The three top brass of the Argentine Army Forces that commanded the First Military Junta of the last dictatorship were the hosts of the 78 World Cup “party”. Dressed in civilian clothes, standing right besides one another, they enjoyed from the official world cup boxes the opening and closing ceremonies, shouted goals and handed the trophy to the Argentine national team. Jorge Rafael Videla, Emilio Massera and Orlando Agosti weren’t always by themselves. They were accompanied, in a number of games, by the apostolic nuncio Pío Laghi; the Buenos Aires cardenal Juan Carlos Aramburu; the titular of the AFA Alfredo Cantilo; as well as FIFA’s João Havelange; the luxury guest of the dictators Henry Kissinger and the vice-president of the 1978 World Cup Autarchic Entity, Carlos Lacoste, among others.
Videla was, then, commander of the Argentine Army, representative of this force in the Military Junta that orchestrated the coup d’état in March 24th 1976, which the dictators named National Reorganization Process, and de facto president of the Nation. He was, also, one of the ones responsible for the systematic plan of torture and extermination that, during those years, kidnapped, tortured, murdered and disappeared militants and socials, students, workers and political and social figures in the whole national territory, appropriated their children and stole their possessions.
From the official box, Videla was in charge of presenting the 78 World Cup inaugural speech in the opening ceremony, that took place in the world cup stadium of River Plate the 1st of June of that year, and he was also the one who handed the Cup of the World to the Argentine national team, at the closing of the championship, 25 days later. He said nothing then of the crimes that he was by the time ordaining and when he referred to them, years later, he defended them. He was born in Mercedes, Buenos Aires province.
In the last interview that he gave to the media he talked about the championship. To the Spanish magazine Cambio16, from the Marcos Paz prison, he appeared proud: “We had the benefit of organizing this event in a moment in which the terrorist threat had been diminished. Besides, to congratulate us more, Argentina won that world championship and besides the fact that we had won, the country showed its ability of organising in short time”. Cambio16 no longer exists.
The representative of the Navy in the First Military Junta, Emilio Massera, commander of that force during those years, stood to his right on every game. The clandestinedetention and extermination centre that operated in what is today the ex Higher School of Mechanics of the Navy (Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada, ESMA), in which it’s estimated over 5 thousand were held captive, was under his charge. As was the creation and functioning of the Piloting Centre of Paris, one of the centres of the campaign the dictatorship spread out in Europe to counter-attack the strategies of the boicott to the world championship that exiled survivors and cultural and communication personalities who defended human rights in that continent were working on.
Unlike Videla, the paranaense Massera dreamt that the coup d’état would be a transition step towards politics. In that sense, he insisted on the execution of the 1978 FIFA World Cup and promoted the organisation of the event. In fact, the 1978 World Cup Autarchic Entity functioned as a part of the Ministry of Social Welfare, that during the first Military Junta was controlled by the Navy, and it was a decision of Massera that Carlos Lacoste would handle the organism.
Orlando Agosti shouted Argentina’s goals in the championship on Videla’s left. Representing the Air Forces in the first Military Junta, he had a lower profile than his colleagues in the first Coup triumvirate, although his development in the forces, since he entered in 1944 until he retired in 1979, was signed by very strong anti-peronism. The last and most bloody civic-military dictatorship was the strike to the democratic power in which he participated that was “successful”, but it wasn’t the only one he took part in: in the mid 50s he participated on an armed uprising led by Benjamín Menéndez just before the 1955 coup d’État against Juan Domingo Perón.
Videla, Massera and Agosti, next to the members of the other triumvirs that directed the last civic-military dictatorship, were found guilty of murder, kidnapping, torture, theft and usurpation, document falsification, extortion and child stealing, among other human rights violations, in the Trial of the Military Juntas, that took place in Buenos Aires in 1985, almost two years after the return to democracy.
The basis for that historic trial were National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (Comisión Nacional sobre la desaparición de personas, Conadep), that by order of the then president Raúl Alfonsín, compiled accusations of survivors and family of the disappeared and murdered during the state terrorism carried out by the dictators, and the judicial testimony that a lot of them offered before the judges of the National Camera of Appeal in the Criminal and Correctional Federal of Buenos Aires City, staffed by Jorge Torlasco, Ricardo Gil Lavedra, León Carlos Arslanián, Jorge Valerga Araoz, Guillermo Ledesma and Andrés J. D’Alessio.
In the Trial to the Military Juntas, Videla and Massera were condemned to life imprisonment; Agosti to four years and six months of prison. The three of them were dismissed of their military charges. The sentences were left without effect in December 1990 after the pardon offered by the then president Carlos Menem that benefited the repressors. The pardon completed the combo of impunity that had started with the Due obedience and Full Stop laws decreed years before.
Agosti died in 1997 without having gone through trial again, after these laws were declared null by the national Congress in 2003, and unconstitutional afterwards by the Supreme Court on the first half of the 2000s. Massera died on house arrest of a heart attack. He was hospitalized in the Army Hospital. Death found Videla in a cell of the Marcos Paz jail, where he was doing time on life imprisonment for crimes against humanity in the San Martín Penitentiary unity, in Córdoba, and 50 years of imprisonment because of the appropiation of minors during the last dictatorship.