It’s more than fifty years since Operación Masacre was first published in Argentina and there’s a poignancy to the timing of its belated publication in English, three months after the death of the country’s most notorious dictator. General Jorge Videla presided over much of the ‘Dirty War’ of 1976 to 1983 during which more than 8,000 – and possibly as many as 30,000 – Argentine citizens were abducted, tortured and murdered by the state. Some of them were bundled off the street or out of cafés into Ford Falcon cars that transported them to concentration camps. Others were taken from their homes on suspicion of being violent insurgents, when the truth was that most had never done anything more contentious than attend a rally, teach in a university, or volunteer medical help in a shanty town. More than two hundred of the ‘disappeared’ were women who gave birth before they were murdered; their babies were handed to their executioner’s relations to be brought up. The bodies were dumped in the River Plate or buried in mass graves and most have never been found.
Rodolfo Walsh was ‘disappeared’ at the height of the violence in March 1977. His ambush on a Buenos Aires street couldn’t have surprised anyone. He was by that stage a well-known investigative journalist and prominent critic of the regime, and may have been gathering intelligence for the Montoneros, a Peronist