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Massera, Emilio Eduardo (1925–)

Massera, Emilio Eduardo (1925–)

Emilio Eduardo Massera was a member of the Argentine military. As commander in chief of the navy, he was part of the military junta of 1976 to 1978 and directed the Naval School of Mechanics, the dictatorship's main center for kidnapping, torturing, and "disappearing" people (1976–1983).

Massera entered Argentina's Naval Military School at age seventeen. After graduating in 1946 he continued his studies in the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), a training facility in Panama created by the U.S. Army to train members of the Latin American military in counterinsurgency methods. On returning to Argentina, President Juan Domingo Perón (1973–1974) promoted him to commander-in-chief of the navy. After Perón's death in July 1974, Perón's wife, María Estela Martínez, assumed the presidency and granted broad repressive powers to the armed forces to eliminate the active guerrilla groups. With violence escalating between armed groups of the Left and the Right (the latter financed by the government), the government under powerful pressure from the unions, and the nation in economic crisis, the armed forces intervened. On March 24, 1976, the military junta composed of General Jorge Rafael Videla, Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti, and Admiral Massera took control of the government and formulated long-term plans to ensure its survival.

During its time in power, the military government consolidated its plan of systematic repression as state terrorism. With presidential ambitions, Massera soon opposed the economic policy of de facto president Videla. Between 1976 and 1978 Argentina's largest secret detention center, under Massera's authority, was responsible for the disappearance of thousands of people. In September 1978 Massera retired from the military. He was among the members of the military most inclined to war with Chile over the Beagle Channel conflict at the end of 1978.

In 1985 Massera was sentenced to life in prison for the human-rights crimes he committed during "the Process." He was pardoned by President Carlos Menem (1989–1999) in 1990, but was returned to prison in 1998 for kidnapping children and ordering tortures, executions, and illegal confinements during the military dictatorship.

See alsoArgentina: The Twentieth Century; Beagle Channel Dispute; Dirty War; Menem, Carlos Saúl; Perón, Juan Domingo; Perón, María Estela Martínez de; Videla, Jorge Rafael.


Munck, Gerardo. Authoritarianism and Democratization: Soldiers and Workers in Argentina, 1976–1983. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.

National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP). Nunca más. Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 1984.

Novaro, Marcos, and Vicente Palermo. La dictadura militar. Buenos Aires: Paidós, 2003.

                                    Vicente Palermo

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