The above image of a snake makes regular rounds of the Internet every few months or so. Each time the incident was purported to have occurred in a different geographic locale.
Today, once again, I came across the same photograph of a distended snake with the caption: “ANACONDA EATS WOMAN ALIVE!”
In August 2012, someone using this photograph, claimed a serpent ate a man in Qujing, China.
In January 2013, the snake swallowed another person in Jakarta, Indonesia,
In February 2013, it gobbled a man whole in Panama.
In June 2013, it devoured a woman near Durban North, South Africa.
In October 2013, the snake gulped down a 4-year-old child in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia.
In November 2013, the python made its way to Attapady, Kerala, India to swallow a drunkard lying beside the liquor shop.
Now, you be the judge.
The Python reticulatus also known as the (Asiatic) reticulated python, is a species found in Southeast Asia. The specific name, reticulatus, is Latin meaning “net-like”, or reticulated, and is a reference to the complex color pattern. They are the world’s longest snakes and longest reptile, but are not the most heavily built. Adult pythons can grow to 22.8 feet (6.95 metres) in length, and grow to an average length of 10–20 feet (3–6 metres). They are nonvenomous constrictors and not considered dangerous to humans. Although large specimens are powerful enough to kill an adult human, reports of attacks are rare. It is not found in countries such as South Africa.
The Boa constrictor
The Boa constrictor is a species of large, heavy-bodied snake. It is a member of the family Boidae found in North, Central, and South America, as well as some islands in the Caribbean. It has varied colour and pattern and are distinctive. Ten subspecies are currently recognized.
The anaconda is a large snake found in tropical South America. Although the name applies to a group of snakes, it is often used to refer only to one species in particular, the common or green anaconda, Eunectes murinus. It is one of the largest snakes in the world.
Although the name refers to a snake found only in South America, the name commonly used in Brazil is sucuri, sucuriju or sucuriuba.
Peter Martyr d’Anghiera suggested the South American names anacauchoa and anacaona. Henry Walter Bates questioned the idea of the origin of the South American names. Bates in his travels in South America, failed to find any similar name in use.
Some researchers believe the word anaconda is derived from the name of a snake from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In 1684 Andreas Cleyer described its habit. Cleyer described a gigantic snake that crushed large animals by coiling and crushing their bones.
Henry Yule in his Hobson-Jobson noted the word anaconda became more popular due to a piece of fiction by a certain R. Edwin published in 1768 in the Scots Magazine. Edwin described an anaconda crushing and killing a tyger when in fact tigers never occurred in Sri Lanka. Yule and Frank Wall noted that the snake was in fact a python. They suggested a word of Tamil origin anai-kondra (Tamil: ஆனை கொன்றா) meaning elephant killer.
A more-likely Sinhalese origin was suggested by Donald Ferguson. He said the word Henakandaya (Sinhalese: හෙනකන්දය; hena = lightning or large, kanda = stem or trunk) was used in Sri Lanka for the small whip snake (Ahaetulla pulverulenta).
On March 5, 2010, Juan Maria Bordaberry was sentenced to 30 years in prison (the maximum allowed under Uruguayan law) for murder. He was the second former Uruguayan dictator sentenced to a long prison term.
On July 17, 2011, Bordaberry died, aged 83, at his home. He had been suffering from respiratory problems and other illnesses. His remains are buried at Parque Martinelli de Carrasco.
José Mujica, the current president of Uruguay adopts a ruling style closer to center-left administrations of Lula in Brazil and Bachelet in Chile, unlike the harder-left leaders such as the late Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, former president of Venezuela .
In 2012, José Mujica was lauded for a speech at the United Nations’ Rio+20 global sustainability conference in which he called for a fight against the hyper-consumption that is destroying the environment:
“The cause is the model of civilization that we have created. And the thing we have to re-examine is our way of life.“
Again in 2012, Mujica announced that the presidential palace would be included among the state shelters for the homeless.
In 2013 Mujica’s government pushed the world’s most progressive cannabis legalization bill through the Uruguayan Congress. He says:
“This is not about being free and open. It’s a logical step. We want to take users away from clandestine business.“
Guerilla warfare of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara inspired the Tupamaros in Uruguay. Other Guerrilla outfits around the world while being inspired by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, emulated the Tupamaros of Uruguay.
To a certain extent, the Tupamaros of Uruguay became the role model for urban guerrillas in India and in Sri Lanka.
In India the various Naxalite groups that are mostly associated with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Kashmiri ultras funded by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, and many other worldwide terror outfits have been inspired by the Tupamaros of Uruguay.
In Sri Lanka, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil insurgent outfits such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), considered the Tupamaros as their role model.
The Naxalites of India
In India, various Communist guerrilla groups, under the generic term “Naxalites”, were influenced by the Uruguayan Tupamaros.
The first Naxal movement led by Kanu Sanyal, an Indian communist politician, originated in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal in 1967.
On May 18, 1967, Jangal Santhal, president of the Siliguri Kishan Sabha declared his support for the movement initiated by Kanu Sanyal. The members of the Sabha readily consented to adopt armed struggle for redistribution of land to the landless.
Through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Kanu Sanyal’s Naxalite ideology spread to less developed regions of rural eastern and southern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Today it has the following of displaced tribal people fighting against exploitation of their land by major Indian corporations and corrupt local officials.
