The forced removal last night of Argentine Air Force chief Basilio Lami Dozo came three days after he declared that the armed forces should "drop all hypocrisy and admit that we want and seek the continuation" of military rule "beyond the coming elections."
Gen. Lami Dozo, buffeted by weeks of military feuding after Argentina's loss of the Falkland Islands war, will retire along with six other top Air Force commanders.
His removal, decided by a meeting of Air Force officers, left Navy Commander Jorge Anaya as the only remaining officeholder of the three-man junta that launched the invasion of the Falklands. Adm. Anaya is expected to retire when the Navy completes an internal investigation of the conflict.
Lami Dozo's political statement implicitly endorsed the idea of an official military party to contest in elections promised for 1984. It was hastily disavowed by the Army-installed government of Reynaldo Bignone, which is seeking to persuade a skeptical nation that it is moving firmly toward civilian rule. Lami Dozo's assertion also produced a rebuke from the Navy leadership.
That statement was reported today to have provoked the immediate move by Air Force officers to remove Lami Dozo, but military analysts here said the action also represented a rare public surfacing of feuding among the armed forces that has continued since the surrender to Britain on the Falklands June 14.
Lami Dozo withdrew his service from the military government June 22 after his bid to be named president was rejected by the Army, as was another proposal to have a civilian named as president in place of Bignone, a retired Army general. Since then, the three services have been unable to agree on a joint government or political policy.
At the same time, junior officers have pressed for a clean sweep of the leadership of all three services, purging all of the top commanders involved in planning and carrying out the Falklands operation.
This movement has led to widespread concern in political circles over the possibility of a military rebellion that would remove the present Army government and install a new administration that might cancel plans for democracy.
By yesterday, these reports had gained such strength that the Army commander in chief, Gen. Cristino Nicolaides, called a press conference to deny "categorically all the rumors of the last few days over a possible coup that would revoke government announcements on elections."
The move in the Air Force last night effectively resulted in removal of the senior commanders of the service perceived as having the best record in the Falklands conflict.
To replace Lami Dozo, the Air Force named Augusto Jorge Hughes, who had been serving as chief of air defense. To promote Hughes to commander in chief, the Air Force skipped over six higher-ranking generals, thus forcing them to retire under service rules.
Before his surprising political statement this week, Lami Dozo had been commonly regarded as a relative moderate within the armed forces who had only reluctantly followed the hard line of Anaya and former president and Army commander Leopoldo Galtieri in the conflict with Britain.
Air Force pilots became heroes here by sinking a total of six British ships and damaging several others. But the service suffered the loss of almost half of its operating high-performance warplanes, and Lami Dozo was reported to have insisted upon diplomatic concessions by Argentina in the final days of the conflict.