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The Tupamaros, Terrorists of Uruguay – Part 6: Operation El Abuso, the Great Escape


.Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

 

Aerial view of Punta Carretas (Source: panoramio.com)
Aerial view of Punta Carretas (Source: panoramio.com)

The Arrests

The penitentiary of Punta Carretas, just two and a half miles from the city center in a barrio of Montevideo, was started as a women’s prison, circa 1896. In 1901, it was decided to make it a penitentiary for men as well.

 In 1970, when Uruguay had the highest per capita rate of political incarceration anywhere in the world, the Government counter-guerrilla operations gradually arrested several members of the MLN-T and incarcerated them in the Punta Carretas maximum security prison.

On March 23, 1970, a police officer recognized José Mujica at a bar in the center of Montevideo while meeting one of his contacts. The policeman called for backup. Seeing a police car pulling up to the entrance of the bar, Mujica pulled out his gun and opened fire. During the ensuing shootout Mujica shot two policemen, and he himself was hit twice. While lying sprawled on the floor, one policeman shot him four more times.

On April 1, 1970, Al Rojo Vivo on page 6 of its issue No. 226 reported the incident. It said:

En el tiroteo en el bar “La Vía”, …resultaron dos heridos. Uno de gravedad, un anti-social, y un funcionario policial. Como consecuencia de una delación cayeron cuatro integrantes del grupo de “reos”.

Translation:

In the shootout in the bar “La Vía”… two were wounded. An anti-social, gravely, and a police officer. Following a denunciation four members of the group of “criminals” were apprehended.

Later, on the same page we find:

Resultó herido de gravedad el “reo” José Alberto Mujica Cordano, conocido como “Pepe”. Sus documentos estaban a nombre de José Antonio Mones Morelli.

Translation:

It turned out the seriously wounded was “criminal” José Alberto Mujica Cordano, known as ” Pepe “. His documents were in the name of José Antonio Mones Morelli.

Luckily, the doctor who treated Mujica was also a Tupamaro, hiding in plain sight. After a year, José Mujica recovered from the bullet wounds,. He was once again apprehended and incarcerated along with the other captured Tupamaros in the Punta Carretas prison.

On July 30, 1971,  thirty-eight women Tupamaros escaped from the Punta Carretas maximum security prison through the tunnel dug from the outside, connecting their cell floor with the city sewer system.

Raúl Sendic, was captured on August 7, 1970.

Operation El Abuso 

In Uruguay, everybody knows about “The Great Escape,” or “The Escape from Punta Carretas,” or “El Abuso” the code name the Tupamaros used for it. For a certain generation of Uruguayans, it is a word that has passed into national lore. In Spanish, the term “abuso means “abuse” or “mockery” or “outrage.”

The huge penitentiary complex had 400 cells. The Tupamaro guerrillas were held in 95 cells.

In addition to the guards inside, there were platoons of 60 to 80 soldiers guarding the outer walls.

From the day the first compañero was arrested, the Tupamaro guerrillas planned to escape from the maximum security prison. First, they ruminated on taking over the prison. Since the prison complex was colossal, there was no way to commandeer it by surprise without a bloody scuffle. The Tupamaros always tried to avoid violence at all costs and some compañeros were averse to killing. So, they concentrated their efforts to escape by other means.

Conditions in Punta Carretas were more relaxed than in other prisons. Since most Tupamaro guerrillas were educated and  extremely organized, they quickly established themselves within the prison walls and exercised pressure on the corrupt prison guards and the warden. Thus, the prisoners were allowed to receive food from their families and sympathizers from the outside, which they would cook inside their cells using kerosene stoves. They shared their food, even with non-Tupamaros. In addition to food, family members also brought books and magazines.

Regular soldiers patrolled the outer wall. The guards inside the prison were contracted non-military men with families to feed and had chosen the profession for its excellent pay and job security.

The guards allowed the Tupamaro prisoners to bet on horse races and purchase lottery tickets. For the right price, they would bring in newspapers or alcohol. The prisoners were provided classes in woodwork and other crafts and were allowed to play soccer daily games the field behind the cellblock.

In the early months of 1971, the Tupamaro male prisoners lodged in the Punta Carretas maximum security prison started digging a tunnel to escape from the state prison. They called it Mangangá, but their effort was thwarted by heavy rain.

On August 5, 1971, the Tupamaro prisoners again started digging patiently another tunnel, planned down to the smallest detail, which they secretly called the operation El Abuso (The Abuse).

Outside the prison walls, most of the active Tupamaros knew nothing about operation El Abuso.

