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General Antonio Domingo Bussi

Antonio Domingo Bussi (born January 17, 1926) is a former Argentine Army General and politician prominent in the recent history of Tucumán Province, Argentina.

Contents

Life and times

Early career

Bussi was born in Victoria, Entre Ríos Province, in 1926. He entered the National Military College in 1943 and graduated in 1947 as a second lieutenant in the Army's Infantry Division. He was assigned to Regiment 28 in the city of Goya, Corrientes and was later made an instructor in the General San Martín Lyceum. Promoted to captain in 1954, he entered the War College to train as a staff officer, and would remain there three years before being transferred to the Army's Mountain Division in Mendoza Province; he then married Josefina Beatriz Bigoglio, with whom he had four children. Bussi was designated Master of military logistics by the Army High Command, and he taught the discipline in the General Luis María Campos War College, one of the armed services' most prestigious; in that capacity, he was sent to receive further instruction at the Command and General Staff College, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Appointed lieutenant colonel upon his return in 1964, he briefly served as Chief of Staff at Army Headquarters.

Named head of the 19th Mountain Infantry Regiment in Tucumán Province, in 1969 he was sent as part of an Argentine Army commission of observers to the Vietnam War theatre, and returned to Army Headquarters in a bureaucratic capacity. Bussi was promoted to brigadier general in 1975, named head of the Tenth Infantry Brigade of the city of Buenos Aires, and in December, he was tapped to replace General Acdel Vilas as commander of Operativo Independencia, a military offensive ordered early that year by President Isabel Perón to counter a growing People's Revolutionary Army (ERP) insurgency in Tucumán.[1]

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Tucumán

Bussi moved the secret detention center that his predecessor had installed in Famaillá to a more remote, rural location, and ordered the use of torture. The move was made to evade inspections by international human rights agencies, by concealing or transferring prisoners prior to their visits. The March 24, 1976 military coup resulted in Bussi's appointment as Governor of Tucumán, and in the worsening of an already repressive human and legal rights situation.[2]

The report of the Congressional Commission on Human Rights Violations in the Province of Tucumán described the Bussi administration as a vast repressive apparatus, directed mainly against labor union leaders, political figures, academics and students (all of whom were known to be unrelated to the climate of left-wing violence in evidence during the early 1970s). Bussi himself stated, on being given command of the 5th Mountain Infantry Brigade (during "Operativo Independencia") in December 1975, that in any case, "the guerrillas were already defeated." [3]The Argentine armed services however, still maintained that the guerrillas posed a serious problem, although they expressed guarded optimism that they were gaining control of the situation.[4]During their deployment in Tucumán in 1975, the 5th Mountain Brigade, then consisting of the 19th, 20th and 29th Mountain Infantry Regiments[5] killed 160 guerrillas at a cost of 22 officers and 21 other ranks killed.[6] This figure does take into account police and Gendarmerie troops killed in Tucumán, and the 29th Mountain Infantry Regiment soldiers who died defending their barracks in Formosa province on 5 October 1975. Tucumán kept the 5th Brigade busy, and by 1976 the mountain units had to still provide necessary military support to the local security forces, and help to hunt down the one-hundred or so ERP and Montoneros guerrillas who still roamed the jungles and mountains. During February 1976, in an effort to rekindle the guerrilla campaign in Tucumán, the Montoneros had sent in reinforcements in the form of a company of their elite "Jungle Troops" and the ERP had backed them up with a company of their own guerrillas from Cordoba.[7]General Bussi achieved a major success on 13 February when his troops ambushed and defeated the elite Montoneros jungle company. In 1976 there were 24 patrol battles that resulted in deaths of 74 guerrillas and 18 soldiers and police in the province.[8]


Both the number of victims and scope of attacks increased notably after Bussi's appointment. A large percentage of them were students, professors and recent graduates of the local university who had been caught trying to provide supplies and information to the guerrillas.[9]A Police Investigations Brigade was formed to attach selected policemen to Army shock troops, and these units were responsible for, among other civilian attacks, the bombing of the National University of Tucumán, the Provincial Legislature, the local headquarters of the centrist Radical Civic Union, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the Tucumán Bar Association. Lawyers were intimidated into refusing to defend political prisoners, and those who proved uncooperative had their offices ransacked or bombed (numerous attorneys were assassinated, outright). Doctors, politicians and trade unionists were also the subject of kidnappings, unlawful imprisonment and torture.[3]

