Montoneros (Spanish: Movimiento Peronista Montonero, MPM) was an Argentine far-left Peronist and Catholic[17] revolutionary guerrilla organization, which emerged in the 1970s during the "Argentine Revolution" dictatorship. Its name was a reference to the 19th-century cavalry militias called Montoneras, which fought for the Federalist Party in the Argentine civil wars. Radicalized by the political repression of anti-Peronist regimes, the influence of Cuban Revolution and socialist worker-priests committed to liberation theology, the Montoneros emerged from the 1960s Catholic revolutionary guerilla Comando Camilo Torres as a "national liberation movement",[18] and became a convergence of revolutionary Peronism, Guevarism, and the revolutionary Catholicism of Juan García Elorrio shaped by Camilism.[19] They fought for the return of Juan Perón to Argentina and the establishment of "Christian national socialism", based on 'indigenous' Argentinian and Catholic socialism, seen as the ultimate conclusion of Peronist doctrine.[20]

Movimiento Peronista Montonero
Also known asMPM
LeaderMario Firmenich
Dates of operation1970–1983[1]
MotivesBefore 6 September 1974:
Return of Juan Perón to power and establishment of a socialist state in Argentina [2]
After 6 September 1974:
Establishment of a socialist state according to the Tendencia Revolucionaria ideology[3]
Active regionsArgentina
IdeologyPeronist Revolutionary Tendency[4]
Left-wing nationalism[5]
Left-wing populism[6]
Liberation theology[7]
Catholic socialism[8]
Catholic left[9]
Political positionFar-left[10]
SloganBefore 6 September 1974:
Perón o muerte[11]
(English: Perón or death)
After 6 September 1974:
Patria o muerte[12]
(English: Fatherland or death)
Notable attacksKidnapping and execution of Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, assassination of José Ignacio Rucci, Operation Primicia, raids on military barracks
StatusDecree 261 by Isabel Perón considered it a subversive group and ordered its annihilation. The group was harassed by the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance until 1975 and utterly defeated by the military dictatorship by 1981.
Size~10,000[13] (1975)
Allies ERP
FAL (merged in 1973)
Preceded by
Comando Camilo Torres[15] (1967-1970)[16]

Its first public action took place on 29 May 1970, with the kidnapping, subsequent revolutionary trial and assassination of the anti-Peronist ex-dictator Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, one of the leaders of the 1955 coup that had overthrown the constitutional government led by President Juan Domingo Perón. Montoneros kidnapped the ex-dictator to put him on "revolutionary trial" for being a traitor to the homeland, for having shot 27 people to suppress the 1956 Valle uprising, and to recover the body of Eva Perón that Aramburu had kidnapped and made disappear. Montoneros was the armed nucleus of a set of non-military social organisations ("mass fronts") known as the Tendencia Revolucionaria del Peronismo, or simply "La Tendencia", which included the Juventud Peronista Regionales (JP), the Juventud Universitaria Peronista (JUP), the Juventud Trabajadora Peronista (JTP), the Unión de Estudiantes Secundarios (UES), the Agrupación Evita and the Movimiento Villero Peronista.[21][22][23]

In 1972 it merged with Descamisados and in 1973 with the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), with which it had been acting together. Its actions contributed to the military dictatorship calling free elections in 1973, in which the multi-party electoral front of which it was a member (Frejuli) won, with the presidential candidacy of Peronist Héctor José Cámpora, a man close to Montoneros, as well as several governors, parliamentarians, ministers and high-ranking government officials.[24] Cámpora's government and its relationship with the Montoneros came under heavy pressure from the outset, from right-wing sectors and the Italian anti-communist lodge Propaganda Due and the CIA, and just 49 days later he had to resign after the Ezeiza massacre.[25]

After Cámpora's resignation as president on 12 July 1973, the Montoneros began to lose power and became progressively isolated, a situation that worsened after the assassination of trade union leader José Ignacio Rucci on 25 September 1973 - attributed to the organisation - and above all after Perón's death, on 1 July 1974, when a policy of state terrorism was unleashed by the right-wing para-police organisation known as the Triple A led by López Rega, who became the right-hand man of President María Estela Martínez de Perón. Two months later, Montoneros decided to go underground again and restart the armed struggle.[26] On 8 September 1975, President María Estela Martínez de Perón issued Decree 2452/75 banning its activity and classifying it as a "subversive group".

On 24 March 1976, the constitutional government was overthrown and an anti-Peronist civilian-military dictatorship was established, which imposed a systematic regime of state terrorism and annihilation of opponents. Montoneros established its leadership in Mexico and fought the dictatorship, inflicting serious casualties on the civil-military government and suffering heavy losses, including a large number of militants and fighters who disappeared. In 1979 and 1980 it attempted two counter-offensives that failed militarily and politically. When democracy was restored in December 1983, the Montoneros organisation no longer existed as a political-military structure and sought to insert itself into democratic political life, within Peronism, under the name of Juventud Peronista, under the leadership of Patricia Bullrich and Pablo Unamuno, without ever forming an autonomous political organisation.[27] In the following years, several Montoneros adherents occupied important political posts in democratic governments.



The main political currents that shaped the Montoneros was the far-left liberation theology of Camilo Torres Restrepo, "Christian national socialism" of Juan Perón and Marxist-Leninist Guevarism of Che Guevara,[28] along with the option for the poor and anti-imperialism propagated by Juan García Elorrio in his journal Cristianismo y Revolución, as well as the and Peronist left-wing nationalism promoted by John William Cooke.[29] The initial mentor of the group was also Carlos Mugica who saw Peronism as Argentinian version of Catholic socialism, but rejected armed struggle and revolution, stating: "I am prepared to be killed but I am not prepared to kill".[30] This led radicalized youth that would then form the Montoneros to embrace more radical beliefs of Camilo Torres and García Elorrio instead, with Torres arguing that "The duty of every Catholic is to be a revolutionary" and that "The Catholic who is not a revolutionary is living in mortal sin".[31] The movement also glorified Eva Perón, naming her as one of the inspirations behind the Montoneros and used the slogan Si Evita viviera, sería Montonera ("If Evita were alive she would be a Montonero"), which became one of the best-known mottos of the group.[32] In January 1975, the official organ of the Montoneros even took the name Evita Montonera.[33] Montoneros are considered the ideological staple of Revolutionary Peronism, which combined "radical Catholic principles of justice, Peronist populism, and leftist nationalism."[12] Montoneros remained committed to liberation theology throughout their entire existence, and the notion of Catholic martyrdom was a strong element in the Montonero imaginary and political practice.[34]