During the 1970s, the original Naxal movement got fragmented into various factions due to internal conflicts among their leaders. In 1980, about 30 Naxalite groups were active in India, with a combined membership of 30,000 cadres.
Terrorists of Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, two terrorist groups involved in guerilla warfare against the governments were very much influenced by the Cuban revolutionists and the Uruguayan Tupamaros.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) of Sri Lanka
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front) (JVP), a Marxist-Leninist communist political party was led by Rohana Wijeweera (born Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera).
The JVP involved in two armed insurrections against the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) government in 1971 and against the United National Party (UNP) government in 1987-89.
After 1989, the JVP entered the mainstream of democratic politics. They became popular to a certain extent and participated in the 1994 parliamentary election.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was a separatist militant organization based in northern Sri Lanka formed in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran.
The LTTE waged a secessionist nationalist campaign to create an independent and autonomous country for the Tamil people in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Their pursuit to create a mono ethnic Tamil Eelam evolved into the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009).
The LTTE had a well-developed militia and were the first militant group to acquire air power. They carried out many high-profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. The LTTE was the only militant group to assassinate two world leaders: former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993.
The LTTE movement is currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries, including India. However, it had and still has the support amongst many Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu in India.
Velupillai Prabhakaran, the founder of the LTTE, was killed on May 18, 2009, by the Sri Lankan army.
Eventually, the LTTE militants were defeated by the Sri Lankan Military in 2009.
Though the Tupamaros movement in Uruguay, the JVP and LTTE movements in Sri Lanka were annihilated by outright military action in both countries, they all have set a standard for an intelligent violence unequaled in modern times. Though there is no doubt about the flair, bravery and genius of those insurgents, there lingers doubts about their politics. The German strategist, Von Clausewitz, much admired by Lenin, wrote:
“War is only the violent extension of politics; if the politics are wrong to start with, the war will probably go the same way.”
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. Unodegravedad, un anti-social, y un funcionario policial. Como consecuencia de una delación cayeron cuatro integrantes del grupo de “reos”.
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.
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.
During 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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. Flyof 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.
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.
The Tupamaros differed fundamentally from other revolutionary movements by introducing a methodology for social agitation through direct actions and minimizing on political rhetoric and discourse.
In early 1969, the MLN-T endeavored to reveal to the public the intrinsic nature of the capitalist system wherein human rights and even the laws of their nation were subordinate to the real economics of the country, the ruling system, and the military. To educate the public about social justice, socialism, and national liberation through direct actions they launched an operation called ‘armed propaganda‘.
The Tupamaros took over cinema houses and forced the audience to watch slide shows decrying the injustice of liberal democracy.
After identifying significant symbolic targets, they staged guerrilla raids with a minimal amount of violence. The ‘armed propaganda‘ operations would most often end without firing a single shot. To blazon their accomplishment, the group would then leave a poster that said: “The people passed through here.”
The Tupamaro guerrillas became notorious in the Uruguayan press for their high-profile female members such as Yessie Macchi, a beautiful Jane Fonda blonde dated by José Mujica. The group’s propaganda minister once told the press:
“… at no point is a woman more equal to a man than when she is holding a .45 in her hand.”
Planning a Tupamaro operation demanded a great deal of patience and time. In each instance a set of people would collect data without even knowing for what purpose it would be used later. More often than not, even the participants will not know until the end of the operation. Once the data were gathered, the group command spruced them into a coherent form. They placed high importance to security measures, and enacted their operations without a snag. The Tupamaros were not allowed to rely on their firearms since their meticulous planning allowed them to act on the spur of the moment and overcome their victims by personal conviction and with an element of surprise.
In 1970, the New York Times stated:
“Unlike other Latin-American guerrilla groups, the Tupamaros normally avoid bloodshed when possible. They try instead to create embarrassment for the Government and general disorder.”
The raid on Financiera Monty
One of the main goals of the Tupamaros was to root out corruption in the government by exposing the illegal activities of its officials.
Lucia Topolansky, currently, wife of José Mujica, orchestrated one of the most captivating actions of the Tupamaro Urban guerrillas – the raid on Financiera Monty, a private banking institution that deals in currency exchange and real estate.
To fund her way through architecture school, Lucia Topolansky, worked at the Financiera Monty. She was outraged when she discovered a clandestine black market financial operation being conducted behind the scenes. She reported the covert illegal activities first to the banking regulators. But they did not bother. Then, she approached the press. But here too, no one was eager to act on her report. In desperation, she contacted some friends in the sprouting rebel group – the Tupamaros.
To conduct a raid on an institution such as the Financiera Monty required a meticulously intelligent network. It was said the intelligence network of the Tupamaros was far more superior to that of the Uruguayan police.
The primary aim of the raid was to gather evidence to report and substantiate the illegalities committed by the establishment.
On February 14, 1969, three young men and a young woman, belonging to the “Liber Arce” commando squad of the Tupamaros strolled casually through the central door of the building of the Banco deCreditowhere Financiera Monty had their offices. They took the elevator to reach the fourth floor. There they threatened the employees, bound and gagged them. The guerrillas took six account books, various other documents, plus foreign currency (US dollars, Brazilian Cruzeiros, and British pound sterling) worth seven million Uruguayan pesos, to prove the unlawful activities of the company.
