By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay-Former dictator, Gregorio “Goyo” Alvarez was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison Thursday for thirty-seven homicides committed as a part of “Operation Condor” between 1973-1985. Alvarez was commander-in-chief of the army during the period and de facto president of Uruguay from late 1980 until shortly before the restoration of democracy.
Alvarez was accused of disappearing dozens of Uruguayan political prisoners seized in Argentina and secretly returned home as part of a cooperative effort by South America’s right-wing regimes to crush dissent. Alvarez said that he knew nothing about illegal abductions or forced disappearances. He has been detained by Uruguayan authorities since 2007.
The Court gave Navy Captain Juan Larcebeau twenty years in prison for twenty-nine homicides related to secret prisoner transfers in 1978. Although the defense can still appeal the ruling, it is being hailed as “a very important step in clarifying” Uruguay’s past. The sentence came after an appeal successfully argued that charges for disappearances can be converted into murder charges, thus warranting heavier sentencing.
The sentence comes just days before a national election that includes a referendum on repealing a law that shielded members and agents of the military regime from prosecution for crimes such as kidnapping, torture and murder. The Supreme Court of Uruguay recently found those laws to be unconstitutional.
The prosecutor in Alvarez’ case persuaded judges that the crimes were not covered by the amnesty law because they stemmed from actions carried out under Plan Condor, a collaboration among various South American regimes to eliminate political enemies. It is estimated that about 150 Uruguayans disappeared in the secret flights from Argentina in the late 1970s and an additional twenty-nine people went missing in Uruguay. The U.S. intelligence services provided help in “operation condor.
Current Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez has made human rights prosecutions a top priority and courts have detained a number of suspects. Juan Marie Bordaberry, in office from 1973-1976 is awaiting his sentence. “Goyo” Alvarez is considered one of the most representative figures of the military regime in Uruguay.
For more information, please see:
AP-Last Uruguayan Dictator Sentenced to 25 Years-23 October 2009
BBC News-Uruguay’s Ex-ruler Alvarez Jailed-22 October 2009
Latin-American Herald Tribune-Ex-Dictator Sentenced to 25 Years in Uruguay-24 October 2009