It is ten o'clock in the morning and the Senate of Uruguay has several hours of intense debate ahead of it. Only few minutes before midnight, the ruling coalition of parties will have put the lid on the criminal investigation against their partner and current leader of the Cabildo Abierto, investigated for the alleged omission of denouncing the confessions of crimes against humanity made by a former military man before a Court of Honor in 2018.
The plenary session on the lifting of immunity of Senator Guido Manini Ríos, a member of the coalition of the Government of Uruguay and former general officer who served as Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, which culminated late Wednesday with the decision of the Upper House not to accede to the request, became a debate between those who denounced the impunity of the case and the clear conscience of the retired general.
The leader of Cabildo Abierto (CA, far-right) led a plenary session on whether or not to withdraw his parliamentary privileges, despite the fact that the result was as expected: there were not enough votes for the motion to prosper, and it ended with 16 votes against and 15 in favor.
The senators of the President Luis Lacalle Pou’s National Party (PN), of a sector of the Colorado Party (PC) and of the CA did not support the lifting of immunity while those of the Frente Amplio or Broad Front (FA, left) and Ciudadanos (centrist sector of the PC) voted in favor.
The request to lift the privileges of Manini had been made by the public prosecutor Rodrigo Morosoli in order to judge him for not informing or denouncing before Justice the confession made in 2018 of crimes committed during the last military dictatorship by the former lieutenant colonel José Nino Gavazzo before an Military Honor Tribunal.
During the session, which lasted more than 12 hours, the former commander in chief of the Army accused FA of orchestrating an operation to fracture the government coalition and remove the Cabildo Abierto from it.
Manini Ríos, who promised during 2019 election campaign as presidential candidate that he wouldn't use parliamentary immunity if prosecuted, also showed repeatedly his distrust of the Prosecutor's Office on this issue and said that he would hardly get a fair trial. This issue was politicized, the Attorney General's Office always acted in a biased manner against us and in defense of the Executive Branch,” he said.
The Senator said that the ex-guerrilla fighter and first disappeared during the military dictatorship of the 1970's, Roberto Gomensoro, was not a missing person and accused Morosoli of acting biased and more concerned in defending the position of the Presidency, insisting that he informed at all times the then Minister of Defense, Jorge Menendez about Gavazzo's confessions, and although he later conceded that some may have doubts about that version, he maintained that no one” can doubt that he sent everything in writing on February, 2019.
The FA Senator José Bayardi, who was Menéndez's successor when former president Tabaré Vázquez dismissed him for the Gavazzo case was the next to spoke. Bayardi questioned Manini Ríos for changing his version about the moment he informed the Executive Power, and warned that it was only after Menendez's death (few days after his dismission) that the leader of CA began to say he had kept him up to date at all times. Manini, who was notably nervous while listening to the ex-minister's intervention, answered that his version was always the same.
Former president and Senator José Mujica had the last in the plenary and his last session after announcing that he would renounce to the Parliament. In recent months he had spoken out against the lifting of immunity but finally said he would vote for party discipline and closed the day with a direct request to the commander, general and senator.
We are losing the time of life. Too little of those years is left. I don't ask for justice, I ask you to bring truth. You are one of the few Orientals who have the tools to do so. It is a historical responsibility,” said Mujica, who would appointed the general to his post during his mandate (2010-2015).
Manini Ríos, who quietly left the Senate before the negative vote on his lifting of immunity, will finally keep his seat.