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Troops End Third Revolt as Military Discontent Shakes Argentina

April 22, 1987

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ A company of army engineers ended a six-hour revolt in the northern city of Salta, the latest in a series of mutinies sparked by military discontent over human rights trials and the makeup of the general staff.

No trouble was reported today in army garrisons across the nation, and the 4 million-member General Confederation of Labor abandoned its ″state of alert and mobilization,″ saying the country’s 40-month-old democracy had survived the threat.

Tuesday’s mutiny followed two rebellions last week by groups of officers who oppose the army’s leadership and want amnesty for soldiers accused of torture and killing under military governments that ruled from 1976-83.

At least 19 high-ranking officers have resigned or been fired in the unrest.

The five-man Supreme Court resumed an extraordinary session at noon today, after deciding Tuesday to request reports from all federal courts hearing human rights cases. The court is considering taking charge of the cases, two legislators and court sources said.

It also is considering changing the interpretation of a law so as to exempt some officers from prosecution on the grounds they were following orders. The army has long sought such a ruling. About 250 officers face charges of human rights abuses during the military’s ″dirty war″ against suspected leftists, in which at least 9,000 people disappeared.

President Raul Alfonsin, whose election in 1983 ended military rule, held an emergency session Tuesday with Supreme Court President Jose Severo Caballero, but no details were provided. Alfonsin also met today with Defense Minister Horacio Jaunarena.

In downtown Buenos Aires, 2,000 militant leftists protested Tuesday night in the front of Government House against the army revolts.

Jaunarena met late Tuesday with the new army chief of staff, Gen. Jose D. Caridi, to analyze the replacement of 10 generals, a colonel, seven lieutenant colonels and a major who were removed after the military unrest surfaced April 15 with a two-day rebellion in the western city of Cordoba.

A second group of soldiers rebelled Thursday at the Campo de Mayo army camp near Buenos Aires, but surrendered peacefully Sunday.

In the latest uprising, about 250 soldiers in the 5th Company of Mountain Engineers in Salta, 1,000 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, confined themselves to barracks for six hours.

Salta Gov. Roberto Romero told a news conference that the engineers demanded amnesty for officers accused of human rights abuses, no further prosecutions and a law of ″national reconciliation.″

Romero said 600 people gathered outside the base gates to protest the revolt, but no incidents were reported.

He said the engineers had ″adopted the attitude of rebellion of the commander and assistant commander of the 5th Infantry Brigade based in Tucuman,″ about 150 miles south of Salta. He did not elaborate. The engineering company is part of the brigade.

Tucuman provincial Gov. Fernando Riera denied there was any revolt there and said the situation was ″absolutely normal.″ However, government sources in Buenos Aires admitted there were ″some difficulties″ in Tucuman and the private news agency Diarios y Noticias said the Regiment 19 camp there was ″in a virtual state of rebellion.″

The brigade’s commander, Col. Nestor Cassina, was among the 19 officers replaced in recent days. The new commander, Col. Fernando Zarraga, arrived at the unit Tuesday afternoon.

In Salta, garrison commander Col. Jose E. Rodriguez announced the end of the brief rebellion Tuesday evening. He said it ″had nothing to do″ with the country’s institutional system and ″was strictly a military affair,″ but did not elaborate.

He said the rebel company commander, Maj. Jorge Duran, turned himself in. It was not known if Duran was under arrest.

Top officers who have been replaced since the military rebellions began included army chief of staff Gen. Hector Rios Erenu. Rebel officers had sought his removal because he insisted officers respect civilian court subpoenas in human rights trials.

Two of the 19 were cashiered: Col. Luis Polo, commander of the 14th Paratroop Regiment in Cordoba, 440 miles northwest of Buenos Aires; and Lt. Col. Aldo Rico, who led the Campo de Mayo rebellion.

Also cashiered was Maj. Ernesto Barreiro, who led the Cordoba revolt. It began when he refused to answer a court summons in a human rights case and sought refuge in the regiment.

Rico and his men were under arrest at Campo de Mayo. Barreiro fled the Cordoba base, and his whereabouts were not known.

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