Other figures that the Montoneros were influenced by included Juan José Hernández Arregui who considered Peronism "the vehicle of the nation doing battle with imperialism",[35] historian José María Rosa who defined Peronism as revolutionary anti-imperialism,[36] dissident communist Rodolfo Puiggrós who promoted 'Peronist Marxism',[37] and Arturo Jauretche who founded left-wing nationalist FORJA in 1935 and became a Peronist in 1940s.[5] In the late 1960s, Jauretche and Arregui held regular discussions with the Montonero leadership, refining their ideology and rhetoric.[38] Montoneros were also influenced by the polemic between their political mentors and inspirations - in 1969 Perón expressed his interest in Elorrio's Cristianismo y Revolución and wrote a letter to Elorrio that was later published in the journal, stating: "The revolution that is beginning will call into question not only capitalist society but also industrial society. The consumer society must die a violent death. The alienated society [sic] must disappear from history. We are trying a new and original world. The imagination has taken power."[39] Amongst the list of the political mentors of the Montoneros, Richard Gillespie names Camilo Torres as the most important inspiration, as evidenced by the name of the Camilo Torres Commando, which was created in 1967 and was a precursor of the Montoneros, defining their ideology as "Peronism, socialism, Catholic liberationism, and armed struggle",[40] and having "Latin American and Third World liberation" for its goal.[41]

Liberation theology


Despite its far-left ideology, Montoneros originated from middle-class and upper-middle-class Catholic and nationalist backgrounds.[42] The core of Montonero ideology was Argentinian nationalism and Political Catholicism, which were later extended into Peronism and socialism. This connection was made possible by the influence of post-Vatican II Catholicism, as third-worldist and liberation theology Argentinian priests, also known as the worker-priests, would radicalize Catholic students into embracing these political currents.[43] Priest Carlos Mugica, known for his work in shantytowns at the time, became a spiritual advisor of the Catholic students' organization at the National University of Central Buenos Aires, coming in contact with students that would become leading members of the Montoneros. Mugica promoted Peronism, arguing that he was "absolutely convinced that the liberation of my people will be through the Peronist movement. I know from the Gospel, from Christ’s attitude, that I must see human history through the poor. And in Argentina the majority of the poor are Peronists."[44]

Around 1964 Mugica contacted former members of a 1950s Peronist resistance organization known as the Tacuaristas, and introduced them to his pupils. Mugica praised Peronism as effective realization of Catholicism, arguing that Peronism and Catholicism were united in their goals of "love for the poor, for those persecuted for defending justice and for fighting against injustice".[45] Further radicalization came from the death of Camilo Torres, a revolutionary Catholic priest who joined the Marxist-Leninist National Liberation Army and was killed during one of the organization's operations. Six months after his death, first issue of Catholic socialist journal Cristianismo y Revolución, directed by García Elorrio, was published. The journal promoted post-conciliar reforms in the Catholic Church as a turn towards Marxism, encouraged armed struggle as a truly Catholic way of seizing power, idealized Camilo Torres and Che Guevara as examples of anti-imperialist martyrs, and vindicated Peronism as the "revolutionary key of national construction of socialism".[41] Most influential in regards to Montoneros was Elorrio's article from March 1967, which connected Camilo Torres' struggle to Peronism:

We are all in the same war; the question is on which side? There are no third ways—clerical meditations or company truces. And there should not be. This is the challenge which reaction has thrown at us. From national frustration we must now move rapidly to confrontation. The government has already announced that the escalation phase has begun. This statement hides the only reality: official violence against the rebellion of the people. We are in the thick of violence and cannot be on the sidelines...

As martyr and symbol of the demand ‘liberation or death’, Camilo Torres died as a guerrilla a year ago. Camilo faithfully realized his personal road to revolution. Priest and sociologist, political fighter and agitator, student and mass leader, he satisfied his thirst for justice by joining the armed struggle when he understood that the oligarchy shuts all roads and confronts the people with its ultimate weapon—violence ...

Camilo represents contradiction, scandal, probing, unity, sacrifice, action, violence, and commitment. We accept him and uphold him in his totality. We do not parcel him out or divide him according to where our fear takes us. We want to be with him in our Argentine reality, fighting with the Peronist movement for the victory of the working class, for the realization of socialism in our national experience.

Under the banner of Camilo, we hereby declare total war on exploitation, on imperialism, on under-development, and on all people who betray our country from within or without. We also hereby affirm our declaration of revolutionary faith, revolutionary necessity, and revolutionary existence. We affirm a faith full of hope in the triumph of the people, a definite and permanent necessity, and an existence dictated by our Christianity.

With Camilo, we believe that revolution is the only efficient and meaningful way to achieve love for all.

— Juan Garcia Elorrio, Cristianismo y Revolucion (No. 4, March 1967, pp. 2-3.)

Richard Gillespie identifies Cristianismo y Revolución as the decisive factor behind the radicalization of Catholic students and the creation of Montoneros, along with the Movement of Priests for the Third World. The journal made emotional appeals for sympathy for the oppressed and made radical Catholics identify themselves with the 'national liberation' struggles of the Third World, with Perón and Guevara named as main examples. It also glorified militians, paid homages to them and portrayed their deaths as ultimate sacrifice in the name of love for the downtrodden. Cristianismo y Revolución also defused dislike towards Peronism amongst Catholic and mainstream socialist circles - Elorrio regarded Catholic and socialist opposition to Peronism as mistake, which resonated with the hitherto anti-Peronist middle class who was now disillusioned with authoritarianism and corruption of post-Perón Argentinian governments. Because of this, former anti-Peronists "now embraced Peronism with the zeal of reformed sinners". Elorrio also pushed his readers towards action and revolution, writing: "I had to fight with the slaves, the people, as they fought, not as an elitist teacher who tells them what is good and what is evil and then goes back to his study to read Saint Augustine, but as a genuine participant, with them not for them, in their misery, their failings, their violence... Either I fought or I was a phony."[46] Catholic influence remained strong for the entirety of Montoneros existence - Martha Crenshaw remarked that its members "were regular church attenders right up to the moment of going underground", and the organization established its own Catholic “chaplaincy” after resuming its clandestine resistance in September 1974. Montoneros' liberation theology also included a Cuban-inspired cult of martyrdom of its fallen members - guerrillero heroico.[47]

