Washington, D.C., March 23, 2021 - On the eve of the 45th anniversary of the military coup in Argentina, the National Security Archive is today posting declassified documents revealing what the U.S. government knew, and when it knew it, in the weeks preceding the March 24, 1976, overthrow of Isabel Peron’s government. The documents provide evidence of multiple contacts between the coup plotters and U.S. officials. “[Admiral] Massera sought opportunity to speak privately with me,” U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Robert Hill reported in a cable sent one week before the putsch after meeting with a leading coup plotter. “[H]e said that it was no secret that military might have to step into political vacuum very soon.”
The documents posted today record the U.S. government knowledge of the plotters, their preparations for the coup, and their potential plans for what State Department officials described as “military rule for an extended duration and of unprecedented severity.” They show that the U.S. “discreetly” advised the military more than a month before the actual coup that Washington would recognize the new regime.
In the first substantive report to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on a “Possible Coup in Argentina,” in mid-February 1976, Assistant Secretary of State William Rogers flagged the likelihood of human rights violations after a military takeover. “We would expect [the military government] to be friendly toward the United States,” he apprised Kissinger. “However, in stepping up the fight against the guerrillas, an Argentine military government would be almost certain to engage in human rights violations such as to engender international criticism. This could lead to U.S. public and Congressional pressures which would complicate our relations with the new regime.” Anticipating problems with the United States over the repression against subversion they would implement, the Argentine “military planning group” approached officials in their own foreign ministry to advise “as to how the future military govt can avoid or minimize the sort of problems the Chilean and Uruguayan govts were having with the U.S. over [the] human rights issue.”