The Tupamaros, Terrorists of Uruguay – Part 4: The Kidnappings


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.Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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A demonstration by Tupamaros
A demonstration by Tupamaros

There were different opinions in Uruguay and elsewhere around the world about the activities of the Tupamaros, the most proficient urban guerrilla organization in existence at that time. The Tupamaros were the most potent, although not the only leftist movement in Uruguay. It became clear that traditional pro-Soviet and even pro-Chinese political leaders believed that MLN tactics would only provoke the government into adopting a harder line against leftist organizations in general.

Many scholars think that terrorism should not be defined as violence directed only against civilian targets because terrorists make no distinctions between the military and civilians. Attacks on off-duty police and military personnel can be classified as terrorism as much as attacks on civilian targets. Although the Tupamaros may have been “considerate in their attacks,” violence in the form of bombings, kidnappings, and executions intended to frighten a population still constitutes terrorism.

The leaders of the Tupamaros said that to achieve improved social justice in Uruguay, violence and bloodshed would be used only as a last recourse. Nevertheless, they resorted to kidnappings and their methods became increasingly murderous like any other insurgent movement.

The use of violence became a part of their ideology. They considered the use of violence as legitimate and desirable to achieve their goals. They used violence intentionally with the knowledge and expectation that the government would respond with harsh and repressive security countermeasures, which would increase support of the masses for the Tupamaros. In fact, they were successful in gaining support of the masses in the early stages of their campaign.

The Tupamaros assassinated Emet Motto, a frigate captain, and Colonel Artigas Alvarez. These assassinations created a climate of terror in the security forces and may have led to the desire of the forces for a fast and vigorous response to fight terrorism.

The MLN-T dedicated to Marxist ideologies was the first organization in the free world to direct violence in the name of revolution against fellow countrymen.

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller
Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller

On June 21, 1969, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller met with Uruguayan leaders at isolated Punta del Este while students rampaged in Montevideo in protest against his fact-finding visit. Avoiding direct clashes with police and army patrols, bands of students staged hit-and-run strikes. They smashed windows of cars, stores, and homes, threw firebombs at a Mormon church, a bank, and a General Motors factory.

After Governor Rockefeller’s visit, Tupamaro attacks became increasingly ambitious and bloody, resulting in the deaths of many policemen, as the terrorists campaigned and took the offensive with the full array of guerilla tactics.

The Kidnappings

The first political kidnapping by the Tupamaros took place on August 7, 1968, when they abducted Ulises Pereyra Reverbal, Director of the State Electric Power and Telephone (UTE) monopoly. He was an adviser to President Jorge Pacheco-Areco as well as a close friend.

The Tupamaros apparently targeted Pereyra because he had urged the President to adopt a hard line against labor and students during recent unrest in the country.

He was kidnapped by four or five armed terrorists outside his seaside home.

The Tupamaros apparently made no specific ransom demands and instead used the incident for propaganda against the government. However, they said that Pereyra’s life would depend on the treatment given to Tupamaro prisoners and that he would be released whenever the organization leaders felt like releasing him. While he was being held, around 3,000 policemen mobilized to find him raided the national university, where fierce clashes broke out with students. This unsuccessful reaction by the government helped the kidnappers to discredit the government further.

The kidnappers held him till August 12, 1968, and released him unharmed.

Gaetano Pellegrini Giampietro was a leading banker and Managing Editor of the newspapers “La Manana” and “El Diario“. His father was the former Italian Finance Minister under Mussolini.

The Uruguayan leftists had frequently criticized Pellegrini because in a bank strike earlier that year, he had served as a spokesman for the bank management in the negotiations and had adopted a hard bargaining line.

On September 9, 1969, two gunmen, members of a Tupamaro commando group abducted Pellegrini as he sat in a car outside his newspaper office.

The following day, as conditions for Pellegrini’s release, a clandestine Tupamaro radio broadcast required a settlement favorable to striking bank workers by the following day, September 11, 1969. The Tupamaros also warned that if any street demonstrators were killed by police, Pellegrini’s life would be in danger.

Two weeks after the kidnapping, the Tupamaros warned the police to abandon their search for Pellegrini if they did not want to endanger his life.

Ironically, the bank strike was settled before the deadline by coincidence rather than as a result of the threat.

Pellegrini was finally set free on November 21, 1969, after 73 days in captivity, following the payment of 15 million pesos (about ₤25,000) by his close friends in ransom money, as donations to a workers’ hospital and a primary school in Montevideo. The Tupamaros telephoned his close friend Dr. Eugenio Barofio before abandoning him on a quay at Buceo Yachting Port, outside Montevideo.