The arrival of Onganía to power in Argentina through the 1966 coup d'état resulted in the group openly embracing the concepts of revolutionary struggle, not only because of the new government's neoliberal economic policies, but also because of suppression of the spheres of political and cultural participation, such as universities and political parties. Michael Goebel argues that government's actions made academics friendly to Perón, which was a side effect of the mass exodus of intellectuals caused by university purges. The academic staff was replaced by professors and priests from Catholic universities, who were now friendly towards Perón.[48] In 1967, Camilo Torres Commando was formed, which became the armed precursor of the Montoneros. Donald C. Hodges notes that the ideology of Camilo Torres Commando was identical to that of Montoneros, representing "a fusion of Camilist, Guevarist, and Cookist themes combined with the cult of Evita Peron".[49] In 1970, the Commando officially became the Montoneros, named after "montoneras", irregular popular troops that followed the federal caudillos of the Argentine interior in the 19th century. The ideology behind armed struggle was influenced by Foquismo of Che Guevara, together with the theory of urban guerrilla warfare written by Peronist Abraham Guillén and Marxist-Leninist Tupamaros.[50]

Revolutionary Peronism


Alongside radicalized Catholic priests, John William Cooke became the second great influence on the Montoneros. Named the "personal delegate" by Perón during his exile, Cooke was tasked with leading the Peronist resistance in Argentina, and spent several years in Cuba afterwards, adopting the Castro's anti-imperialism and becoming the main thinker of Revolutionary Peronism, describing Peronism as a leftist movement that would lead an anti-imperialist revolution of "national liberation" in Argentina.[51] Heavily inspired by the Cuban Revolution, Cooke defined Peronism as "antibureaucratic, socialist, profoundly national, and sister to all the world's exploited".[52] Perón embraced Cooke's ideas, praising the Cuban Revolution and making comparisons between himself and Castro. Although Guevara came from an Argentine anti-Peronist family, he visited Perón in Madrid and was deeply impressed by his political thought, praising Peronism as "indigenous Latin American socialism with which the Cuban Revolution could side". Perón confirmed this political alliance, galvanizing left-wing Peronists; upon Guevara's death in 1967, Perón praised him as ‘one of ours, perhaps the best’.[53]

Cooke and Perón formulated the idea of "national socialism" that would become the defining ideology of both the Montoneros and broader Peronist movement. The concept was based on combining social revolution with national liberation; Cooke wrote: "The struggle for liberation starts from the definition of the real enemy, imperialism that acts through the native oligarchy and the political, economic, and cultural mechanisms at its service . . . the national question and the social question are indissolubly joined." Cooke also referred to the Peronist concept of justicalism, arguing that the essence of it was anti-imperialism and social revolution.[54] This was complemented by Perón redefining his "Third Position" in 1972, clarifying that it is not a centrist position nor a third way between capitalism and communism, but rather Peronist embrace of the Third World, arguing that Peronists must align themselves "with movements of national and social liberation", which Perón listed as Castroist Cuba and Allende's Chile, among others.[55] That year, the Peronist October Front described Peronism as "the national expression of the socialism, to the extent that it represents, expresses and develops in action the aspirations of the popular masses and the Argentine working class" and popularized the term of "indigenous socialism" that justicalismo was to represent.[56]

In their program published in Cristianismo y Revolucíon on behalf of Elorrio, Montoneros stayed loyal to the Perón's vision of “Christian national socialism”, introducing themselves as the "armed wing of Peronism", and stating: "we set ourselves the objective of constituting with other organizations the Peronist armed movement, which together with other armed groups will develop the people's war for the seizure of power and the implementation of national socialism in which they become a reality our three flags: economic independence, social justice and political sovereignty."[57] In the Cuban newspaper Granma, Montoneros further elaborated:

We are Peronists even though we come from different origins and trainings. Peronism has a doctrine created in 1945 that was reworked and updated during the subsequent 25 years. This doctrine is synthesized in the three flags of the movement: Economic Independence, Social Justice and Political Sovereignty. These three flags in 1970 are expressed through the need to achieve independent economic development and a fair distribution of wealth, within the framework of a socialist system that respects our history and our national culture. On the other hand, the doctrine was defined by its creator, General Perón, as deeply national, humanist and Christian, respectful of the human person above all things.

— “El llanto del enemigo” in Cristianismo y Revolución (No. 28, April 1971, p. 71.)

Relations with Perón


Montoneros had a complicated relationship with Juan Perón himself. In February 1971, Perón sent a letter to Montoneros, agreeing with their declaration that "the only possible road for the people to seize power and install national socialism is total, national, and prolonged revolutionary war" and praised the organization for adapting Peronist doctrine to the difficult conditions created by the military dictatorship. Interpreted as Perón endorsement of Montoneros, the organization was soon joined by several other Peronist organizations - shortly after Perón's response, the Descamisado Political-Military Organization under the leadership of Horacio Mendizabal and Norberto Habegger merged with Montoneros, in October 1973 Montoneros welcomed the FAR into its ranks, and in 1974 Peronist Armed Forces also joined Montoneros.[33] As Perón returned to Argentina in July 1973 and was welcomed by large groups and overjoyed demonstrations, Montoneros were reported to be ‘winning the street’, with chants such as ‘long live the Montoneros who killed Aramburu’ being popular Peronist slogans. However, Perón's return marked increasing conflict between various Peronist wings, determined to gain the upper hand.[58] According to Perón biographer Jill Hedges, Perón was alarmed by the fact that his return did not reduce political violence in Argentina, but rather invited further clashes between the left and right wings of his movement. Perón also believed that some guerrilla and right-wing groups did not genuinely support him, but rather planned his assassination.[59]