Some Tupamaros were given the task of stealing prison plans and to pass them on to the inmates. The plans were cut into small pieces and stuffed inside small nylon capsules. The passing of the capsules was accomplished by the male Tupamaros while they kissed the female Tupamara prisoners during visits. At times, the recipient female Tupamaras swallowed the capsules to avoid detection, and retrieved the bits of plans from their faeces. The plan bits were reassembled inside the prison.

The walls of the cells in Punta Carretas were a foot-and-a-half thick and made of field brick. The prisoners scraped away the mortar between the bricks in their cell walls using metal wires and shims collected from their woodwork classes.

The prisoners originally intended to make holes in the walls to hide censored magazines and newspapers. Then, they realized that if they could perforate a small hole through to the next cell, then men on both sides could hold the ends of a wire, pull it back and forth, and remove the mortar between a group of several bricks. Thus, they managed to remove sections of walls about 60 inches wide by 40 inches high. The openings helped them move from one cell to cell to the next.

They disposed the mortar dust in their toilets, or spread them on the football field. They covered the evidence of their work by stuffing paper in the crevices between the bricks, plastering and painting the surface. They got the plaster from their families in bags marked “flour”. At times they covered glaring spots on the walls with posters.

Their activity was not discovered because the Tupamaros convinced the warden to stop making surprise cell inspections, claiming the inspections made them anxious and uneasy.

The Tupamaros were on the second and third floors of the four-storey prison. Through negotiations and pretensions, they managed to get cell transfers for all the compañeros who would participate in the escape. By early September, all the escapees were on one side of the hallway, while the other side was filled with men with light sentences who would be released soon.

They succeeded in connecting together some fifty cells on three floors.

At the same time, they negotiated with the five common prisoners lodged in the ground-floor corner cell #73 to use their cell to dig the escape tunnel.

The Tupamaro prisoners who were not claustrophobic dug a tunnel about 100 feet (30 meters) long, from cell 73 to the house #2535 across the Solano García street, which had been taken over by the Tupamaros.

Digging eight hours a day it took about 30 days to complete. The whole operation was carried out in secret and as such some Tupamaro inmates came to know about the tunnel and the planned escape only on the day before the escape, when all preparation was already in place.

Tupamaros' Tunnel mapDuring the night on the eve of the escape, many Tupamaros participated in disturbing the peace in Cerro and La Teja, a barrio of Montevideo to draw the police force away from the surroundings of Punta Carretas. Several buses and vehicles were torched in those neighborhoods and the tires of dozens of police cars were slashed to immobilize them. However, most of the Tupamaro guerrillas who took part in these clashes had no idea for what purpose they did so.

In the early morning hours of Monday, September 6, 1971, Raúl Sendic, and 105 Tupamaro guerrillas, including five common prisoners, who joined forces in the digging, crawled through the burrow. They emerged through a two-by-two foot square opening in the floor of the living room of the house on the other side of the Solano García street, where an 85-years-old Serrana Auliso, an English teacher, now lives.

The compañeros who were waiting for them in that house, gave each of them a pouch of money and a gun. They escapees exited through the backyard of the house, and were whisked away from the area in two buses, trucks and a few taxis while other compañeros created diversions by burning cars across the town.

Most of the escaped guerrillas were arrested during the next twelve years of military rule.

Among those political prisoners who escaped Punta Carretas Prison on that day were José Mujica, and Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro, who bore the nickname “Nato” (“Flatnose”). These two Tupamaros were later elected to the senate in 1999 after a term in the House of Representatives and are now the president and Defense Minister of Uruguay respectively.

The “great escape” or “El Abuso” has been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records in the “Greatest jail breaks” category as follows:

In September 1971 Raúl Sendic and 105 other Tupamaro guerrillas plus five nonpolitical prsioners, escaped from a Uruguyan prison through a tunnel 298 ft long.”

The political consequences of the prison break were enormous. On September 9, 1971, President Jorge Pacheco-Areco instructed the armed forces to conduct anti-guerrilla operations against the MLN-T through Decree No. 566/971. The Uruguayan Congress suspended habeas corpus, (a writ or court order that requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court.

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 Previous – Part 5: Assassination of Daniel A. Mitrione

Next  Part 7: The Coup d’état of 1973

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The Tupamaros, Terrorists of Uruguay – Part 5: Assassination of Daniel A. Mitrione 


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.Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Daniel A. Mitrione
Daniel A. Mitrione

Daniel A. Mitrione (August 4, 1920 – August 10, 1970) was an Italian-born American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent and a United States government advisor for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Latin America.