Bussi's personal role in the atrocities is well known. He murdered detainees with his own hands in at least three cases, and used his office to amass over three million dollars in property and real estate (at 1976-77 prices).[10] Among his administration's more bizarre crimes included the banishment of 25 homeless men to mountainous, neighboring Catamarca Province in the dead of winter and without provisions of any kind.[1] A June 1976 operation succeeded in capturing the notorious ERP leader Mario Roberto Santucho, who was taken alive and died in a military hospital. His body was frozen and later publicly displayed by Bussi at the dictatorship's Museum of Subversion at the Campo de Mayo (the nation's largest military training base).[11] Bussi was made second in command of the base upon his removal as Governor in 1977, and he retired from active duty in 1981 with the rank of general.[12]

Following the dictatorship

The restoration of democracy in 1983 led to the indictments of dozens of members of the armed forces of various human rights violations, including General Bussi. Litigation against him and hundreds of others was suspended, however, by the December 1986 "Full Stop Law," which limited indictments to those which could be secured within 60 days of its enactment (a tall order given the reluctance of victims and other witnesses to testify). The controversial law was sponsored by President Raúl Alfonsín as a result of military pressure. Bussi was thus spared trial on charges of unlawful imprisonment, torture, murder and of falsifying documents.[12]

Free from litigation, Bussi ran as a candidate for the Tucumán Provincial Legislature in 1987 on the conservative, "Provincial Defense/White Flag" ticket. Obtaining a surprising 18% of the vote, the showing (and his base of support among large provincial landowners) encouraged him to form the Republican Force party and run for Governor in 1991. He led the polls during much of the campaign, though the Justicialist Party's selection of a popular crooner, Ramón "Palito" Ortega, led to his defeat.[13] Support from sugar plantation owners, who created the "Patriotic Fund" for a 1995 campaign, and Ortega's own, lackluster performance as Governor, led to Bussi's election to the post in 1995. During his tenure, Bussi had an important railyard cooperative in Tafí Viejo shuttered and faced charges of embezzlement for failing to disclose a Swiss bank account worth over US$100,000 (around 20 household incomes in Tucumán); when pressed on the issue, Bussi did not "confirm or deny" the allegations - a favorite catchphrase of his.[1]

The Republican Force party nominated Bussi's son, Ricardo, as a candidate for Governor in 1999, though his father's sagging approval led to the election of Justicialist candidate Julio Miranda. The aging Bussi, in turn, was elected to the Lower House of Congress that year. Congress, however, rejected the certification due to his prominent role in crimes against humanity and evidence of massive, ongoing embezzlement.[14] His election in 2003 as Mayor of the city of San Miguel de Tucumán was likewise rejected, and he was arrested on October 15 for the 1976 disappearance of Congressman Guillermo Vargas Aignasse.[15]

Following the newly-elected President Néstor Kirchner pledge to prosecute Dirty War-era crimes and Congress' 2003 rescission of the Full Stop and Due Obedience Laws that had sheltered officers and others gulity of abuses, Busso became a defendant in over 600 cases (including the charge of embezzlement of five million dollars). The Federal Appeals Court of Tucumán ruled in December 2004 that the crimes committed during his term as Governor constituted crimes against humanity, were not subject to statutes of limitations, and were subject to prosecution.[15]

Bussi was ordered held under house arrest in deference to his advanced age. He received belated good news, however, when, in July 2007, the Argentine Supreme Court ruled that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority in denying Bussi his seat; the ruling did not, however, supersede his barring from Congress as a convicted felon. Further charges resulted in his August 28, 2008, sentence of life imprisonment without benefit of house arrest.[16]Bussi wept several times during his testimony, and described himself as the victim of "political persecution," and thanked the soldiers who helped him "fight communism."[17]

References


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