In September 1973, Perón attempted to maintain unity in his movement, and met with leaders of the Montoneros and FAR. However, Perón was heartbroken by the assassination of trade union leader José Ignacio Rucci, for which the Montoneros claimed responsibility.[60] Rucci's assassination marked the first time Perón cried in public. Perón went into state of depression, and declared at his death: "They killed my son. They cut off my legs".[61] The death of Rucci made Perón cold towards Montoneros, culminating in Perón demanding their expulsion from the Justicalist Movement on May Day 1974, which insulted the Peronist Left. Despite this, Montoneros never abandoned Perón and glorified him after his death. His last major speech from 12 June 1974, in which Perón denounced an "imperialist plot", was interpreted as proof that Perón was "to a great extent taking up the orientations and many of the criticisms which we were formulating" by the Montoneros. Ronaldo Munck argues that Perón did not desire to abandon Montoneros and his June speech was intended to restore their trust after the May Day confrontation.[62] Montoneros praised Perón for realizing his "May Day mistake" shortly before his death, and continued to identify him as their mentor. However, after Perón's death the Montoneros went underground on 6 September 1974 and organized resistance against the regime of Isabel Perón, as Isabel's government was dominated by right-wing figures who sought to centralize their control of the movement and initiated crackdowns on other Peronist factions.[63]

Following the death of Perón, Montoneros declared war on the government of Isabel Perón, denouncing it as ‘neither popular nor Peronist’ and comparing it to the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina prior to March 1973.[63] Montoneros presented themselves as the successors of the Perón's original program, considering it an essential part of their far-left outlook and arguing that its reconstruction is necessary for national liberation of Argentina.[64] They continued to proclaim national liberation and construction of socialism as their main goals, which they defined as liberation from imperialist domination and suppression of private ownership of the means of production, and a planned economy "in accordance with the particularities of the national productive structure". Montoneros praised Peronism as "the main, richest and most generalised experience of the Argentine working class and national sectors to achieve the objective of national and social liberation", and called their ideology "Authentic Peronism" from September 1974. The organization also stressed that it is not abandoning the justicalist movement, but proposes its reconstruction, as it finds it necessary to depose "reactionary elements" that have infiltrated Peronism. The new government of Isabel Perón was decried as not only not Peronist, but also "anti-Peronist, anti-popular, repressive and pro-monopoly". Montoneros doubled down on their glorification of Eva Perón, adding the organization of "the Peronist militias that Evita imagined, so that all the people can actively participate in all the forms of confrontation" to its goals.[50]

From 1970 to Videla's military dictatorship


The Montoneros formed around 1970 out of a confluence of Roman Catholic groups, university students in social sciences, and leftist supporters of Juan Perón. "The Montoneros took their name from the pejorative term used by the 19th-century elite to discredit the mounted followers of the popular caudillos." Montonera referred to the raiding parties composed by Native Americans in Argentina, and the spear in the Montoneros seal refers to this inspiration.[65]

The Montoneros initiated a campaign to destabilise by force the regime supported by the U.S.,[66] which had trained Argentinian and other Latin American dictators via the School of the Americas.[67]

In 1970, as retribution for the June 1956 León Suárez massacre and Juan José Valle's execution, the Montoneros kidnapped and executed former dictator Pedro Eugenio Aramburu (1955–1958) and other collaborators. In November 1971, in solidarity with militant car workers, Montoneros took over the FIAT car manufacturing plant in Caseros, sprayed 38 new-brand cars with petrol, and set them afire.[68]

On 26 July 1972, they set off explosives in the Plaza de San Isidro in Buenos Aires, which injured three policemen and killed one fireman (Carlos Adrián Ayala), who died of wounds two days later.[69] That same day, a policeman (Agent Ramón González) is shot dead after intercepting a vehicle when the two male and two female MPM guerrillas inside draw their guns and open fire on the police vehicle.[70]

In April 1973, Colonel Héctor Irabarren, head of the 3rd Army Corps' Intelligence Service, was killed when resisting a kidnap attempt by the Mariano Pojadas and Susana Lesgart platoons of the Montoneros.[69]

On 17 October 1972, a powerful bomb detonated inside the Sheraton Hotel in Buenos Aires, with nearly 700 guests at the time, killing a Canadian woman (Lois Crozier, travel agent from West Vancouver) and gravely wounding her husband Gerry as he slept.[71][72] The Montoneros and the Revolutionary Armed Forces later claimed responsibility for the attack.[73]

On 11 March 1973, Argentina held general elections for the first time in ten years. Perón loyalist Héctor Cámpora became president and Perón returned from Spain. In a controversial move, he released all left-wing guerrillas held in prison at the time in Argentina.[74]



On 21 February 1974, the Montoneros killed Teodoro Ponce, a right-wing Peronist labour leader in Rosario.[75] He had sought refuge in a local business after being shot at while driving by a carload of masked gunmen. One of the gunmen who got out of the car shot him dead while he lay on the floor and also shot a woman, who screamed out, "Murderer."

On 1 May 1974, Perón expelled the Montoneros from the Justicialist May Day rally after Montonero-organized youth chanted slogans against Perón's wife, Isabel.[76] Despite the May Day confrontation with Perón, when Perón threatened to resign on 12 June, Montoneros responded by calling for the defense of Perón and his government.[77]

Perón himself did not desire to abandon the Montoneros and sought to restore his trust in his last speech from June 1974, where he denounced "the oligarchy and the pressures exerted by imperialism upon his government", which was considered an implication that he was being manipulated by the Peronist right.[78] In response, Montoneros praised Perón for "realizing his May Day mistake", and continued to identify him as their mentor.[63] However, Perón died shortly after, and the Montoneros went underground on 6 September 1974 and organized resistance against the regime of Isabel Perón, as Isabel's government was dominated by right-wing figures who sought to centralize their control of the movement and initiated crackdowns on other Peronist factions.[63]

After the death of Juan Perón in July 1974 and Isabel's rise to power, Montoneros claimed to have the "social revolutionary vision of authentic Peronism" and started guerrilla operations against the government. The more radically orthodoxy peronist and right-wing factions quickly took control of the government; Isabel Perón, president since Juan Perón's death, was essentially a figurehead under the influence of López Rega.[79]

On 15 July 1974, Montoneros assassinated Arturo Mor Roig, a former foreign minister. On 17 July, they murdered David Kraiselburd, journalist and editor-in-chief of El Día newspaper, in the Manuel B. Gonnet suburb of Buenos Aires after an exchange of fire with police.

