General in Argentina's 'dirty war' dies

BUENOS AIRES - Former general Antonio Bussi, who was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity during Argentina's military dictatorship, died on Thursday, a medical source said. Bussi was 85.

"His health had been complicated in recent weeks, due to worsening heart and pulmonary disease, to which was added kidney and liver complications," a medical source at a clinic in the northeastern province of Tucuman.

Bussi was a commander of a military operation launched by the government of Isabel Peron in 1975 against the leftist People's Revolutionary Army, ERP by its Spanish acronym, in which human rights abuses were first reported.

After Peron's fall in 1976, Bussi became the military governor of Tucuman, a small, densely populated province in northeastern Argentina that was the scene of fierce repression against the left under the military.

After democratic rule was restored in 1983, he formed a rightwing party and was elected governor of the province in 1990 but did not finish his four year term because he was charged with corruption.

In 2008, a civilian court sentenced Bussi to life in prison for crimes against humanity, illegitimately depriving people of their liberty, forced disappearances, torture, genocide and other crimes during the dictatorship.

Among his known victims was Peronist senator Guillermo Vargas Aignasse, a 33-year-old physics professor who was taken away from his house in March 1976 in front of his wife and two small children.

Human rights groups estimated that more than 30,000 people were abducted, never to be seen again, during the so-called "dirty war" against the left.

Bussi, who was responsible for more than 30 secret detention centers, was tried with another general, Luciano Menendez, his immediate superior in the army. Both defended their actions.

"I am politically persecuted by yesterday's defeated in a just and necessary war against Marxist-Leninist aggression," Busi said from the dock.

Bussi and Menendez were serving out their life sentences together in a private residence in Tucuman because of illness and advanced age.