Viva Uruguay! First, on the trade front, the Uruguayan congress punched a fat hole through BushCo’s plans for the Southern Cone:
The Uruguayan ruling leftist coalition Frente Amplio (FA) reiterated on Sunday its rejection of a free trade agreement with the United States.
Montevideo explored the possibility of a free trade agreement with Washington, but the idea sank amid reluctance on the part of sectors of the governing coalition and the members of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, while Venezuela is on the verge of full membership), which does not permit bilateral negotiations with third countries.
Then, a blast aimed squarely at the past:
Uruguay’s last military dictator, Gregorio Alvarez, was charged Monday with the forced disappearance of political prisoners, cheering human rights activists who have long campaigned for his prosecution.
Alvarez, now 82 and retired, was the army general who led Uruguay from 1982 until shortly before the country restored democracy in 1985.
Arrested without incident at his home on Monday, he was sent to a military prison to await trial in connection with the disappearance of some 40 Uruguayan political prisoners who were seized by military rulers in neighboring Argentina and secretly returned to Uruguay in 1977 and 1978, prosecutor Mirtha Guianze said.
His arrest is a “historic moment” for human rights, said activist Oscar Lopez Goldaracena, whose group, Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared, has campaigned for justice for years.
Alvarez said in an earlier court appearance that he knew nothing of the illegal abductions and forced disappearances, but the prosecutor has argued that Alvarez was in a position to know what happened as former army commander in chief and later, de facto president.
Prosecutors say Uruguayan political prisoners were secretly airlifted from Argentina as part of “Operation Condor,” in which South America’s right-wing military regimes cooperated, with secret help from U.S. intelligence agencies, to crush leftist dissent and leave no sanctuary for dissidents fleeing their countries.
The military ruled Uruguay between 1973 and 1985. Argentina was under military dictatorship from 1976 until 1983.
Some 150 Uruguayan activists remain missing, believed to have been seized by governments of the era. Argentines are still seeking information about nearly 13,000 officially listed as dead or missing from the period of military rule.
The detention of Alvarez comes 13 months after the arrest of the man who headed the first military-dominated government, Juan Maria Bordaberry, who faces 14 homicide charges related to “dirty war” killings of the 1970s. He is under house arrest due to health problems.
It’s a great time to start righting the wrongs of the past, and it’s no coincidence that these two things are linked. Uruguay’s military dictatorship was, like those of Argentina and Chile, installed by Washington to make South America safer for capitalists and more dangerous for everyone else. Read Naomi Klein’s latest book if you don’t believe me.
Looks like the dictatorships are well and truly ending now.