In September, in order to finance their operations, they kidnapped the two brothers of the Bunge and Born family business. Some 20 urban guerrillas dressed as policemen shot dead a bodyguard and chauffeur and diverted traffic in this well-orchestrated ambush. Some 30 militants and sympathisers among the civilian population provided safe houses to the guerrillas and a means to escape.[80] They demanded and received a ransom of $60 million in cash, as well as $1.2 million worth of food and clothing to be given to the poor.

Under López Rega's orders, the Triple A began kidnapping, and killing members of Montoneros and the People's Revolutionary Army (ERP), as well as other leftist militant groups. They expanded their attacks to anyone considered a leftist subversive or sympathiser, such as these groups' deputies or lawyers.

The Montoneros and the ERP in turn attacked business and political figures throughout Argentina, and raided 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.[81] They targeted both foreign companies and commemorative ceremonies of the Revolucion Libertadora, the military revolt that had ended Juan Perón's first term as president on 16 September 1955.[82] Targets included three Ford showrooms; Peugeot and IKA-Renault showrooms; Goodyear and Firestone tyre distributors, the pharmaceutical manufacturers Riker and Eli Lilly, the Union Carbide Battery Company, the Bank of Boston, Chase Manhattan Bank, the Xerox Corporation, and the soft drink companies, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. The Peronist guerrillas also held up at gunpoint two trains in a Buenos Aires suburb on 16 September.[83] The Montoneros discouraged foreign investment more directly by blowing up the homes of company executives. For example, in 1975 the homes of five executives of Lazar Laboratories were bombed in the suburb of La Plata in Buenos Aires.[82] The violence was widespread.



On 7 February, four carloads of Montoneros intercepted the car driven by Antonio Muscat, a manager of the Bunge y Born firm, and shot him dead in the presence of his daughter. On 14 February 1975, Montoneros killed Hipólito Acuña, a politician, as he parked his car outside his home in the city of Santa Fe. On 18 February, Montoneros gunmen killed Félix Villafañe of the FITAM S.A. workers union, in the presence of his wife in the suburb of San Isidro in Buenos Aires. On 22 February 1975, in an ambush in the Lomas de Zamora suburb of Buenos Aires, three policemen (First Sergeant Nicolás Cardozo, Corporal Roberto Roque Fredes and Constables Eugenio Rodriguez and Abel Pascuzzi) were killed after their patrol car came under fire from Montoneros guerrillas. On 26 February 1975, the Montoneros kidnapped 62-year-old John Patrick Egan, a U.S. consular agent in the city of Córdoba, executing him two days later.[84] That same day, they killed three policemen in another ambush by urban guerrillas in Buenos Aires, and an army conscript in Tucumán province was reported to have been killed in action.[85] On 5 March 1975, a Montoneros bomb detonated in the underground parking at Plaza Colón of the Argentine Army High Command; a garbage truck driver (Alberto Blas García) was killed and 28 others were wounded,[86] including four colonels and 18 other ranks.[87] In early June 1975, Montoneros guerrillas murdered executives David Bargut and Raul Amelong of the Acindar steel firm in Rosario, in reprisal for alleged repression against striking employees.[88] On 10 June 1975, guerrillas in Santa Fe shot and killed Juan Enrique Pelayes, a trade union leader. On 12 June 1975, in an ambush in the capital of the Córdoba province, three policemen (Pedro Ramón Enrico, Carlos Alberto Galíndez and corporal Luis Francisco Rodríguez) were killed by guerrillas. On 25 July 1975 four policemen were wounded in guerrilla attacks using bazookas and firebombs. On 26 August 1975, 26-year-old Fernando Haymal was killed by fellow Montoneros for allegedly cooperating with government forces.[89]

The Montoneros' leadership was keen to learn from the ERP's Compañía de Monte Ramón Rosa Jiménez operating in the province of Tucumán. In 1975 they sent "observers" to spend a few months with the ERP platoons[90] operating against the 5th Infantry Brigade, then consisting of the 19th, 20th and 29th Mountain Infantry Regiments.[91] On 28 August 1975 the Montoneros planted a bomb in a culvert at the Tucumán air base airstrip. The blast destroyed an air force C-130 transport carrying 116 anti-guerrilla commandos of the Gendarmerie, killing five and wounding 40, one of whom later died of his injuries.[92]

The network of Montoneros militants had been largely uprooted by the government in the capital of Tucumán province. In August 1975, several hundred Montoneros militants took to the streets in Córdoba, to divert attention from the military operations being waged in the mountains of Tucumán. They shot and killed five policemen (Sergeant Juan Carlos Román, Corporal Rosario del Carmen Moyano and Agents Luis Rodolfo López, Jorge Natividad Luna and Juan Antonio Diaz)[93] after attacking their headquarters and bombed the police radio communications centre.[94] As a result, the elite 4th Airborne Infantry Brigade, which had been ordered to assist operations in Tucumán province, was kept in Córdoba for the rest of the year.

