The killing of three young Uruguayan marines, with shots in their heads in a non-strategic outpost next to the Montevideo fortress which overlooks the port and city, has shocked public opinion and triggered pledges from government authorities that the culprits will be brought to justice and face trial.
President Luis Lacalle Pou, Defense and Home secretaries, members of congress, opposition leaders and lawmakers strongly condemned the cowardly attack which ended the lives of three young men aged between 20 and 30. A three day national mourning was declared and flags flown at half mast.
The three were found early Sunday morning when another marine on patrol called at the outpost and found the three dead bodies covered in blood. The three 9 mms pistols were missing although not the rifles. Word was immediately transmitted to the Police and the Navy.
Our condolences and deep respect to the loved ones of the three marines of the motherland, murdered. We bow before such painful situation but we stand firmly before the criminals and delinquents. We will combat and pursue them, and they will face trial, tweeted president Lacalle Pou.
Police are investigating possible links with a robbery attempt on 15 May. That night members of the Montevideo Hill naval garrison sighted a zodiac in an area of wrecked vessels, presumably with the intention of stealing, and at one point entered the perimeter of the outpost. However when surprised the group fled leaving behind the Zodiac.
Likewise on 9 May the HQ of the Narcotics Brigade, in Montevideo, was attacked with a homemade bomb that damaged four vehicles in the parking lot of the station. The investigation is ongoing and apparently the action was followed by threatening messages, although the whole incident remains information tight.
Defense minister Javier Garcia admitted Sunday evening there is nothing to be confirmed, they were executed but all the resources of the government will be employed to clear up this atrocity.
In the sixties and seventies half a century ago, Uruguay suffered an outbreak of urban guerrilla, which was followed by a military dictatorship. But in the mid eighties democracy was back and most of the guerrillas integrated to the political system, with one of them becoming president Jose Mujica. However during the fifteen years of the so called Broad Front progressive government, there was certain leniency towards criminal activity, which helped drug cartels to become strong and use Uruguay as a bridge head for drugs mainly to Europe.
These gangs have become strong, they have on occasions challenged law enforcement patrols while the police has felt un protected and unsupported by previous governments who were of the idea that criminality, poverty and lack of government interest in vulnerable population are closely intertwined.
The new government, a coalition of five parties and which only took office last March, when the outbreak of the pandemic, is passing a bill in Congress that would give more support to law enforcement and prosecutors. This last string of violent actions could be a reaction to the new emphasis. Criminality, poor law and order, plus corruption were the three main reasons for the incumbent government sent to the opposition benches.