After the raid, the Tupamaros tacitly left the building with the same cool composure they had when they came in.
The news of the raid came to light only on February 23, 1960. Why? Because Financiera Monty had not complained to the authorities.
The Tupamaros sent a statement to the press, the police, and to a judge denouncing Financiera Monty and their illegal activities and shady operations.
The scandal prompted the judge to initiate immediate action to clarify the matter since the company already had in its immediate past a very dark history. A fire broke out on the eighth floor of the building of the Banco de Credito, where Financiera Monty had more offices, presumably the fire was started by them to destroy other implicating documents.
The subsequent investigation into the Monty incident resulted in a major scandal and the resignation of several government officials with ties to the Company.
The officials of Financiera Monty tried to explain their silence, claiming that they wanted to carry out their own internal investigation first to ascertain whether any of its employees was involved, and to avoid panic among their customers. The explanation did not satisfy anyone.
The raid on Casino at Hotel San Rafael
Punta del Este is a city located in the peninsular southern tip of Uruguay in the department of Maldonado. It is one of the finest beach resorts in Latin America.
Opened in 1948, the plush Tudor style Hotel San Rafael was the main hotel from 1950 to 1980 in Punta del Este. It was the symbol of the rise of Punta Del East as one of the most prestigious beach resorts in South America.
The facilities offered by the hotel and its casino attracted the patrician families of the Río de la Plata as well as political figures, celebrities in arts and entertainment, and the royalty around the world. The large meeting rooms of Hotel San Rafael, including the Gothic Hall that could accommodate up to 1500 attendees, served as the meeting place of many American presidents and dignitaries of other nations.
Tuesday, February 18, 1969, was carnival day in Punta del Este, just four days after the Tupamaros raided Financiera Monty.
The casino of Hotel San Rafael operated in two shifts: from 11 am to 4 pm, and from 9 pm to 5 am of the following day.
It was 5 pm and Manuel Sunhary, head teller of the casino had just had his lunch.
Two Tupamaros under the command of Robaina Mario Mendez, one dressed as a policeman and another displaying a civilian police ID card, confronted Sunhary.
“It is a routine procedure,” said the man in uniform.
They pushed Sunhary into a blue Volkswagen van and handcuffed him. The van then headed towards the Casino.
It was the recess after the first game session of the day. There was not much movement at the Casino except for a few janitors cleaning the place. The cashiers were busy counting the heavy collection from the morning game session.
At the Casino more Tupamaros joined them swelling the group to eight men, all armed with pistols and machine guns. The assailants entered the offices without causing an alarm.
In a few minutes they locked all the staff in the management office.
They forced Sunhary, who held the key, to open the main safe which contained the money, amounting to approximately 55 million Uruguayan pesos (US $220,000) in canvas bags.
All the Tupamaros enacted the raid without covering their face, but there was no consensus among those who saw the assailants to identify them. However, the witnesses said that the assailants appeared to be educated, cultured and young. They were not rude or vulgar. All their actions were in order and perfectly synced. Each of them had a specific role to fulfill and knew his role perfectly.
The knowledge the Tupamaros had gathered about the turf was amazing. The players knew where everything: each door, who had the key to that door, and even the names of the employees who held the keys.
Several days later, the Tupamaros came to know that a part of the haul was tips that belonged to a pool for casino employees. In a press release the Tupamaros graciously offered to return that amount belonging to the casino employees.
The Raid on Pando City
The raid on the modest city of Pando in October 1969 was timed to honor the second anniversary of Che Guevara’s death and to publicize the presence of the Tupamaros whose eventual goal was to take over Uruguay.
Pando is a small city about 14 miles (23 km) northeast of Montevideo in Canelones Department of Uruguay. It is an important commercial and industrial center, which has today become part of the wider metropolitan area of Montevideo. In 1969 it had a population around 14,000 people.
On the forenoon of October 8, 1969, José Mujica, then aged 35, along with nine other men dressed for a funeral, piled into a Volkswagen van and waited on the side of a two-lane road that led from Montevideo, to the city of Pando.
Half a dozen cars and a hearse, rented from the fanciest funeral home in the country, drove past, and the Volkswagen joined the funeral procession. Veritably, there was no funeral to attend, no corpse, and no mourners. They were Tupamaros.
About three miles from Pando city, the men-in-black after subduing the drivers of the hired cars and the hearse, stuffed them into the back of the Volkswagen.
José Mujica, clutching his Spanish-made Z-45 submachine gun, got into the backseat of one of the cars. The funeral cavalcade of the hearse, black cars and the Volkswagen van entered the city where many other Tupamaros, who had already arrived in the city, disguised as vaudevillian characters commenced acting in front of the city’s main police station.
José Mujica and his team disabled the telephone exchange without firing a single shot. They cut all telephone lines and other communication channels.
Along with the intricate planning, careful disguises, and hiding-in-plain-sight, it was the practice with the Tupamaros as an important feature, to pontificate with the intent of converting other citizens to their cause. So, on that day too, as the stunned telephone operators lay on the ground, Mujica went into a tirade about the Che Guevara–inspired Tupamaros revolution that would soon ignite in Uruguay.
The Tupamaros confronted the officers at the front desk with their petty, meaningless complaints. Then in a coordinated manner drew their guns and raided the precinct. They locked the policemen in the jail cells and traded fire and grenades with one policeman who had held out.