On 5 October 1975, the Montoneros carried out a complex operation against a regiment of the 5th Brigade.[95] During this attack named Operation Primicia ("Operation Scoop") a Montoneros force numbering an estimated several hundred guerrillas and underground supporters, set in motion an assault on an army barracks in Formosa province. On 5 October 1975, Montoneros members hijacked a civilian airliner bound for Corrientes from Buenos Aires. The guerrillas redirected the plane to Formosa, and took over the provincial airport, killing policeman Neri Argentino Alegre in the process. With tactical support from a local militant group, the invaders attacked the barracks of the 29th Infantry Regiment with gunfire and hand grenades. They shot several soldiers who had been resting in their quarters.[96]

After the soldiers and NCOs got over their initial surprise, they mounted stiff resistance to the attacking Montoneros. In total, a second lieutenant (Ricardo Massaferro), sergeant (Víctor Sanabria) and ten conscripts (Antonio Arrieta, Heriberto Avalos, José Coronel, Dante Salvatierra, Ismael Sánchez, Tomás Sánchez, Edmundo Roberto Sosa, Marcelino Torales, Alberto Villalba and Hermindo Luna) were killed and several wounded.[97] The Montoneros lost 16 killed in total.[96] Two policemen later died of their wounds.[98] The Montoneros escaped by air into a remote area in adjoining Santa Fe Province. The aircraft, a Boeing 737, landed in a crop field not far from the city of Rafaela. The Peronist guerrillas fled to waiting cars on a highway nearby.[99]

The sophistication of the operation, and the getaway cars and hideouts they used to escape the military crackdown, suggest the involvement of several hundred guerrillas and civilian sympathisers in Montoneros' organisation. Under the presidency of Nestor Kirchner, the families of all the Montoneros killed in the attack were each later compensated with the payment of around US$200,000.[100]

On 26 October 1975, a Catholic youth leader, Juan Ignacio Isla Casares, with the help of the Montoneros commander Eduardo Pereira Rossi (nom de guerre "El Carlón") was the mastermind behind the ambush and killing of five policemen (Pedro Dettle, Juan Ramón Costa, Carlos Livio Cejas, Cleofás Galeano, and Juan Fernández) near San Isidro Cathedral.

During February 1976, the Montoneros sent assistance to the hard-pressed Compañía de Monte Ramón Rosa Jiménez fighting in Tucumán province, in the form of a company of their elite "Jungle Troops", while the ERP backed them up with a company of their guerrillas from Cordoba.[101] The Baltimore Sun reported at the time, "In the jungle-covered mountains of Tucuman, long known as "Argentina's garden," Argentines are fighting Argentines in a Vietnam-style civil war. So far, the outcome is in doubt. But there is no doubt about the seriousness of the combat, which involves 2,000 or so leftist guerrillas and perhaps as many as 10,000 soldiers."[102]

While the ERP fought the army in Tucumán, the Montoneros were active in Buenos Aires. Montoneros' leadership dismissed the tactics of the ERP in Tucumán as "old fashioned" and "inappropriate" but still sent reinforcements.[103] On 26 October 1975, five policemen (Pedro Dettle, Juan Ramón Costa, Carlos Livio Cejas, Cleofás Galeano, and Juan Fernández) were killed in Buenos Aires when Montoneros guerrillas ambushed their patrol cars near the San Isidro Cathedral.[104] Two of the captured policemen were reported to have been executed in this operation under the orders of the Montoneros commander Eduardo Pereyra Rossi (nom de guerre Carlon).[105]

In December 1975, Montoneros raided an armaments factory in the capital's Munro neighbourhood, fleeing with 250 assault rifles and sub-machine guns. That same month, a Montoneros bomb exploded at the headquarters of the Argentine army in Buenos Aires, injuring at least six soldiers.[106] By the end of 1975, a total of 137 army officers, NCOs and conscripts and policemen had been killed that year and approximately 3,000 wounded by left wing terrorism. U.S. journalist Paul Hoeffel in an article written for the Boston Globe concluded that, "Although there is widespread reluctance to use the term, it is now impossible to ignore the fact that civil war has broken out in Argentina."[107]

Seaborne attacks


Montoneros were inspired by the Italian and British wartime commando raids on warships, and on 1 November 1974, Montoneros successfully blew up General Commissioner Alberto Villar, the chief of the Argentine federal police in his yacht. His wife was also killed on the spot.[108] On 22 August 1975,[109] their frogmen planted a mine on the river's bed below the hull of a navy destroyer, the ARA Santísima Trinidad, as she remained docked at Rio Santiago before her commissioning. 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 yacht Itati in an attempt to kill the Commander-in-Chief of the Argentine navy, Admiral Emilio Massera.[110] While Massera was not injured, the yacht was badly damaged by the explosives.[109]



In January 1976, the son of retired Lieutenant-General Julio Alsogoray, Juan Alsogaray (El Hippie), copied from his father's safe a draft of "Battle Order 24 March" and passed it to the head of the Montoneros intelligence, Rodolfo Walsh, who informed the guerrilla leadership of the planned military coup.[111] Private Sergio Tarnopolsky, serving in the Argentine Marine Corps in 1976, also passed on valuable information to Walsh regarding the tortures and killings of left-wing guerrillas taking place in ESMA.[112] He was later that year made to disappear along with his father Hugo and mother Blanca and sister Betina in revenge for a bomb that he planted in the detention centre which failed to explode. The only survivor of the sequestration was his brother Daniel, who was not at home the day of the raid.[113] On 26 January, ERP guerrillas supporting Montoneros operations in the suburb of Barracas in Buenos Aires, killed a female police traffic officer (Silvia Ester Rosboch de Campana). On 29 January, during a raid on the Bendix factory in the suburb of Munro in Buenos Aires, Montoneros shot and killed Alberto Olabarrieta and Jorge Sarlenga of the factory's management, and an off-duty policeman, Juan Carlos Garavaglio, who had tried to intervene.

On 2 February 1976, about fifty Montoneros attacked the Juan Vucetich Police Academy in the suburb of La Plata but were repelled when the police cadets fought back and reinforcements arrived.[114] On 13 February, the Argentine army scored a major success when the 14th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 4th Airborne Infantry Brigade ambushed the 65-strong Montoneros Jungle Company, in an action near the town of Cadillal in Tucumán province.[115] The 2nd Airborne Infantry Regiment of the same brigade, was also released from garrison duties in the city of Córdoba after the ERP armed uprising that killed 5 policemen there in August 1975[94] and would achieve similar success against the ERP's Decididos de Córdoba company sent to rekindle the insurgency in Tucumán province. In the week preceding the military coup, the Montoneros killed 13 policemen as part of their Third National Military Campaign and vowed to kill at least 3,000 policemen by the decade's end.[116]