Dan Mitrione‘s specialty was interrogation. From 1960 to 1967, he worked with the Brazilian police, first in Belo Horizonte then in Rio de Janeiro at a time when political opponents were systematically tortured, imprisoned without trial and killed. Mitrione was one among the US advisers who taught Brazilian police how much electric shock to apply to prisoners at a time without killing them. He is quoted as having once said:

The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect.”

In 1969, Mitrione was posted as the Chief Public Safety Adviser at the American Embassy in Uruguay by the CIA on a clandestine and secret program, under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an organization sometimes used as a front for training foreign police in counterinsurgency methods.

When the Tupamaros learned that he was a riot control specialist advising the Uruguayan police in riot control. They targeted him in retaliation for causing the death of student protesters by his advice, and planned to kidnap him.

Mitrione was a very cold mannered person with no compassion. In truth, Dan Mitrione was in Montevideo to teach the police how to extract information out of suspects by torture. Former Uruguayan police officials and CIA operatives claimed Mitrione had taught torture techniques to the Uruguayan police in the basement of his Montevideo home where he had a sealed sound proof room. The technique included the use of electrical shocks delivered to the mouths and genitals of the victims.

It has also been alleged that he had about 150 detainees, most of them “bichicomes” (beggars) of Montevideo, and they were executed once they had served their purpose.

Torture

Yet, at a later interview, Raúl Sendic said the Tupamaros did not know that Mitrione was an expert in torture.

On July 31, 1970, the Tupamaros kidnapped Dan Mitrione near his home in Montevideo. While being kidnapped, he was shot in one shoulder. The Tupamaros held him in their Cárcel del Pueblo (People’s Prison).

Brazilian Consul Aloysio Dias Gomide was abducted the same day. An attempt to kidnap US Embassy Second Secretary Gordon Jones was foiled.

The specific tactical objective of the Mitrione and Dias Gomide kidnappings and the unsuccessful attempt on Gordon Jones was to liberate about 150 Tupamaros then imprisoned or detained by the government. This was the largest ransom ever demanded for kidnapped diplomats.

Jorge Pacheco-Areco , President of Uruguay from December 6, 1967 to March 1, 1972 (Source: elmuertoquehabla.blogspot.in)
Jorge Pacheco-Areco , President of Uruguay from December 6, 1967 to March 1, 1972 (Source: elmuertoquehabla.blogspot.in)

At that time, the liberal democratic Government of Uruguay was in decline. It was headed by Jorge Pacheco Areco, an extremely stubborn and autocratic president. The stupendous demand placed before the president posed an institutional problem due to separation of powers in the country. Most Tupamaro prisoners were held by the Judicial branch and the Executive branch had no jurisdiction over those prisoners, and the President could not unilaterally authorize their freedom. At that time, the liberal democratic Government of Uruguay was in decline. Backed up by the Interior Minister, the president refused to negotiate with the Tupamaros and also declined to communicate with them.

As a police officer Mitrione knew that the US government would not consent to exchange 150 prisoners to save one man’s life, but he had hoped for a possible swap.

As a police officer Mitrione knew that the US government would not consent to exchange 150 prisoners to save one man’s life, but he had hoped for a possible swap.

During the first days of captivity Mitrione was arrogant and confident. However, on the fifth day of his captivity, when Mitrione turned 50 on August 4, he learned that President Richard Nixon did not ask the government of Uruguay, to free 150 detained Tupamaros to save his life. Now, he softened and took part in ideological discussions with his captors.

As the prisoner exchange was not taking place, the Tupamaros sentenced Mitrione on August 8, 1970, to be executed at noon the following day. However, the execution actually took place on August 10, 1970, at 4 am.

Mitrione’s body was found in a car with two bullets in the head. There were no other visible signs of maltreatment, beyond the fact that, during the kidnapping, he had been shot in one shoulder – a wound for which he had evidently been treated while in captivity.

The Nixon Administration through spokesman Ron Ziegler affirmed that Mitrione’s “devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world will remain as an example for free men everywhere.”

Dan Mitrione’s funeral was largely publicized by the US media. Several high-ranking officials from the Nixon administration, including Richard Nixon’s secretary of state William Rogers, attended his funeral. In Richmond, Indiana, Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis held a benefit concert for Dan Mitrione’s family.

This cold-blooded murder proved beyond doubt that the leadership of MLN-T had changed. It was now more radical and violent. Its members were not keen on leading the Uruguayan society towards socialism, but were bent on waging war on the affluent whom they considered as their enemies.

