The release of an alleged unfinished pact negotiated over a decade ago between former urban guerrillas and the military triggered serious controversy in Uruguay in the midst of a political debate to overrule a bill which exempts former officers from going to court for alleged human rights abuses during the military dictatorship (1093/1085).
The text in which both sides showed they were willing to assume responsibility for the violent events of that time was exposed by a Montevideo daily, which it attributes to retired military officers.
According to extracts of the alleged pact, which finally did not prosper, the terms were discussed in 1998 between leaders from the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement, MLN and Army officers, members of the Artigas Lieutenants loggia with the purpose of putting an end to the human rights issue.
The MLN founded in 1962 was active as urban guerrilla in the sixties and early seventies until it was militarily defeated in 1972. In 1989 the organization formally joined the left wing catch-all coalition Broad Front, currently in office.
The Artigas Lieutenants loggia that was started earlier became famous for its ultra-nationalist and anti communist stance and played a key role in the military coup of 1973 which overthrew a democratically elected Uruguayan government.
In the text none of the sides skips responsibility for the events of the past but they argue that they were not the only ones involved in those violent episodes.
It adds that the disappeared during the military dictatorship (approximately 200, most of them in Argentina) was the consequence of “a war” at the time, in Uruguay, and therefore requests the whole society to assume their share of responsibility.
In the meetings current President Jose Mujica, former guerrilla leader is said to have participated.
However Mujica stated in television that the whole story about a pact “is pure nonsense”.
Retired Colonel Carlos Silva and spokesman for the Artigas Lieutenants said he recognizes some extracts of the published document but his organization was not responsible for the release.
As to the guerrilla-officers meetings Silva said that at the time “the Cold War was prevalent at the time of confrontation. We agreed then to look ahead, into the future, to stop squabbling and work for the good of the country in a fresh start”.
Defence minister Luis Rosadilla and Senator Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro, both former guerrilla members, admitted the meetings with the military but insisted no pact was finally agreed.
“We had many meetings with the military” said Senator Fernandez Huidobro, but no pact ever existed and “I never saw it if it really existed”.
The Senator said that the main issue with the military was “to claim the disappeared comrades and very specifically the children”.
He added that the release of the alleged document “is propaganda” and a way of putting pressure on Parliament when it’s in the middle of a debate to overrule the so called 1986 Expired Crimes bill which helps military and police officers involved in human rights abuses between 1973 and 1985, avoid having to face prosecution claims.
The annulment process has already passed the Senate where the ruling coalition (since 2005) just managed to have the initiative approved 16 to 15 precisely because Fernandez Huidobro who all along has been against it but abiding to party discipline lifted his hand. He simultaneously announced his resignation to the bench in protest, causing a major shock and rift inside the government.
Fernandez Huidobro as well as the opposition, argues that the Legislative can’t ignore the fact that the 1986 Expired Crimes law was ratified in two referendums, 1989 and 2009. Furthermore the referendum initiatives to annul the bill were both promoted by the Broad Front coalition, once from the opposition and in 2009 from government.
The 1986 law was originally planned to match the amnesty bill for all guerrillas involved in blood crimes, jailed or not, and which was approved March 1985, when Uruguay’s elected legislative convened for the first time since 1973.
The tight Senate vote has had repercussions in the administration of President Mujica who although all along has said he is against the annulment, he anticipated he will not veto the law.
Similarly several high ranking members of the Popular Participation Movement, MPP, the political arm of the Tupamaros and the senior force in the ruling coalition, have said that if the bill is finally approved, they will consider resigning, among them Defence Minister Luis Rosadilla, close friend and ally of President Mujica.
Another coalition Senator Jorge Saravia, the only one to vote against the annulment of the 1986 bill has been told he will have to face a disciplinary court to formalize his expulsion from the ruling coalition.
Saravia replied he is a good republican (respectful of the three government branches and sovereignty which rests in the people) and is waiting for the disciplinary punishment.
However he will not turn in his bench and from now on considers himself “a Senator loyal only to President Mujica”.