The small battalion Tupamaros took over the town, robbed Pando’s three banks. While robbing the city’s main bank branch a policeman opened fire, causing a delay which helped the police to surround the town. In the ensuing brazen, and chaotic shootout that spilled out into the streets a police officer, one civilian and three Tupamaros were killed and many more injured while retreating back to Montevideo. Around 25 Tupamaros were arrested by the police on that day.
The entire operation took about half an hour.
In the interim, José Mujica, who had already fled Pando and returned to Montevideo, like the rest of the country, sat at a bar listening to the action unfold on the radio.
The Raid on the Uruguayan Naval Academy
On Friday, May 29, 1970, a group of 50 Tupamaros raided the headquarters of the Uruguayan naval academy. Several of them were in navy uniforms. They overpowered the guards, assembled all the naval cadets in the courtyard, and forced them to watch while they ransacked the entire place of its firearms, equipment, and other paraphernalia. They got away with a truckload of arms, including 300 rifles, ammunition and tear gas.
On the morning of Sunday, May 31, 1970, one terrorist was killed in Chacras, 13 miles from Montevideo during a search of a house by security forces. Two other guerrillas were reported killed and several captured during a gunfight with security forces in a suburb of Montevideo as authorities pressed a hunt for the guerrillas who raided the naval academy two days before.
The first Tupamaro robbery operation was a raid on the Swiss Rifle Club in the city of Colonia del Sacramento in southwestern Uruguay on July 31, 1963. They stole 28 World War I and World War II-era guns. It was the first of the many raids conducted by the Tupamaros to enhance their stockpile of armaments.
This armed action signaled the birth of Latin America’s most famous urban guerrilla group, the Tupamaros. From then on, the Tupamaros pursued a strategy that combined political activities and guerrilla tactics. They forged the slogan “Words divide us; action unites us.“
At this time José Mujica was an active Tupamaro. Though the Tupamaros numbered less than a hundred, they pulled off some spectacular feats.
During the formative years the Tupamaros faced both success and failure.
In September 1963, some Tupamaros were involved in a normal car accident and refused medical assistance. This created suspicion and when they were interrogated, they revealed that Raúl Sendic was their leader. The authorities arrested Sendic.
In December 1963, around 20 Tupamaros attacked a food delivery truck and distributed the food among the poor living in the slums of Montevideo. This earned them a Robin Hood-like following among the poor in Uruguay. The international media immediately labelled them “Robin Hood guerrillas.”
In raids conducted in January and April 1964, they stole more weapons and explosives from a customs warehouse and a munitions manufacturing plant.
In March 1965, three Tupamaros were arrested after they made a mess of an attempted robbery.
On August 8, 1965, the Tupamaros attacked and bombed of the Bayer chemical plant in Montevideo. And, for the first time the Tupamaros claimed responsibility for an attack.
In December 1966, two Tupamaros were killed and several more arrested after a failed attempt to steal a car.
They broadcast their propaganda by hijacking radio stations during major football games.
The urban guerillas faced the problem of operating in a purely urban environment such as the capital city of Montevideo and the invariably flat rural areas of Uruguay in contrast to the terrain that provided refuge for revolutionaries in other countries like the Sierra Maestra mountain range of Cuban revolutionaries, and the Ya’nan mountainous region of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung).
At the beginning, Tupamaros abstained from armed actions and violence. They claimed that they were not a guerrilla group, but a political movement. But later on, use of violence became a part of their ideology. They considered the use of violence as legitimate and desirable to achieve their goals.
At the beginning, Tupamaros abstained from armed actions and violence. They claimed that they were not a guerrilla group, but a political movement. The leaders of the Tupamaros said that to achieve improved social justice in Uruguay, violence and bloodshed would be used only as a final recourse. Nevertheless, later on, they resorted to kidnappings and their methods became increasingly murderous like any other insurgent movement. Use of violence became a part of their ideology. They considered the use of violence as legitimate and desirable to achieve their goals. 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.
The Tupamaros used violence intentionally with the knowledge and expectation that the government would retaliate 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.
Robert Moss, the Australian historian writes that a key element of the Tupamaros’ strategy was “to drive the government towards the use of ‘counterterrorism‘ in the hope that this would arouse liberal critics at home and abroad and weaken [the government].”
The Tupamaros started robbing banks and other businesses to finance their movement. They also raided investment banks and publicized their fraudulent bookkeeping methods. They even took up judicial proceedings against the owners of these investment banks.
In 1967, with their successful robberies and Robin Hood-type activities the Tupamaros gained popularity among the subjugated masses.
On March 18, 2009 in “La columna de Pepe Preguntón” in the Uruguayan newspaper El País quoted José Mujica justifying the robberies:
“Yo expropié recursos para la lucha en la que soñaba con cambiar la realidad, ¿tá? Robar es cuando usted se la guarda (la plata) para usted y se la gasta usted.“
Translation: “I appropriated resources for the fight in which I dreamed of altering reality. Stealing is when you keep the money to spend yourself.”
The column also listed, in the words of Mujica, some of the “appropriation” perpetrated by the Tupamaros:
Amount in US$
Banco de Londres
From 2 assaults
From assaulting a firm
Casino San Rafael
Bancariade Fray Bentos
The combined total robbed from two banks
And the list goes on.
