Reynaldo Bignone, a former Argentine general who was the last leader of his country’s 1976-83 dictatorship, and who was convicted of crimes against humanity — including the abduction of babies from alleged dissidents and the murder of dozens of purported subversives — died Wednesday at a military hospital in Buenos Aires. He was 90.
Argentina’s state-run news agency Telam reported the death but did not disclose the cause. At his death, Gen. Bignone was serving multiple life sentences for human rights abuses stemming from his involvement in Argentina’s “dirty war.”
Bignone played a central role in a regime that defined itself as a defender of Christian civilization during the Cold War, fighting a brutal war against communist radicals and leftist guerrillas in South America’s Southern Cone. He was among the last surviving leaders of a junta that was responsible for the killing, torture and “disappearances” of an estimated 30,000 people, according to human rights groups.
Years of economic turmoil and violence by left-wing groups gave initial legitimacy to the junta, which ended President Isabel Peron’s erratic rule over South America’s second-largest country. The military leaders, who maintained Peron’s murderous paramilitary security apparatus, promised to stamp out subversives — who orchestrated hundreds of kidnappings and killings of business leaders and government officials — and return the country to normalcy.
Bignone stepped aside in late 1983. In 2016, he was sentenced a final time, to 20 years in prison.