The nephew of former military president Gen. Alejandro Lanusse was kidnaped Monday by paramilitary forces, his uncle said today.
The former president, who now supports civilian rule in Argentina, confirmed during a telephone interview that kidnapers have asked for a $2 million ransom for the safe return of his 44-year-old nephew, Ricardo Lanusse.
"It's true," Lanusse replied when asked to comment on unofficial reports about the kidnaping.
"It's my impression that this is the work of sectors that Interior Minister Antonio Troccoli has referred to as 'idle hands,' " the retired general said.
The term "idle hands" is a euphemism used frequently in official circles to describe the growing list of acts committed by groups here who commit political and common crimes in paramilitary fashion.
The phrase coined by Troccoli has been used in recent months to characterize such diverse actions as kidnapings and beatings of high school students and lay religious workers, robberies of weapons shops, and gang violence in soccer stadiums.
"These are the same people who in past years became used to certain bad habits, who got used to running around in gangs, using violence," Lanusse added.
Lanusse, who met with the head of the federal police today, refused further comment on the kidnaping, saying that the immediate family wanted little publicity over the incident.
Ricardo Lanusse, president of the Lanusse Co., which specializes in buying and selling large ranches, was kidnaped at about 7 a.m. Monday while going to a ranch auction in the Buenos Aires suburb of Mataderos, sources close to the family said. His kidnapers have threatened to kill Lanusse if the family does not come up with the ransom by Saturday, they added.
Family friends pointed out that although the general is not wealthy, the Lanusse family is an aristocratic one whose richer members have profited from their lucrative real estate business.
Observers here point out that an official report last year on the political violence that plagued Argentine society during the mid-1970s made special mention of illicit fortunes made by military men and their civilian collaborators during the so-called "dirty war" against leftist guerrillas and other dissidents.
Observers speculate that the kidnaping may be the beginning of a change in political violence in Argentina. Last month spokesmen for far right nationalist groups said privately that the country would be the site of "something big" in the next few months.
In addition, Argentine intelligence officials say they believe the recent violence is the work of nationalist military men collaborating with right-wing Peronist politicians.
Lanusse served as president in the early 1970s and handed over the government in 1973 to elected Peronist candidate Hector Campora.
Two years ago, when Argentina was emerging from nearly eight years of military rule, Lanusse caused a minor political turmoil when he admitted that he had been wrong to participate in a 1966 armed forces coup that overthrew the late civilian president Arturo Illia.
Two weeks ago the business daily newspaper Ambito Financiero pointed out that the year-old democratic government of President Raul Alfonsin was able to say that 1984 was the first year in the past 16 years that no one has died as the result of political violence here.
Presidential press spokesman Jose Ignacio Lopez refused to comment on the Lanusse kidnaping.
Asked about Gen. Lanusse's comment about the possible participation of paramilitary groups in the abduction, Lopez replied, "If the general said that, then he has more information on the case than we do."