On April 24, 2009, in his article NOTICIAS CULTURALES CUANDO EL PEPE MUJICA ERA JOSÉ ANTONIO MORELLI (News and Views of the Colarado Party When Pepe Mujica Was José Antonia Morelli), published in Colonia Total, R. Villasuso admonished José Mujica saying:
“Debería saber el señor Mujica, que el que mata es ASESINO, el que secuestra es SECUESTRADOR, el que roba es un LADRÓN, y el que miente, MENTIROSO.”
Translation: Mr. Mujica should know that one who kills is a MURDERER, one who kidnaps is a KIDNAPPER, one who steals is a THIEF, and one who lies is a LIAR.
In June 1968, President Jorge Pacheco, aiming to suppress labour unrest, imposed a state of emergency and repealed all constitutional safeguards. The government started repressing various groups, particularly the Tupamaros. The government locked up political dissidents, used torture during interrogations and banned public demonstrations.
The Tupamaros retaliated by more robberies, political kidnappings and assassinations.
Luis Alberto de Herrera, a Uruguayan national leader of great importance during the first half of the 20th century, led the National Party for five decades. His political movement is known as Herrerismo. He strived to become the president many times, but was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, In 1958, he achieved a historic electoral triumph for his National Party. He died the following year. Ironically, from March 1959 to February 1967, eight National Party governments ruled Uruguay.
After the death of Herrera in 1959, divisions in the National Party demonstrated the fragility of the electoral accords that had led to its victory.
The social unrest and economic crisis that had beset Uruguay from the mid 1950s continued through the 1960s. At the time of the 1962 elections, inflation peaked to a historically high 35 percent. The Colorado Party was defeated once again, although by a much smaller margin of votes. The National Party split.
At this time, a new political protagonist came onto the political scene in the form of Raúl Antonaccio Sendic, head of the sugarcane workers from the north of the country, formed, together with other leftist leaders, the National Liberation Movement-Tupamaros (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros–MLN-T), a clandestine urban guerrilla movement.
Raúl Sendic Antonaccio (March 16, 1926 – April 28, 1989), a prominent Uruguayan Marxist lawyer and unionist, with his brand of social politics, nicknamed “El Bebe” (“Baby”) for his childish face and soft voice.
Sendic was born in a peasant family near the village of Juan Jose Castro, in the Flores Department of Uruguay. He worked with his father on a crab apple farm until he finished high school. He then left his rural home and went to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay to study law. In 1952, after finishing five one-and-a-half of the six years required for a law degree, he obtained the title of attorney.
In Montevideo, Sendic became a prominent member of the Socialist Party of Uruguay after joining its youth wing. He was taciturn and dressed slovenly
Throughout the 1950s, Sendic observed how employers mistreated agricultural workers in regions where there was basically no cognizance of democracy. He intensified his social activities and got appointed as the trade union attorney of rural workers. In the late 1950s, Sendic started a campaign for creating social awareness about the sugar cane workers and their predicament.
On May 1, 1961, four hundred workers marched to Montevideo demanding redistribution of land, eight-hour working days for workers on the sugar plantations, and minimum wages, shouting slogans: “Por la tierra y con Sendic” (“For the land and with Sendic”). The march, however, was violently dispersed by troops from the Republican guards.
From this incident Sendic concluded that to meet his socialist goals would need a clandestine urban guerilla movement operating in Montevideo and not in the countryside.
At a meeting on September 21, 1961, in Bella Union, he founded the union for sugar cane workers “Unión de Trabajadores Azucareros de Artigas” (UTAA). He also helped form the union for sugar beet workers (SUDA) and the project for an all-inclusive association of rural workers – SUDOR.
Uruguay is dominated by its capital city, Montevideo. In 1964, 87.2 percent of the population lived in towns, the majority in the capital itself.
In the early 1960s, Uruguay was a quiet little bourgeois democracy, with a small and manageable population and a developed labour movement. It was known as ‘the Switzerland of Latin America’. The country had a stable two-party political system. However, in the mid 1960s, Uruguay was affected by economic crisis. Inflation reached an annual rate of at least 50 percent. Uruguay’s vast middle class was also disappointed with the country’s corrupt politics and stuttering economy.
The members of Sendic’s trade unions united with the Movimiento de Apoyo al Campesino (Peasant Support Movement) to form the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros (MLN-T).
The MLN-T did not have a single leader. The leadership body was in the form of a tetrarchy. Raúl Sendic was the primus inter pares (first among equals).
In a way, the Cuban Revolution (1953–1959) inspired the formation of the Tupamaro movement in Uruguay. The movement was named after the romantic revolutionary José Gabriel Túpac Amaru or José Gabriel Condorcanqui Noguera, later known as Túpac Amaru II, the last king of the Incas. In 1780, Túpac Amaru led a major indigenous revolt against the Viceroyalty of Peru.
The original Tupas were gauchos, cowboys who fought to help win Uruguay its freedom from Spain. They were glorious and romantic figures from the national past, and derived their name from an even more romantic figure, Tupac Amaru, last king of the Incas.
In his younger days, José Mujica was a member of the Tupamaros.
