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In 1976 the military seized power in Argentina and, in the name of maintaining order and combating left-wing terrorism, established a heartless and brutal dictatorship that was without parallel in Argentine history. The reign of terror included kidnapping, torture, rape, and murder, and led to the death or disappearance of some 9000 persons suspected or accused of being subversive. In the early 1980's, the generals sought to counter a decline in their support by trying to retake the Malvinas Islands from the British by force, but they failed in that endeavor and were soon defeated at the hands of Margaret Thatcher. Embarrassed by this turn of events and burdened by a deteriorating economy, the generals then decided to relinquish power and call for national elections, always assuming that the presidency would be won by the candidate-a Peronist-who promised to leave them alone.

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