The ERP guerrillas and their supporting network of militants came under heavy attack in April 1976, and the Montoneros were forced to come to their assistance with money, weapons and safe houses.[117] On 21 June, the labour relations manager of Swift (an American food processing company), Osvaldo Raúl Trinidad was shot and killed outside his home in the La Plata suburb of Buenos Aires after coming under fire from a carload of masked Peronist guerrillas. On 1 July, a carload of Montoneros shot and killed Army Sergeant Raul Godofredo Favale in the Ramos Mejía suburb of Buenos Aires.[118] On the following day the Montoneros detonated a powerful bomb in the Argentine Federal Police building in Buenos Aires, killing 24 and injuring 66 people.[119] On 10 July 1976, policemen surrounded and entered a printing house in the San Andrés suburb of Buenos Aires in an attempt to free Vicecomodore Roberto Echegoyen from the Argentine air force, but the alerted guerrillas shot their hostage in the head. On 19 July, Montoneros killed Brigadier-General Carlos Omar Actis (tasked with overseeing the World Cup soccer championships in Argentina in 1978) in the suburb of Wilde in Buenos Aires.[120] On 26 July, Montoneros guerrillas operating in the San Justo suburb of Buenos Aires shot and killed an off-duty policeman, Ramón Emilio Reno in the presence of his 13-year-old brother. An Argentine army 1976 report entitled Informe Especial: Actividades OPM "Montoneros" año 1976, gave the following surviving Montoneros totals for September 1976: 9,191 members with 991 guerrillas (391 officers and 600 other ranks), 2,700 armed militants and 5,500 sympathisers and active collaborators.[121]

On 19 August 1976, Carlos Bergometti of the senior management of Fiat in Córdoba, was intercepted on his way to work and killed by Montoneros armed with shotguns in a car.[122] On 2 September, the urban guerrillas killed Lieutenant-Colonel Carlos Heriberto Astudillo in the suburb of Escobar in Buenos Aires.[123] On 7 September, Daniel Andrés Cash of the Banco de la Nación Argentina was killed on his way to work by a Montoneros guerrilla armed with a shotgun.[124] On 12 September 1976, a Montoneros car bomb destroyed a bus carrying police officers in Rosario, killing nine policemen[125] and a married couple, 56-year-old Oscar Walter Ledesma and 42-year-old Irene Ángela Dib. There were at least 50 wounded.[126][better source needed] On 17 October a Montoneros 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 Montoneros bomb exploded at the police headquarters at La Plata during a meeting of the Buenos Aires police chiefs.[126]

On 16 November 1976, about 40 Montoneros guerrillas stormed the police station at Arana, 30 miles south of Buenos Aires. Five policemen and one army captain were wounded in the battle.[127] On 15 December, another Montoneros bomb planted in a Defence Ministry movie hall killed at least 14 and injured 30 officers and their families.[119] On 29 December, Montoneros shot and killed Colonel Francisco Castellanos and wounded his driver, Private Alberto Gutiérrez, just a few blocks from the army officer's home in the suburb of Florida in Buenos Aires. The worst year of the insurgency, 1976, saw 156 army officers, NCOs, and conscripts, and police killed.[128]

By the time Videla's military junta took power in March 1976, approximately five thousand prisoners were being held in various prisons around Argentina, some with connections and some just guilty by association[citation needed]. In all, 12,000 Argentines were detained during the military dictatorship and became known as the detenidos-desaparecidos, but survived after international pressure forced the military authorities to release them.[129] These 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. Justice Minister Ricardo Gil Lavedra, who formed part of the 1985 tribunal judging the military crimes committed during the Dirty War would later go on record saying that "I sincerely believe that the majority of the victims of the illegal repression were guerrilla militants".[130]

Terence Roehrig, in The prosecution of former military leaders in newly democratic nations: the cases of Argentina, Greece, and South Korea (Pg 42, McFarland & Company, 2001), estimates that of the disappeared in Argentina "at least 10,000 were involved in various ways with the guerrillas". The Montoneros later admitted losing 5,000 guerrillas killed,[131] and the People's Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo or ERP) admitted the loss of another 5,000 of their own combatants killed.[132] Some 11,000 Argentines have applied for and received up to US$200,000 each as monetary compensation for the loss of loved ones during the military dictatorship.[133] In late November 2012, it was reported that the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would approve monetary compensation for the families that lost loved ones in the Montoneros attack on the 29th Regiment barracks on 5 October 1975, the first of its kind for military families in Argentina.[134]

Under Jorge Videla's junta


On 24 March 1976, Isabel Perón was ousted and a military junta installed, led by General Jorge Rafael Videla. On 4 April 1976, Montoneros assassinated a naval commander (Jose Guillermo Burgos) and a Chrysler executive (Jorge Ricardo Kenny) and ambushed and killed three policemen in a patrol car.[135] On 26 April 1976, Montoneros guerrillas killed Colonel Abel Héctor Elías Cavagnaro outside his home in Tucumán province. On 27 June 1976, Montoneros guerrillas operating in the city of Rosario ambushed and destroyed two police cars, killing three police officers[136] During the first few months of the military government, more than 70 policemen were killed in leftist guerrilla attacks.[137] On 11 August 1976, urban guerrillas dressed like police officers intercepted and killed army corporal Jorge Antonio Bulacio, with two shots to the head and set fire to his military lorry belonging to the 141st Headquarters Communications Battalion with a Molotov cocktail bomb.[138]

On 4 January 1977, a female guerrilla (Ana María González) from the Montoneros movement shot and killed Private Guillermo Félix Dimitri of the 10th Mechanized Infantry Brigade while he was on roadblock duty outside the Chrysler factory in the San Justo suburb of Buenos Aires. [139] On 27 January, a Montoneros bomb explodes outside a police station in the city of Rosario in Santa Fe Province, killing a policeman (Miguel Angel Bracamonte) and a 15-year-old girl (María Leonor Berardi), an innocent bystander.[140] On 28 January, a female Montoneros guerrilla (22-year-old Juana Silvia Charura) placed a bomb inside the 2nd Police Station in the suburb of Cuidadela, destroying the building and killing three policemen: Commissioner Carlos A. Benítez, Sub-Commissioner Lorenzo Bonnani and Agent César Landeria.[70]