Pellegrini was unhurt. Barofio picked the apparently exhausted Pellegrini in his car and took him home to be reunited with his worried wife.

Daniel Pereyra Monello, a criminal-court judge. From 1977 onward, Pereyra was the arraigning judge in the trial of most of the approximately 150 Tupamaros who had been charged with violating the state security law and other offenses.

On July 28, 1970, the Tupamaros seized Daniel Pereyra Monello. The abductors assured his wife that they only wanted to talk with her husband and that he would be released within 48 hours.

In the meantime, a rumor circulated that the release of Tupamaro prisoners would be demanded by the terrorists  in exchange for releasing the judge.

A spokesman for the President said that the President was averse to the idea of exchanging any prisoners and would not agree any such exchange regardless of the consequences.

Two communiques were issued by the Tupamaros while Pereyra was being interrogated. The first alleged his coverup of police brutality and his prejudice against the Tupamaros. In the second communique, issued on July 30, 1970, two days after the abduction, the Tupamaros announced that they would hold the judge for more than 48 hours, while they continued their interrogation concerning detention and trial procedures.

Judge Pereyra was finally released on August 5, bearing a communique about the three foreign diplomats who were kidnapped two days after Pereyra, on July 31, 1970.

In August of 1970, the Tupamaros kidnapped several foreign individuals as part of an unusual diplomatic kidnapping campaign unfolding a strategic operation called Plan Satan, in which the terrorists sought to provoke a ministerial crisis and foreign intervention, to lead ultimately to the downfall of the Uruguayan government. The kidnappings by the Tupamaros peaked in 1970 and 1971. The kidnapped people were held and interrogated in the Cárcel del Pueblo (People’s Prison).

Claude L. Fly of Fort Collins, Colorado, an American soil expert and a contract employee of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an organization sometimes used as a front for training foreign police in counterinsurgency methods. In 1970, while working as a consultant to the Ministry of Agriculture in Uruguay, Fly was kidnapped by the Tupamaros and was held captive for 208 days from August 1970 to March 1971 in either a basement equipped with a wire-mesh ‘cage’ cell or a sweltering tent in a second-floor apartment. The Tupamaros released him after he suffered a heart attack.

Sir Geoffrey Holt Seymour Jackson KCMG, at a news conference in London on September 11, 1971 (Source: news.bbc.co.uk)
Sir Geoffrey Holt Seymour Jackson KCMG, at a news conference in London on September 11, 1971 (Source: news.bbc.co.uk)

The notable among the kidnapped foreign individuals was Sir Geoffrey Holt Seymour Jackson KCMG, the British ambassador to Uruguay.

On January 8, 1971, the Tupamaro guerrillas abducted him in broad daylight as he drove to work in Montevideo, Uruguay.

During his captivity, the abductors allowed Sir Jackson to send one message to his wife.

Many days later, the Tupamaros released a photograph showing Sir Jackson with a long flowing white beard.

In an interview with a Cuban journalist, arranged by his captors, Sir Jackson revealed how he was kept in a windowless cell and jogged barefoot round the mud floor of his cramped jail to keep reasonably fit.

Despite exhaustive searches, the government authorities were clueless and even after questioning hundreds of suspects they were not able to extort any tip-off to his whereabouts.

On the night of September 8, 1971, a statement purporting to come from the Tupamaros was released that said Mr. Jackson would be freed as it was no longer necessary to hold him following the escape of 106 Tupamaros from a Montevideo jail early on Monday, September 6, 1971.

The Tupamaros released him on September 9, 1971, after eight months of captivity. The  government agencies claimed that no ransom demands were ever made for releasing Sir Jackson. However, it came to light later that Edward Heath, the British prime minister at that time, negotiated the deal for Jackson’s release brokered by the Chilean president, Salvador Allende, who had contacts with the Tupamaros and a sum of ₤42,000 was paid as ransom money.

He was kidnapped by the Tupamaro guerrillas on January 8, 1971 in Montevideo, Uruguay. The Tupamaros released him on September 9, 1971 after eight months of captivity. A sum of ₤42,000 was paid as ransom money. Later it came to light that Edward Heath, the British prime minister at that time, negotiated the deal for Jackson’s release brokered by the Chilean president, Salvador Allende, who had contacts with the Tupamaros.

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 Previous – Part 3: Armed propaganda

Next  Part 5: Assassination of Daniel A. Mitrione

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