Memorial Plaque for Dan Mitrione
Memorial Plaque for Dan A. Mitrione

On March 21, 1973, The New York Times reported the capture of four of the men involved in the 1970 kidnapping-murder of Dan A. Mitrione by Uruguyan security officials. The man who pulled the trigger was identified as Antonio Mas, 25, a Spanish citizen who joined Tuparnaros when he was a student at the University of Montevideo. The authorities said they arrested Mas and three other participants in the crime, Henry Engler, the leader of the command, Esteban Jorge Pereira and Rodolfo Woolf.  Engler as the leader of the command had ordered the killing of Dan Mitrione.  The authorities said that a fifth member, Armando Blanco Katras was killed in the clash with the police. 

État de Siège (State of Siege), the movie

State of Siege (French title: État de Siège) is a 1972 French film directed by Costa Gavras starring Yves Montand and Renato Salvatori. This film is regarded as one of Costa-Gavras’ finest creations. The story is based on the actual kidnapping and killing of Dan Mitrione.

Many US officials were against the screening of the film. They said it was a hyperbole about US involvement in Latin America and other third world countries. In Washington, DC, it was removed from a special screening at the John F. Kennedy Center, only to be run uncut on a local TV station. In the late 1970s, during the investigations and committee hearings on the CIA and other government groups, many who decried the film as false found themselves admitting involvement in the internal affairs of Latin American countries.

In the film, Philip Michael Santore, an official of the USAID, posted to a fictional South American country in the early 1970s. Santore is kidnapped by a group of urban guerillas.

The film explores the often brutal consequences of the struggle between the repressive government of Montevideo and the leftist Tupamaro guerrillas using interrogation of Santore by his captors as a backdrop.

The government decimates the revolutionary group using death squads. The surviving members vote to execute Santore, who is accused of political manipulation and training the police in torture.

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Next  Part 6: Operation El Abuso, the Great Escape 

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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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Pakistan: Rumors of American Plot to sterilize Muslims. Nine Anti-Polio Workers Murdered.


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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A Pakistani health worker gives anti-polio vaccine to a child
A Pakistani health worker gives anti-polio vaccine to a child on the last day of a three-day anti-polio campaign in Lahore, Pakistan, March 14, 2012. (Xinhua/Jamil Ahmed)

Is a lawyer competent enough to declare that polio vaccines sterilize male children? Yes. In Pakistan, in the city of Peshawar, a 42-year-old lawyer named Sartaj Khan said: “These vaccines are meant to destroy our nation. The [polio] drops make men less manly, and make women more excited and less bashful. Our enemies want to wipe us out.”

Pakistan is one of the world’s three remaining polio-stricken countries the other two are Afganistan and Nigeria.

Dr. Shakeel Afridi
Dr. Shakeel Afridi

The Pakistani investigation of the deadly raid by a Navy SEAL team on May 1, 2011, on Osama bin Laden’s residence revealed that Dr. Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani physician helped the CIA to run a fake vaccination program to establish the presence of bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad.

After the disclosure of Dr. Shakeel’s involvement in locating bin Laden, the Pakistani Taliban and other militant organizations banned polio campaigns in their respective areas. The extremist groups in the Pashtun belt of northwestern Pakistan spread the rumor that the army of health workers employed to vaccinate the country’s children is on the United States’ payroll, and the Americans were using the anti-polio campaign to sterilize or spy on Muslims.

The rumor spread by the extremists has resulted in the murder of nine anti-polio workers by gunmen riding motorcycles this week. Some of those killed were teenage girls.

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari - Ambassador for Polio Eradication in Pakistan
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari – Ambassador for Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, ambassador for Polio Eradication, strongly condemned the violence that killed the four female anti-polio workers. “Everyone involved in the polio campaign are selfless volunteers. They do this to save lives, they do this to save Pakistan.”

When a 14-year-old anti-polio worker Farzana Rehman was assassinated in her hometown of Peshawar by unknown gunmen, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari said: “We must not be deterred, better security precautions will be taken. Through our passion and dedication, we shall eradicate this crippling disease from our homeland, we shall continue to fight in the names of those who have lost their lives for the cause. We shall continue to fight for young girls like Farzana. Terrorists do this to scare us, they do this to try and stop us, we shall not be silenced and we will not stop the need, come what may,”

Following the violence, the United Nations pulled back all staff involved in the vaccination campaign and Pakistani officials suspended further vaccination in some parts of the country.

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