In September 1955, Argentine president Juan Domingo Perón (elected democratically in 1952) was overthrown by a military coup named Revolución Libertadora (Liberating Revolution) by its perpetrators. The Revolución Libertadora was supported by the clergy, the moneyed classes and most political parties. At the beginning the revolution was not unpopular due to the oppressive and corrupt nature of the last years of Peron's regime. Moreover, the military government tried to compromise with the defeated Peronists under the motto "Neither victors nor vanquished". However, an internal military coup in November 1955 replaced the de facto government with a junta headed by General Pedro Eugenio Aramburu. The new government relentlessly persecuted and jailed Peronist politicians, labor leaders and even intellectuals. It rolled back worker's rights (mostly attained under Perón).
In June 1956 a military coup was staged with the object of restoring Perón (then in exile) to power. The coup was doomed from the beginning; it was supported only by a few officers (the rank-and-file did not join) and popular support was scarce. One of the leaders of the coup, General Valle and most of the officers involved were apprehended without much of a fight.
Although there were only a handful of casualties involved, Aramburu's government sentenced General Valle and 17 officers to death by firing squad. To find antecedents to this savagery, one would have to go back to the Argentine civil wars in the 1820s. A number of workers and labor leaders were detained and assassinated by the police in a garbage dump in the town of José León Suárez (some survived and managed to escape). The executions were grossly illegal, retroactively based on martial law promulgated after the facts.
Rodolfo Walsh was one of the best and most courageous Argentine journalists (he was killed in 1977 by another military dictatorship). On the testimony of survivors, he reconstructed the José León Suárez killings in the 1957 book Operación Masacre, still in print after more than half a century. The book is the basis of this film.
Director Jorge Cedrón opens and closes his film with newsreel footage. The movie proper is semi-documentary; actors interpret real characters, the script based on recollections of survivors, relatives and witnesses (one of the actors, Julio Troxler, is an actual survivor). Cedrón manages this approach brilliantly and interest never flags.
As the movie points out, the ruthlessness of the military planted a seed of violence that eventually flourished in the Dirty War of 1973-1981.
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