God's Assassins: State Terrorism in Argentina in the 1970s


393 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2013-9
DDC 982.06'4




Reviewed by John Walker

John Walker is a professor of Spanish studies at Queen’s University.


It is one of the tragedies of 20th-century Latin American history that
the country deemed most likely to be the voice of reason, civilization,
and progress should turn out to have the worst record in human-rights
abuses on the continent. Perуn, who promised so much in terms of social
justice in 1945, was discredited, overthrown, and exiled by the military
in 1955. From then until his return in 1973, Argentina was in the hands
of various military governments. Following Perуn’s death in 1974, the
military stepped in once again. Until the ignominious defeat by Britain
in the Falkland Islands fiasco, the Argentine people were subject to the
control of their misguided and incompetent military masters.

Before the return of democracy in 1983, a period known as el proceso or
“dirty war,” some 30,000 citizens “disappeared” for alleged
subversive activities and crimes against the state. The government,
often with the support of many of the upper clergy, saw themselves as
protectors of Christian values and defenders of Western civilization
against the various guerrillas, subversives, and “Marxist hordes.”
This is the stuff of Marchak’s powerful indictment of “God’s
assassins.” In 15 substantial chapters, she gives a detailed history
and explanation of state terrorism, Perуnism, militarism, trade
unionism, clericalism, and revolutionaries. She describes the escalation
of violence during the “dirty war” when the military and secret
police met the activities of government opponents and innocent citizens
with wholesale imprisonment, torture, prison camps, and murder. She
devotes much of her scholarship to the role of the church and the
conflict between reactionary upper clergy and junior “third world”

Each of the four parts is illuminated by interviews with survivors from
the groups that participated in the struggle (military, clerical, union,
revolutionary), the evidence of important documents, media reports of
the period, and Marchak’s own insightful observations. Extensive notes
and a 20-page bibliography round out the volume.


Marchak, Patricia., “God's Assassins: State Terrorism in Argentina in the 1970s,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/9405.