On 10 February, two police officers (Roque Alipio Farías and Ernesto Olivera) with an anti-explosives unit were fatally wounded trying to deactivate a bomb rigged to a motorbike in Rosario. On 15 February 1977, army corporal Osvaldo Ramón Ríos was killed after his patrol came under fire from a group of Montoneros that had barricaded themselves inside a house in the Ezpeleta suburb of Buenos Aires. That same month, Ireneo Garnica and Alejandro Díaz, both railway workers who had refused to participate in a strike, were killed when Montoneros threw a bomb at them in the suburb of Quilmes in Buenos Aires. On 19 March 1977, 45-year-old Sergeant Martín A. Novau from the Federal Police was shot and killed while he was repairing a police car in a work shop in Buenos Aires.[70]

On 23 May 1977, the leftist guerrillas in Buenos Aires killed two police officers and a retired inspector as he entered his home.[141]

The junta redoubled the Dirty War anti-guerrilla campaign. During 1977, in just Buenos Aires alone, 36 police were reported killed in actions involving the remaining urban guerrillas[142]

On 1 August 1978, a powerful bomb meant to kill Rear Admiral Armando Lambruschini (chairman of the Joint Chiefs) ripped through a nine-story apartment building, killing three civilians and trapping scores beneath the debris.[143]

On 14 August 1977, Susana Leonor Siver and her partner Marcelo Carlos Reinhold, both Montoneros fighters, were kidnapped from Reinold's mother's home along with a friend by a fifteen-strong naval intelligence team and taken to the ESMA naval detention camp. After a brutal torture session in front of his wife, Marcelo was supposedly "transferred" to another camp but nothing was heard of him since. In February 1978, Susana was disappeared by the military authorities soon after giving birth to a blonde girl.[144]

Adriana and Gaspar Tasca, both identified as Montoneros, were taken into custody between 7 and 10 December 1977 and remain unaccounted for. On 6 October 1978, José Pérez Rojo and Patricia Roisinblit, both Montoneros members, were made to disappear. According to different sources, 8,000 to 30,000 people[145] are estimated to have disappeared and died during the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. Some 12,000 of the missing known as the detenidos-desaparecidos, survived detention[129] and were later compensated for their ordeal. On the other hand, according to an NGO dedicated to defending "victims of terrorism", 1,355 people, including members of the police and military, were killed by Montoneros and other left-wing armed movements.[146]

Mario Firmenich. Photo by Eduardo Montes-Bradley

The commander of the Montoneros, Mario Firmenich, in a radio interview in late 2000 from Spain later stated that "In a country that has experienced a civil war, everybody has blood on their hands."[147] The junta relied on mass illegal arrests, torture, and executions without trial to stifle any political opposition. Some victims were thrown from transport planes into the Atlantic Ocean on what have become infamously known as death flights. Others had their corpses left on streets as intimidation of others. The Montoneros admit 5,000 of their guerrillas were killed.[148]

The Montoneros were effectively finished off by 1977, although their "Special Forces" did fight on until 1981. The Montoneros tried to disrupt the World Cup Football Tournament being hosted in Argentina in 1978 by launching a number of bomb attacks.[149] 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[150] after receiving special forces training in camps in the Middle East.[151] On 14 June 1980, eight Argentine army officers (in cooperation with Peruvian military authorities), kidnapped Noemí Esther Giannetti de Molfino (an active Montoneros collaborator) along with eight Argentine nationals in the Peruvian capital and had them forcefully disappear.[152] In October 2014, the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would rename a street in the city of Resistencia, Chaco Province in her memory. Her daughter Marcela along with her partner, Guillermo Amarilla, had both disappeared in 1979 while re-entering Argentina as part of the Montoneros "strategic counteroffensive".[152]

Among the Montoneros killed in this operation were Luis Francisco Goya and María Lourdes Martínez Aranda who after crossing the Chilean border into Argentina were abducted in the city of Mendoza in 1980 and never seen again, with their son Jorge Guillermo being adopted and raised by an army NCO, Luis Alberto Tejada and his wife Raquel Quinteros.[153] 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 allies in El Salvador, FMLN guerrillas.[154]

In 1977, the Montoneros regrouped in Cuba, where the bulk of the remaining group's money had been transferred as well. Exiled Montoneros expanded their networks to gradually diminish the influence of far-right Orthodox Peronism on the Peronist movement. According to Montoneros, Peronism can be reformed by simply "correcting the reason" of Isabel Perón and José López Rega and committing to a platform centered around labor corporatism, Catholic socialism and anti-imperialism. Near the end of the 1970s, exiled Montoneros participated in the Nicaraguan Revolution and were allied with the Sandinista National Liberation Front, a fellow Christian socialist movement. Montoneros fought directly for the Sandinista revolution, and a special Montonero medical unit was founded by Sandinistas.[14]

During the Falklands War against Great Britain, the Argentine military conceived the aborted Operation Algeciras, a covert plan to support and convince some commando-trained Montoneros, by appealing to their patriotism, to sabotage British military facilities in Gibraltar. Argentina's defeat led to the fall of the junta, and Raúl Alfonsín became president in December 1983, thus initiating the democratic transition.



See also



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  2. ^ José Amorín: "The thing is that, by 1973, very few partners were ready to plan a political future from a position of power that was not derived from popular activism or, in their case, "from the cannon of a shotgun". For the majority the chance to build power from the institutions was unthinkable. In our experience, power was taken: from our side, as with the Winter Palace or the entry to La Habana, and from the other side, as with the military and their coups d'état." Montoneros: La buena historia Archived 12 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, p. 99
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  • Brown, Jonathan C. 2010. A brief history of Argentina. 2nd edition. Facts on File, Inc.
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  • Giussani, Pablo (2011). Montoneros: La soberbia armada. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana. ISBN 978-950-07-3620-6.
  • Argentina, 1943–1987: The National Revolution and Resistance, by Donald C. Hodges (1988).
  • Guerrillas and Generals: The Dirty War in Argentina, by Paul H. Lewis (2001).
  • Guerrilla politics in Argentina, by Kenneth F. Johnson (1975).
  • Argentina's Lost Patrol: Armed Struggle 1969–1979 by María José Moyano (1995).
  • Guerrilla warfare in Argentina and Colombia, 1974–1982, by Bynum E. Weathers, Jr. (1982).