Uruguay’s Defence minister and former guerrilla leader Luis Rosadilla, and retired military officers made a huge “shared” reconciliation gesture when they agreed to forget pending bills, look to the future and establish a constructive dialogue.
On Wednesday minister Rosadilla was received by the authorities of the Military Circle at their offices in what was in effect the first time a former Tupamaro guerrilla set foot on the ‘stronghold’ of retired officers, most of them involved in combating the urban guerrilla movement in the sixties and early seventies, and others jailers of members of the current elected government including President Jose Mujica.
“We want to spur dialogue, forget pending bills and try to build for the future”, said Retired General Ricardo Galarza, president of the Military Circle, following a two and a half hours meeting with Minister Rosadilla.
“I will to wherever I’m invited” said Rosadilla on taking office last March, and therefore the board of the Military Circle considered convenient to invite him, “it’s a significant gesture and it doesn’t comes from someone who wasn’t involved”, said General Galarza.
“I did not vote for President Mujica or Rosadilla in Defence, but they reiterated the need for dialogue, and who else but Mujica said he didn’t want old people to die in jail? What other candidate said that? I’m no fan of Mujica, he doesn’t need my devotion but it’s an acknowledgement of facts and not intentions”, added Galarza.
Mujica has promised he would like to see all those over seventy in jail, sent home, including the military condemned for human rights violations and other crimes committed during the 1973/1984 military dictatorship.
Galarza said it was positive that “those of us who where involved in activities long time ago, and the minister, who also has his record, can sit to dialogue and look into the future, with a constructive attitude trying to overcome dissents”.
Rosadilla made reference to a speech given by President Mujica, a few weeks after taking office, to all active military officers from the three services, in a military base, when he invited the former foes to national reconciliation: “it was a milestone of peaceful coexistence”.
However the minister did not advance details of a review to a 1986 amnesty law, --supported by a national referendum in 1989--, which forced the State to drop claims against alleged human rights abuses committed by military or police personnel during the dictatorship unless the Executive decides contrary. Previously in 1985 the Uruguayan parliament had voted an amnesty for all those involved in seditious activities previous to the military taking over government in June 1973.
Rosadilla argued he was not involved in the drafting of the review and Galarza said it would be “inappropriate” and demanded “voters will be respected since in two referendums a majority of Uruguayans understood it was the best solution for the democratic transition”.
Galarza said that the Military Circle would give its full support “to all that helps commanders in chief of the three services in their relations with the minister” such as a dialogue on the present and future of the Armed Forces, better salaries for foot-soldiers and military health services.
However Galarza underlined they will not be involved in issues regarding the active military (such as an ongoing investigation in the Navy on inappropriate management of funds), since that field belongs to the Executive and the Judiciary.
Among the reception party for Rosadilla when he arrived was a retired Colonel who approached the minister and told him, “I had you in jail at the Libertad penitentiary, and some of your pals too”.
“Yes I remember” said Rosadilla who then shook hands with his former jailer. The incident took place in the entrance hall of the Military Circle where there’s a giant wall picture of four Uruguayan soldiers mercilessly killed, while on duty in a parked jeep, by the Tupamaros.
At the foot of the picture is engraved a short phrase: “An infamous action never to be forgotten”.