The ideology of the Tupamaros incorporated aspects of both nationalism and socialism, even though it was basically Marxist in origin. The Tupamaros realized that the foreign influence of countries such as the United States, Britain, Argentina, and Brazil was hindering the development in Uruguay. They also sought to end the economic oppression by the indigenous oligarchy that owned and controlled nearly all Uruguay’s land and businesses in a conventional Marxist method of restoring the means of production to the people of Uruguay.
While these were the lofty goal of the Tupamaros, they had their short-term goals, namely to set up a parallel, shadow government with its own courts, a “People’s Prison,” tax collection, and channels for distribution of stolen money and food. The intent behind this “power duality” was to challenge directly the legitimacy of the government administration by providing the benefits of citizenship by means besides that of the state.
The Tupamaros was organized at the most basic level into cells. Each cell had four or five members. However, cell members did not know the names of others in their own cell. Each member was given a pseudonym.
The cells were divided into either commando units or service cells.
The commando units, staffed by the most experiencedTupamaros engaged in military actions.
The service cells
obtained places for meetings,
purchased food and clothing,
provided medical treatment,
obtained and maintained arms and ammunitions,
repaired vehicles, and
solved transport and communication problems.
These cells were then combined into columns that operated in a given geographic area. There were several columns in Montevideo alone.
The cells or columns received their orders from the Executive Committee that directed the entire organization and created and disbanded cells.
The Tupamaros had a National Convention that consisted of representatives from every cell and column. Though the National Convention was to meet every eighteen months, it met only twice – in January 1966 and March 1968.
The membership of the Tupamaros was diverse in terms of occupation, gender and age.
There were an equal number of students, middle class professionals, and laborers with their mean age about twenty-six years. Around 70% of the Tupamaros were male, and 30% female.
José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano was born on May 20, 1935 on the outskirts of Montevideo. His father Demetrio Mujica, was a small farmer of Spanish Basque ancestry. His mother, Lucy Cordano, was the daughter of poor Italian immigrants from Liguria. In 1940, when José was five years-old, his father went bankrupt.
As a boy, he helped his mother sell chrysanthemums in their neighborhood. It was their main source of income enduring a life of “dignified poverty”.
Poverty led him towards political activism. After dropping out of a prestigious high school, he associated himself with petty criminals in the slums of Montevideo. Then, he met Enrique Erro, a socialist who led a youth branch of a left-wing political party. Erro offered Mujica a leadership role in his party.
With financing from the party, Mujica, traveled to the communist countries. He visited Moscow, Beijing, and Havana. In 1959, he met Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Havana, just months after they took over the country. On returning home to Montevideo, Mujica deserted Erro’s party and turned into a gun-toting Tupamaro guerrilla with a revolutionary dream about ushering in an upheaval in Uruguay comparable to the Cuban Revolution.
Guerrilla war is a form of unconventional warfare in which members of an irregular military organization or a small group of armed civilians who rebel against the constituted government and carry out harassment and sabotage.
The Guerrillas use military tactics and mobility in concert with an overall political-military strategy to combat on a small-scale, a larger and less-mobile conventional military and police forces. The Guerrillas involve in petty hit-and-run tactics with constantly shifting attacks, ambushes, traps, sabotage, and terrorism.
The word “guerrilla” is derived from the Spanish “guerra” meaning war. It was first used to describe Spanish-Portuguese irregulars who helped drive Napoleon’s French army from the Iberian Peninsula in the early 19th century. In correct Spanish usage, a male member of a guerrilla is a guerrillero, and if female a guerrillera.
The term “guerrilla” was used in English in 1809 to describe combatants. Since then, in most languages guerrilla denotes the specific style of warfare – any war fought by irregular (if not civilian) troops using hit and run tactics fighting their own or an invading government.
The strategy of the guerrilla is to wear down their enemy (the government), until the enemy can be defeated in conventional battle or subject the enemy (the government) to so much military and political pressure that it sues for peace.
Irregular wars existed long before the Peninsular war and several such wars can be seen in the campaigns of Alexander the Great and the Romans. The end of the Second World War brought an upsurge in Guerrilla Warfare.
After World War II, the Colonial powers weakened and many saw their opportunity to acquire power. Some were successful, as with the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, while others, such as the communist guerrillas in Malaya met stiffer opposition from the British army in what was to become known as the “War of the Running Dogs.”
Even today, Guerrilla Warfare continues in many countries. The term “guerrilla” is gradually being replaced by the word “insurgent”, and its combating is termed COIN (Counterinsurgency).
The 5th century BC Chinese general Sun Tzu (544 BC – 496 BC), a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician, was one of the first to write the theories of guerrilla warfare in his military treatise “The Art of War“.
The Art of War is often cited as having profoundly influenced Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) to respond with guerrilla tactics in the mountains in 1928. Mao said:
“We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China, ‘Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a thousand battles without disaster.‘”
Mao has shown that a Guerrilla army could succeed in taking control of a country against the regular opposition. Other Communist revolutions, copied and extended his theories.
Guerilla warfare of Che Guevara inspired other Guerrilla outfits including the Tupamaros in Uruguay, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil insurgent outfits such as the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the various Naxalite groups in India that are mostly associated with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Kashmiri ultras funded by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, and many other worldwide terror outfits.
The Urban Guerrilla Warfare
The use of guerrilla warfare in the city is not new. It is not a weapon used solely by the left. In Cyprus, General Grivas used this a form of guerrilla warfare to realize his dream of uniting a fascist Cyprus with a fascist Greece.
