Friday, 22 May 2015

Relatives of Uruguay’s disappeared seek truth

Uruguayan Deputy Macarena Gelman, granddaughter of the late Argentine poet Juan Gelman, said yesterday that “there is much work to be done” in the search for truth and justice for crimes committed during the 1973-1985 dictatorship as she joined new body set up on Tuesday by President Tabaré Vázquez.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of Uruguayans held a silent march in the capital of Montevideo to mark 20 years since the fall of the dictatorship.

Human rights defence organizations marched yesterday calling for “truth and justice” in the cases of “disappeared” persons during the Uruguayan military dictatorship. The 20th “March of Silence” organized by Familiares, a group consisting of relatives of the disappeared that works to solve the open cases and seek justice for the atrocities committed during the dictatorship.

“Some families have spent 40 years searching, Uruguay has had 30 years of democracy, there have been 20 marches of silence and the Broad Front has been governing for 10 years. However, still notably absent are truth and justice. So today we will march,” said Ignacio Errandonea, a member of Familiares.

Traditionally, the march moves down Montevideo’s main avenue in silence and without banners. The demonstrators carry signs with faces of the missing relatives while their names are announced one-by-one. Official sources indicate that 37 detainees disappeared during the dictatorship in Uruguay, while according to relatives, there are about 200 unsolved cases of missing persons.

Working group

Vazquez originally ratified a workgroup agreed back in February to gather information about the political crimes committed during the de facto regime,amid claims that he is keen to grant amnesties to perpetrators of the crimes.

Last Monday Defence Minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro, renewed his criticism of the ruling Broad Front, of which he is a member, and human rights organizations, accusing them of “stigmatizing” the military for its recent past and for the crimes committed during the dictatorship. Yesterday the minister upped the ante by insisting that the 1973 coup was both a civilian and military action.

“Here the coup was civil and military. In reality it was civil while being directed by a foreign embassy with people in expensive suits and French aftershave. All of them civilians. And it was orchestrated by civilian politicians and the main civilian media. The commercial chambers requested the coup,” said the defence minister, in statements to reporters after attending a ceremony in Montevideo.

“We have positive expectations, as the president has said that the offically-named “workgroup for Truth and Justice” will have access to all files in the State archives from the dictatorship, many of which still have not been accessed,” remarked a human rights representative.

The group also investigates human rights violations committed by the state since 1968, when the country was a fledgling democracy and the Tupamaros guerrillas attempted a coup to establish a socialist regime. Former president José Mujica, from the Broad Front like Vázquez, was a member of Tupamaros.

When Vázquez began his first term in 2005, he allowed excavations in military barracks to search for remains of missing persons. So far only four bodies have been located.

Fernández Huidobro, a former guerrilla fighter and victim of harsh captivity in military prisons for nearly a decade during the dictatorship, proposed the state “collect testimonies from victims and families who are willing to provide them. We believe this will be a breakthrough... it has become an excuse saying that those responsible will not speak. There is more work to do,” he said in relation to the tasks that will carried out by the workgroup for Truth and Justice, announced by Vázquez.

“They have information, they are the ones who gave the orders. We will not grab those who did the dirty work, it will be with the ones who gave the orders instead” Fernández Huidobro stated. Concerning this team, composed of seven people, the minister said he would provide them with whatever they ask, “as usual”, and said he will continue “working at it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Without a fuss.” The controversial minister, who has been in office since 2011, also rejected criticism from some of the associations of the families of missing persons, whom say that they have not received any new information in recent years.

“They are poisonous and liars. They blatantly lie. For us, all the information they ask of us we have been sending them, and much more that they don’t ask. I have already repeated myself ad nauseum.” he snapped.

Thus, Fernández Huidobro stated his position on the new workgroup for Truth and Justice, which includes the now deputy Macarena Gelman, the daughter of Marcelo Gelman and María Claudia Irureta, both missing, who was born during the captivity of her mother and only recovered her true identity in 2000.

The Government announced yesterday a new agreement with the State University of the Republic (Udelar) for the continuation of the work of teams of historians and anthropologists exploring possible locations of clandestine burials, whose tasks had been halted.

Thursday 21 May 2015

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