnapped and killed John Patrick Egan, the US consul in Cordoba.

The Montoneros' leadership was keen to learn from the Compania del Monte Ramon Rosa Jimenez operating in the province of Tucuman and in 1975 sent "observers" to spend a few months with the ERP platoons operating against against the 5th Infantry Brigade, then consisting of the 19th, 20th and 29th Mountain Infantry Regiments. Later on 28 August 1975 a culvert bomb was planted at the Tucuman air base airstrip by Montoneros, as a support action to their comrades the ERP. The blast destroyed an Air Force C-130 transport carrying 116 anti-guerrilla Gendarmerie commandos heading for home leave, killing five and wounding forty, one of whom subsequently died. On 5 October 1975 the 5th Brigade suffered another blow at the hands of Montoneros, when perhaps several hundred

Montoneros militants carried out their most elaborate operation ever, which begun with the hijacking of a civilian airliner, bounded to Corrientes from Buenos Aires. The guerrillas redirected the plane towards Formosa province, where they took over the provincial airport. Along with a party which provided local support, they broke into the 29th Infantry Regiment's barracks, firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades. They met a fierce resistance from a group of conscripts and NCOs who reacted after the initial surprise. In the aftermath, 12 soldiers and 2 policemen were killed and several injured; Montoneros lost 16 men. Once the operation was over, Montoneros made good their escape by air towards a remote area in Santa Fe province. The aircraft, a Boeing 737, eventually landed on a crop field not far from the city of Rafaela. The sophistication of the operation, and the hideouts they used, suggest that several hundred guerrillas and supporters were involved. During February 1976 the Montoneros sent reinforcements to the hard-pressed Compania del Monte Ramon Rosa Jimenez in the form of a company of their elite "Jungle Troops" and the ERP backed them up with a company of their own guerrillas from Cordoba.

The Montoneros were inspired by the British and Italian wartime commando raids on warships, and on 1 November 1974 the Montoneros successfully blew up General Commissioner Alberto Villar, the chief of the Argentine federal police in his yacht. On 24 August 1975 their frogmen attached explosives to an Argentine destroyer, the ARA Santisima Trinidad , as it lay in dry dock at Rio Santiago. The explosion caused considerable damage to the ship's computer and electronic equipment. On 14 December 1975, using the same techniques, Montoneros frogmen placed explosives on the naval yacht Itati in an attempt to kill the Commander-in-Chief of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Emilio Massera. While Massera was not injured, the yacht was badly damaged by the explosives.

While the ERP fought the army in Tucuman the Montoneros were active in Buenos Aires. Montoneros leadership dismissed the tactics of the ERP in Tucuman as "old fashioned" and "inappropiated". On 26 October 1975 five policemen were killed in Buenos Aires when their patrol cars were ambushed near the San Isidro Cathedral. On February 2, 1976 about 50 urban guerrillas attacked the Juan Vecetich Police Academy in the suburb of La Plata but were repelled when the police cadets fought back and reinforcements arrived. In the week preceding the military coup, the Montoneros killed 13 policemen as part of its Third National Military Campaign. On July 2, 1976 they detonated a powerful bomb in the Argentine Federal Police in Buenos Aires, killing 24 and injuring 66 people. On 12 September 1976 a car bomb destroyed a bus filled with police officers in Rosario, killing 11 policemen and injuring at least 50. On 17 October a bomb blast in an Army Club Cinema in downtown Buenos Aires killed 11 and wounded about 50 officers and their families. On 9 November, eleven police officers were wounded when a bomb exploded at the police headquarters of La Plata during a meeting of the Buenos Aires police chiefs. On November 16, about 40 guerrillas stormed the police station at Arana, 30 miles south of Buenos Aires. Five policemen and one army captain were wounded in the battle. On 15 December, another bomb planted in a Defense Ministry movie hall killed at least 14 and injured 30 officers and their families. The worst year of the insurgency, 1976, saw 156 Argentine servicemen and police killed.

The Montoneros were no match against the highly organized and ruthless branches of the military, who under the cloak of paramilitary forces (operating out of uniform and without any accountability) didn't hesitate to kidnap and kill even remote acquaintances of militants, or force captured members, through torture, to become informers and turn in their comrades-in-arms.

By the time Videla's military Junta took power in March of '76, approximately ten thousand political prisoners were being held in various prisons around Argentina, some with political connections and some just guilty by association. These political prisoners were held throughout the years of the dictatorship, many of them never receiving trials, in prisons such as La Plata, Devoto, Rawson, and Caseros.

Under Jorge Videla's junta

On 24 March 1976 Isabel Peron was ousted and a military junta installed, led by General Jorge Rafael Videla. The Junta reinforced counter-revolutionary operations, leading to the so-called "Dirty War". According to different sources, 12.261 to 30.000 people,The lower estimate is from the CONADEP in their official report Nunca Mas(Never Again). Estimates by human rights organizations estimate up to 30.000 are estimated to have disappeared and died during the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. The Junta relied on mass arrests, torture, and executions without trial to stifle any political opposition. The victims' bodies that were not helicoptered out into the Atlantic Ocean were left on the streets as an example to militants still at large. The Montoneros admit losing 5.000 guerrillas killed in their struggle El Mundo, 4 de mayo 1995.

The Montoneros were effectively finished by 1977, although their Special Forces did fight on until 1981. The Montoneros tried to disrupt the World Cup Soccer Tournament being hosted in Argentina in 1978 by launching a number of bomb attacks. In late 1979, the Montoneros launched a "strategic counteroffensive" in Argentina, and the security forces killed more than one-hundred of the exiled Montoneros, who had been sent back to Argentina after receiving special forces training in camps in the Middle East. During the 1980s a captured Sandinista commando revealed that Montoneros Special Forces were training Sandinista frogmen and conducting gun runs across the Gulf of Fonseca to the Sandinista guerrillas. During the Falklands War against Great Britain, the Argentine military conceived the failed Operation Algeciras, a covert plan to support and convince some Montoneros (appealing to their patriotism) to sabotage British military facilities in Gibraltar. Argentina's defeat led to the fall of the Junta, and Raul Alfonsin became president in December 1983, thus initiating the democratic transition.


Mario Firmenich

Esther Norma Arrostito

Dardo Cabo

Juan Gelman


Guerrillas and Generals: The Dirty War in Argentina, by Paul H. Lewis (2001).

''Argentina's Lost Patrol: Armed Struggle 1969-1979by Maria Jose Moyano (1995).

Argentina, 1943-1987: The National Revolution and Resistance, by Donald C. Hodges (1988). Soldiers of Peron: Argentina's Montoneros, by Richard Gillespie (1982). Guerrilla warfare in Argentina and Colombia, 1974-1982, by Bynum E. Weathers, Jr. (1982). Guerrilla politics in Argentina'', by Kenneth F. Johnson (1975).

See also

Dirty War

Argentine Anticommunist Alliance

Political Military Organization

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