Since around 1968, urban guerrilla warfare has been used in Latin America, in Ireland, in Vietnam, in Northeast India, in Sri Lanka, etc., and emerged as a dominant form of armed struggle.
A decisive factor was the emergence of the Uruguayan Tupamaros, the subject of this series of articles. Though the Tupamaros movement was squashed by outright military action, it set a standard for an intelligent violence unequaled in modern times except by the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Though there is no doubt about the flair, bravery and genius of the Tupamaros, there lingers doubts about their politics. The German strategist, Von Clausewitz, much admired by Lenin, wrote:
“War is only the violent extension of politics; if the politics are wrong to start with, the war will probably go the same way.“
Some scholars have contended that the Tupamaros should not be labeled as terrorists; instead they should be characterized as urban guerillas or merely organized criminals acting on behalf of the poor of Uruguay.
Writing in 1969, Marysa Gerassi claims, “The Tupamaros have achieved the first stages of their strategy without terrorism.” She says that the Tupamaros fought with the police only when they were forced to, and that they warned civilians before exploding their bombs.
Micahel Freeman in his book “The Consequences for Democracies Using Emergency Powers to Fight Terror”, wrote:
“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. Importantly, recall that I do not define terrorism as violence directed only against civilian targets. Terrorists make no distinctions between the military and civilians; attacks on off-duty military personnel can terrorize as much as attacks on civilian targets. For example, the Tupamaros assassinated Emet Motto, a frigate captain, and Colonel Artigas Alvarez. the brother of the commander of the joint polite-army forces. These assassinations created a climate of terror in the security forces and may have led to their desire for a fast and vigorous response to fight terrorism.
This climate of fear was also prevalent in the civilian population. Alphonse Max, a Bulgarian writer of Flemish-German descent and General in Montevideo, wrote that, while in the early years, the Tupamaros
“managed to retain an image of well-mannered, considerate, polite. friendly, humane and educated young men and women.., with the robbery at the Casino in Punta del Este … and the shooting of policemen and innocent bystanders in ever-increasing numbers, the true picture emerged. The public saw the terrorists as cold-blooded, ruthless criminals, determined to achieve their objectives, however vague and contradictory by means of violence and terror and with utter disregard for the innocent lives they might take.”
The Tupamaros bombed military, police, business, and government buildings, kidnapped a variety of people, shot many policemen, and even searched policemen’s homes, taking their weapons and humiliating the officers in front of their families.
All of these actions made the Tupamaros terrorists. After 1968, the Tupamaros was much more aggressive in their attacks on the Uruguayan state, particularly President Pacheco’s government.
The Uruguyan Economist Arturo C. Porzecanski wrote:
“[after 1968] the Tupamaros began applying the full range of guerrilla tactics in accordance with their strategic scheme. Robberies of money and arms became a monthly and then a weekly event; political kidnapping was launched and repeatedly applied; propaganda actions were initiated and continued until, by the end of 1969, the existence of the urban guerrilla organization could escape no one and ‘Tupamaro’ became a household word.”
The Tupamaros became the role model for urban guerrillas in Europe and in Asia.
Do you know that José Mujica, the current president of Uruguay used to rob banks when he was young?
José Mujica was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a Senator afterwards. As the candidate of the Broad Front, Mujica won the 2009 presidential election and took office as president of Uruguay on March 1, 2010. Hailed as “the world’s ‘poorest’ president”, due to his austere lifestyle, José Mujica donates around 90 percent of his $12,000 (£7,500) monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs.
In early 19th century, the British, Spanish, Portuguese and other colonial forces fought for dominance in the Platine region. In 1806 and 1807, as part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the British army attempted to seize Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
In April 1806, Admiral Hope Popham, without the express permission of the British government, launched an excursion with General William Beresford leading around 1,500 soldiers. The modest British troops landed near Quilmes on June 17, 1806. With Spanish forces tied up in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the resistance was limited to untrained and poorly organized militia.
After overcoming limited resistance by untrained and poorly organized militia, the British troop advanced towards Buenos Aires. The Spanish viceroy Marquis Rafael de Sobremonte fled from Buones Aires to Córdoba with the city’s treasure, an act designed to protect the crown’s finances. But many in the town viewed his act as a betrayal and cowardice.
Ten days after disembarking, Beresford captured Buenos Aires on June 17, 1806, and hoisted the British flag above the fort on Plaza de Mayo. Then, he sent news of the British triumph to London which reached there ten weeks later. The Times on September 13, 1806, declared in a triumphant article: “Buenos Aires at this moment forms part of the British Empire.”
General Beresford, proclaimed governor of the newly conquered territories, announced that he would allow the city to function as before. He offered full British protection to people “of all class” that swear loyalty to “His Majesty’s Government”. Some of the city elite, 58 in number, responded to Beresford’s call to sign allegiance to King George III. Some of them even hoped that the British would support the liberation of the region from Spain. However, Beresford, unsure exactly how to deal with the current situation decided to wait for reinforcements and instructions from London.
During this lull period the city’s 50,000 inhabitants realized the inconsequential size of the British force that invaded them. Driven by shame a counterattacking force of influential Spanish figures conspired to recruit and arm volunteer fighters.
