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  • Over the weekend, President Vasquez learned of two former military officers's confessions recognizing crimes against humanity which were omitted by the defense minister and members of the Army Court of Honor.

    Over the weekend, President Vasquez learned of two former military officers's confessions recognizing crimes against humanity which were omitted by the defense minister and members of the Army Court of Honor. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 April 2019
Opinion

Ex-military Jose "Nino" Gavazzo admitted to disposing of a leftist militant fighter's body in a river in 1973 at the start of the country's dictatorship.

Uruguayan President Tabare Vasquez announced Monday the dismissal of top officials in the Ministry of Defense and the Army Court of Honor over covering up human rights violations during an investigation into a case dating back to the country’s military dictatorship.

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The president has dismissed Defense Minister Jorge Melendez, the Deputy Minister Daniel Montiel, the new army chief Jose Gonzalez, as well as two members of the Army Court of Honor, over the omission of key confessions of human rights violations during the country's 1973 to 1985 military dictatorship.

Following a newspaper report from Uruguayan newspaper El Observador Saturday, President Vasquez learned of confessions from ex-military Jose "Nino" Gavazzo and Jorge "Pajarito" Silveira in 2017. Both had been investigated for dozens of cases of crimes against humanity.

In his statements, Gavazzo admitted to having thrown the body of leftist Tupamaro militant Roberto Gomensoro into the Negro River in 1973 with the intent to make him disappear. Silveira accused Gavazzo of murdering Gomensoro, as well as young activist Maria Claudia Garcia de Gelman, who was pregnant at the time of her abduction, as well as another detainee.

Despite the evidence, in September 2018, the military court concluded the acts of both involved did not affect the army's honor according to minutes signed by the Minister of Defense and his deputy minister, Daniel Montiel.

The Uruguayan president decided to cease the functions of those mentioned. According to an El Observador journalist, Tabare Vazquez was "very upset" for not having been warned of the content of the minutes and the confession of Gavazzo. Over the weekend and after the publication of the newspaper article, several leaders and politicians from Frente Amplio had called for the dismissal of those responsible for the omission.

The head of the army, Jose Gonzalez, had been appointed to his post by the Uruguayan president on March 18. Upon taking office and after knowing the files with the statements, Gonzalez did not take any action to inform the army nor prosecutors. He has been removed within a month of taking office.

Hundreds were arrested and tortured during the dictatorship and around 192 people were forcibly disappeared. More than 40 members of the military have been investigated over accusations of human rights crimes while some have died in prison.

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