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Unrest in Coast Guard, Army; Defense Ministry Says All is Calm

December 2, 1988

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ The Defense Ministry said a failed uprising at an army garrison and looting of a Coast Guard arsenal Thursday reflected military discontent over prosecution of officers for human rights abuses.

″Apparently, by their simultaneity, they were linked,″ defense spokesman Faustino Altamirano said in a telephone interview. ″It was not over (low) pay. It was a question of ideology.″

Fifty-three members of an elite Coast Guard unit tied up three guards at their base in Olivos, nine miles north of the capital, and drove off in three trucks. They took with them four machine guns, 200 rifles, 30 handguns and 100,000 rounds of ammunition, officials said.

Buenos Aires police helicopters searched the main roads, but by 11 p.m. the whereabouts of the raiders still were unknown.

At the 3rd Infantry Regiment in La Tablada, west of Buenos Aires, Capt. Jorge Videla, son of imprisoned former President Jorge Videla, tried to rally soldiers to take over the garrison, Altamirano said.

The attempt was quelled and Videla arrested.

A similar incident occurred at an army communications facility in Citybell, 25 miles south of the capital, and that, too, was put down, he said.

President Raul Alfonsin commented earlier Thursday that ″all is under control″ in Argentina, and ″This is a bunch of rubbish, just a little problem that took place and is not that important.″

Alfonsin spoke to The Associated Press in Mexico City. He was there for the inauguration of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Altamirano rejected speculation that the motive was low pay.

In recent months soldiers have been grumbling that their pay doesn’t keep up with 331 percent annual inflation.

The Coast Guard unit shouted ″Viva Rico 3/8″ as they left their base in the early hours Thursday, Altamirano said.

Cashiered Lt. Col. Aldo Rico led short-lived garrison uprisings against the army command in April 1987 and January 1988 over the prosecution of military men in civilian courts for human rights abuses during the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

″It doesn’t mean he organized it, but it shows they identified with him,″ Altamirano said.

At least 9,000 Argentines ″disappeared″ and were presumed killed during the military’s crackdown on suspected leftist subversives, a commission appointed by Alfonsin reported in 1985.

Rico is in military prison in Magdalena, 43 miles south of the capital, as is Videla, the former commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

In December 1985, a civilian court convicted Videla; former President Gen. Roberto Viola and three other former junta members for crimes including kidnapping, torture and murder.

Human rights trials against other officers are resuming after a lapse of about a year.

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