Always a strategic regional power, Argentina has a history of political instability, coups, and doubtful alliances. During World War II Ramón Castillo’s regime was overtly pro-Nazi, and later President Juan Perón gave sanctuary to many former Nazis.
During much of the Cold War, Argentina supported American attempts to isolate Soviet and Cuban efforts to extend their influence in Latin America, but the “dirty war” conducted against the leftist Montoneros urban guerrillas in the 1970s by a series of military juntas isolated the regime from the world community. Nevertheless the Central Intelligence Agency continued to maintain a large station in Buenos Aires, and the Argentine military intelligence service collaborated to provide training facilities in Central America for Nicaraguan Contras.
The catalyst for change and democracy in Argentina was the well executed but ill-fated invasion of the Falkland Islands by Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri’s junta in April 1982. Planned in conditions of great secrecy, without the knowledge of the CIA, the long-disputed islands were seized from the British and occupied with a minimum of bloodshed. Britain responded with a naval task force, which assembled at Ascension Island, recovered South Georgia, and then landed on East Falkland to march into the capital, Port Stanley. The beleaguered Argentine garrison surrendered in June 1982 and the largely conscript troops were returned to the mainland. The political consequences of the humiliating defeat included the collapse of the junta, the arrest of General Galtieri, and the election of a civilian government.