Montoneros - From 1970 To Videla's Military Junta - 1975


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, the US consul in the city of Córdoba, in the country's northern interior and executed him on 28 February 1975. That same day, three policemen were killed in their patrol car in another ambush by the urban guerrillas in Buenos Aires and an army conscript was killed by a booby-trapped bomb in Tucumán province. On 5 March 1975, a Montoneros bomb detonates in the underground parking at Plaza Colón of the Argentine Army High Command and a garbage truck driver, Alberto Blas García is killed and 28 others are wounded, including four colonels and 18 other ranks. On 3 June 1975, Montoneros guerrillas murdered Raul Amelong, manager of the Acindar steel firm in Rosario, in reprisal for alleged repression against striking employees. David Bargut, another Rosario steel executive, had been assassinated the day before. On 10 June 1975, Peronist guerrillas operating in the city of Santa Fe shoot and kill 38-year-old Juan Enrique Pelayes, a trade-union leader as he made his way to a bus-stop. On 12 June 1975, in an ambush in the capital of the Córdoba province, three policemen (Pedro Ramón Enrico, Carlos Alberto Galíndez y corporal Luis Francisco Rodríguez) are killed after their patrol car came under fire from two car loads of Montoneros guerrillas. On 25 July 1975 four policemen were wounded in attacks in which the Peronist guerrillas employed bazookas and firebombs. On 26 August 1975, 26-year-old Fernando Haymal is killed by fellow Montoneros for allegedly cooperating with government forces.

The Montoneros' leadership was keen to learn from the ERP's Compañía de Monte Ramón Rosa Jiménez operating in the Andean province of Tucumán and in 1975 sent "observers" to spend a few months with the ERP platoons operating against the 5th Infantry Brigade, then consisting of the 19th, 20th and 29th Mountain Infantry Regiments. On 28 August 1975 the Montoneros, in a gesture of solidarity with the ERP, 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 heading for home leave, killing five and wounding forty, one of whom later died of his injuries.

At the same time, with the underground network of Montoneros militants largely uprooted in the capital of Tucumán province, several hundred ERP militants took the streets in the Argentine city of Córdoba in the last week of August 1975, in an effort to divert attention from the military operations being waged in the jungles and mountains of Tucumán and five policemen were killed as a result, after the police headquarters was attacked with gunfire and the police radio communications center bombed. As a result, the elite 4th Airborne Infantry Brigade that had received orders to deploy to assist operations in Tucumán province would remain stationed in the capital Córdoba province for the remainder of the year. On 5 October 1975, in perhaps the most elaborate Montoneros operation ever, the 5th Brigade suffered another blow at the hands of Montoneros.

During Operation Primicia ("Operation Scoop") a Montoneros force numbering perhaps several hundred guerrillas and militants hijacked of a civilian airliner bound for Corrientes from Buenos Aires. The guerrillas redirected the plane towards Formosa province, where they took over the provincial airport. Along with a tactical support from a local militant group, the invaders broke into the barracks of the 29th Infantry Regiment, firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades. A montoneros officer, Reinaldo Ramón Briggiler Mazzei managed to shoot several conscripts as they lay resting in their quarters.

The Montoneros however, soon met with fierce resistance from a group of conscripts and NCOs who recovered from their initial surprise. In the aftermath, a second lieutenant (Ricardo Massaferro), a sergeant (Víctor Sanabria) and ten soldiers (Antonio Arrieta, Heriberto Ávalos, José Coronel, Dante Salvatierra, Ismael Sánchez, Tomás Sánchez, Edmundo Sosa, Marcelino Torantes, Alberto Villalba and Hermindo Luna) were killed and several wounded; the Montoneros lost 16 men in the fighting and mop-up operations that night.

Two policemen later died of their wounds. A female attacker, María Ana Testa had caused the fatal injuries that resulted in the death of policeman Nori Argentino Alegre at the airport after having shot him with an Ithaka shotgun. The Montonero attackers made good their escape by air towards 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 radioed for assistance and fled to waiting cars on a highway nearby.

The sophistication of the operation, and the getaway cars and hideouts they used to escape the military crackdown, suggest the involvement several hundred guerrillas and militants. Under the presidency of Nestor Kirchner, the families of all the Montoneros killed in the attack were later compensated with the payment of around US$200,000 each. 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 own guerrillas from Cordoba.

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."

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". On 26 October 1975 five policemen were killed in Buenos Aires when their patrol cars were ambushed near the San Isidro Cathedral. Two of the captured policemen are reported to have been executed in this operation under the orders of the Montoneros commander Eduardo Pereyra Rossi (nom de guerre Carlon).

In December 1975, Montoneros raided an armaments factory in the capital's Munro neighborhood, 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. By the end of 1975, a total of 137 military regulars and national servicemen and police had been killed that year 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."

Read more about this topic:  Montoneros, From 1970 To Videla's Military Junta

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