134. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Rusk in Australia1

Tosec 60. Argentine Sitrep No. 1.

Argentina’s military forces, headed by Army Commander-in-Chief Pascual Pistarini, ousted President Arturo Illia in a sudden move last night. Retired CINC Juan Carlos Ongania, who is highly respected by diverse civilian groups as well as in military circles, is likely to be called upon by a junta composed of commanders of three services to head new provisional government. There has been no violence.
Early in June there had been a spate of rumors of this possible move by the military in association with various civilian groups, who accused the Illia Administration of indecisiveness in the face of the nation’s economic and social problems and of being incapable of averting a Peronist victory in congressional and gubernatorial elections scheduled for early 1967. Statements by Illia over the past two weeks promising to take steps to assuage the military’s discontent had appeared to calm the situation and buy the President some breathing space.
The spark that ignited the coup was a dinner held last week at which Secretary of War Eduardo Castro Sanchez and II Corp Commander Carlos Augusto Caro, both strongly constitutionalist and pro-Illia, met with several Peronist leaders. Pistarini yesterday relieved Caro of his command, accusing him of endangering the unity of the armed forces by dabbling in politics outside approved channels. He also said Castro Sanchez was unacceptable to the army and demanded his resignation, as well as that of the rest of the Cabinet. Illia countered by attempting to remove Pistarini from his position, bringing on the sudden confrontation that resulted in Illia’s ouster.
The coup, as it developed, does not appear to be what most military and civilian coup planners had hoped for, as they had intended eventually to lead a “national revolution,” to save the country from the “inept” Illia regime. The current move, however, has the earmarks of an old fashioned military power play and will not attract the popular [Page 311] support the military leaders had hoped for, although there is little likelihood of concerted violent popular opposition.
Foregoing is for your background information.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 ARG. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated to DOD, USCINCSO, CINCLANT, and all ARA posts except Kingston, Port-of-Spain, and Georgetown. Drafted by Dreyfuss, cleared by Krieg, and approved by Sayre. Rusk was in Canberra June 25–July 2 to attend meetings of the SEATO and ANZUS Councils.