URGENT Government Shakes Up Army High Command
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ The government shook up its army high command today with the retirement of eight generals and six other top officers, following Easter week revolts at two army camps.
The retirements were apparently forced by the government after President Raul Alfonsin personally negotiated with rebellious soldiers and ended the threat to his 3-year-old democratic government.
Meanwhile, the Argentine news agency Diarios y Noticias said this afternoon that an infantry regiment in Tucuman, 800 miles north of the capital, was ″in a virtual state of rebellion.″
The report said the officers had refused to recognize the authority of the new army chief of staff, Gen. Jose D. Caridi, who was named Monday to replace Gen. Hector Rios Erenu.
Government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, would say only that ″there are some difficulties″ at the regiment.
Rios Erenu and another general, Antonino Fichera, stepped down earlier after failing to contain the rebellions at an infantry school near Buenos Aires and a paratroop regiment in Cordoba, 440 miles northwest of the capital.
Both groups of rebellious soldiers had demanded amnesty for military men accused of human rights violations under past military governments. They also wanted Rios Erenu’s resignation because he insisted that officers accused of rights abuses be tried in civilian courts.
Today, the government said that two generals who had longer service records Caridi - Mario Jaime Sanchez and Julian Perez Dorrego - ″automatically retired″ in line with service law in the Argentine army.
The government, in communiques issued by its press office and the Defense Ministry, did not say why the other six generals left their posts. Two of them, Gens. Augusto Vidal and Naldo Dasso, were based at Campo de Mayo, the military base 19 miles northwest of Buenos Aires where one rebellion occurred. The others were identified as Juan Carlos Medrano Caro; Robert Bocalandro; Luis Lategana; and Juan Manuel Tito.
The communiques also said a major, a colonel and four lieutenant colonels were relieved of duty. They were identified as Maj. Francisco Verna; Col. Juan Rieken; Lt. Col. Carlos Ramirez, Lt. Col. Santiago Alonzo, Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Galloni; and Lt. Col. Hugo Berra Aleman.
Three officers were sacked after they were accused of taking part in the rebellions. They are Lt. Col. Aldo Rico, who led the Campo de Mayo takeover; Lt. Col. Luis Polo, in charge of the Cordoba regiment; and Maj. Ernesto Barreiro, who sparked the Cordoba rebellion.
Barreiro escaped Friday moments before his rebels surrendered. He is believed being hidden by army sympathizers. Rico and Polo are in custody.
Police announced today they had found and deactivated a bomb placed below the main floor of a 23-story building in Buenos Aires where residents said Barreiro once lived. Police said they were tipped off by an anonymous caller. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bomb.
Caridi, 56, who had been serving as army inspector general, was selected by Alfonsin and Defense Minister Horacio Jaunarena, who had temporarily replaced Rios Erenu.
Human rights groups charge Caridi may have been involved in the 1983 torture death of an army conscript.
About 250 officers face charges of rights abuse during the so-called ″dirty war″ conducted against suspected leftists from 1976 to 1983, when democracy returned with the election of Alfonsin. At least 9,000 people vanished during the period.
Human rights groups asked the Senate on April 1 to hold up the promotion of several military men, including Caridi, pending investigation of their activities during the ″dirty war.″
Alfonsin accepted Rios Erenu’s resignation in what appeared to be an exchange for the rebels’ peaceful surrender, but lawmaker Cesar Jaroslawsky said Monday that the president made no deal.
The government gave no formal reason for Rios Erenu’s resignation. But his usefulness to Alfonsin appeared to end Saturday night when loyalist troops refused his order to attack the rebels.
The military crisis began Wednesday in Cordoba, when Barreiro sought refuge in a paratroop camp rather than testify in a case charging him with human rights abuses.
In sympathy with the Cordoba rebels, Rico led a revolt Thursday at the Pedro Aramburu Infantry School at the Campo de Mayo base.
Rico told reporters Sunday after surrendering: ″We arrived at an accord with the president, in his quality as commanding chief, because we are self- limited in our objectives. The president said that we are not coup plotters and that is the case. ... It was a reaction against the army high command.″