A senior member of the Argentine military around the time of the 1982 Falklands War, Leopoldo Galtieri was extremely powerful, however the Falklands defeat cost him this coveted position.
Leopoldo Galtieri was one of the Argentine military’s most powerful men during the time of the Falklands conflict in 1982. Described by some as having as much power as a President, he lost this position when the Argentines were defeated in the Falklands War.
Galtieri was born on 25 July, 1926 and was raised in a working class home. He enlisted in the Argentinean Army aged just 17 and became a combat engineer. He was swiftly appointed commander of the Argentine Engineering Corps in 1975 and when, in 1976, the military took control over Argentina, he was behind this move all the way. Galtieri became the commander-in-chief of the Army - with the ranking of lieutenant general - in 1980.
While Argentina saw the banning of trade unions and repression as a result of the military takeover and began to dislike Galtieri, Galtieri’s campaign against those who were seen as communists was applauded by American President Ronald Reagan, who was keen to ward off the spread of communism across South America. While maintaining his position as commander in chief of the Argentine Army, Galtieri was also appointed de facto president following his ousting of Roberto Viola in December of 1981.
He used this position to roll out numerous reforms in Argentina, including cutting Government spending and freezing salaries. Soon, anti-Government demonstrations became extremely regular events across the country. Galtieri was searching for something that would bring his country in union behind him and he decided that a successful capturing of the Falkland Islands, which had always played on the minds of the Argentine people, was the way to achieve this goal.
When Argentine Marines occupied the capital of the Falkland Islands, Port Stanley, on 2 April 1982, Argentina celebrated and Galtieri believed that he had achieved his aim, as well as thinking that Britain was not interested in the Islands. Indeed, he went from an unpopular figure in his country to that of a national hero.
However, this was not to last. In June of 1982, the islands had been recaptured by the British Task Force and Galtieri fell from favour quickly. He was put under house arrest following his immediate retirement from the military and, in 1983, was tried in a military court over a number of human rights violations as well as for the mismanagement of the Falklands conflict. While he was cleared of the former, he was found guilty, along with others, of the latte and was imprisoned for five years in May of 1988. He also had his military rank removed. A presidential pardon from Carlos Menem was granted to Galtieri in 1991, however he was then charged with additional human rights offences in 2002. He died of a heart attack on 12 January, 2003, aged 76, while also suffering from cancer.
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