An Argentine tradesman, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, did not believe that the British would help them become independent of Spain. He went to Montevideo and got an interview with governor Pascual Ruiz Huidobro. Huidobro authorized him to organize a resistance. Pueyrredón returned to Buenos Aires and secretly assembled a militia composed of a ludicrous mix of Spanish soldiers, native Criollos, indigenous villagers, and black slaves at the Perdriel ranch outside the city.
At the end on July 1806, the British uncovered the plot. On August 1, 1806, General Beresford sent troops to attack Pueyrredón at his camp 20 km northwest of the city centre and easily dispersed the militia. Pueyrredón escaped to Colonia del Sacramento and joined Santiago de Liniers, a French emigrant serving as a naval officer for the Spanish. Liniers recruited fighters from Montevideo.
A few days later, Pueyrredón’S ragtag militia joined the forces arriving from Colonia led by Santiago de Liniers.
On August 10, 1806, with an ever growing militia force Liniers sent a message to General Beresford, giving him 15 minutes to surrender or face “total destruction”.
“The high estimation of Your Excellency’s honour, the generosity of Spain, and the horror that the destruction of man inspires in humanity drives me to send Your Excellency this warning so that, given the danger you find yourself in, you advise me within precisely 15 minutes whether you are prepared to lead your troops to total destruction or surrender to a powerful enemy.”
General Beresford responded that he would defend himself “until prudent, to avoid whatever calamity may befall the people.”
Two days later, after being overwhelmed in ferocious street fighting, and having retreated back to the fort, Beresford raised a white flag.
William Gavin, a British soldier wrote about the British capitulation in his diary of the invasion, which is one of the few first-hand accounts that exist in English:
“Our position was commanded by the enemy, who occupied the tops of the houses and the great church… we were picked off at pleasure. After a conference between the General and an Aide-de-Camp of Liniers, we surrendered to the greatest set of ragamuffins ever collected together.”
After the reconquest of Buenos Aires Viceroy Sobremonte was stripped of his title, the city’s treasure that he took away was confiscated, and he was barred from entering the city.
Santiago de Liniers was hailed as a hero and was appointed as military general. Liniers, to repel future attacks, immediately set about forming a more organised and professional military force.
In late 1806, as part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the British army invaded the Río de la Plata Estuary to avenge Spain’s recapture of Buenos Aires from them. The 10,000-member British force captured and occupied Montevideo for a brief period from February to July 1807, when it left and moved against Buenos Aires, where it was soundly defeated.
In 1807, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, was sent as a representative of Buenos Aires to Spain. He returned in 1809 to Buenos Aires, to participate in the Independentist movement. The May Revolution of 1810 gave birth to the first local government junta and he was appointed governor of Córdoba. In 1812, he became the leader of the independent forces and a member of the short-lived First Triumvirate. From 1812 to 1815, he was exiled in San Luis.
In 1808, Spanish prestige weakened when Napoleon invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph on the throne. The Cabildo of Montevideo, that remained nominally loyal to Ferdinand VII as the king of Spain, created an autonomous junta.
Montevideo’s military commander, Javier Elío, eventually persuaded the Spanish central junta to accept his control at Montevideo as independent of Buenos Aires.
In 1810 criollos (those born in America of Spanish parents) from Buenos Aires took the reins of government in that city and unseated the Spanish viceroy.
Independence struggle (1811–30)
Banda Oriental, or more fully Banda Oriental del Uruguay, was the name of the South American territories east of the Uruguay River and north of Río de la Plata, coinciding approximately with the modern nation of Uruguay, the modern Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul and some parts of Santa Catarina. It was the easternmost strip of land of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.
The population of the Banda Oriental was politically divided. The countryside favored recognizing Elío’s junta in Buenos Aires; the authorities in Montevideo wanted to retain a nominal allegiance to the Spanish king.
In 1811, José Gervasio Artigas, now a national hero of Uruguay, launched a successful revolution against the Spanish authorities and defeated them on May 18 at the Battle of Las Piedras.
In 1813, the new government in Buenos Aires convened a constituent assembly where Artigas emerged as a champion of federalism, demanding political and economic autonomy for each area, and for the Banda Oriental in particular. The assembly refused to seat the delegates from the Banda Oriental however, and Buenos Aires pursued a system based on unitary centralism. As a result, Artigas broke with Buenos Aires and besieged Montevideo, taking the city in early 1815.
When the troops from Buenos Aires withdrew, the Banda Oriental appointed its first autonomous government.
Artigas organized the Federal League under his protection, consisting of six provinces, four of which later became part of Argentina.
In 1816 a force of 10,000 Portuguese troops invaded the Banda Oriental from Brazil and took Montevideo in January 1817.
After nearly four more years of struggle Portuguese Brazil annexed the Banda Oriental as a province under the name of “Cisplatina“. Argentina claimed Montevideo first, but Brazil annexed it in 1821.
The Brazilian Empire became independent from Portugal in 1822. In response to the annexation, the Thirty-Three Orientals, led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, declared independence on 25 August 1825 supported by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (present-day Argentina). This led to the 500-day-long Cisplatine War. Neither side gained the upper hand.
In 1828 the Treaty of Montevideo, fostered by the United Kingdom, gave birth to Uruguay as an independent state. The nation’s first constitution was adopted on July 18, 1830.