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Early life and education
Born in a rural area, near the village of Juan Jose Castro, in the Flores Department, Sendic worked with his father as a peasant on a crab apple farm until he finished high school and left his home to study in Montevideo.
In 1952, he obtained the title of attorney before completing his law degree (he did 5-and-a-half of the 6 years required for a law degree).
During his time in Montevideo, he joined the socialist youth movement of the Socialist Party of Uruguay, becoming a prominent member. His social activity became intensified during the 50s, as he became trade union attorney of rural workers and, later, union founder. UTAA (sugar cane workers), SUDA (sugar beet workers) and the project for an all-inclusive association of rural workers, SUDOR, were born as a result of his actions. Sendic both saw and experienced the abuse by agricultural employers in areas where there seemed to be no awareness of democracy.
In the late 50s Sendic started a campaign for creating social awareness of the cane workers situation, in Montevideo (cane plantations are still now located in Artigas, on the frontier with Brazil, 600 km from the capital city). Four hundred workers marched to Montevideo with the motto: "Por la tierra y con Sendic" (For the land and with Sendic). The marchers were repeatedly repressed.
Founding of Tupamaros
Hence, Sendic began to think that the only option for the country was an armed struggle that should complement the workers' requests. 1963 was perhaps a decisive year, when the Tupamaros robbed an arms shop in Colonia to found a guerrilla movement.
However, the MLN-T began to be recognised because of its activities only in 1967, when government repression, during the presidency of Jorge Pacheco Areco, caused the mobilization and response of a variety of groups, principally the Tupamaros.
MLN-T began by staging the robbing of banks, gun clubs and other businesses in the early 1960s, then distributing stolen food and money among the poor in Montevideo. By the late 1960s, it was engaged in political kidnappings, "armed propaganda" and assassinations. Of particular note are the kidnapping of powerful bank manager Pereyra Rebervel and of the United Kingdom ambassador to Uruguay, Geoffrey Jackson, as well as the kidnapping and execution of Dan Mitrione, the FBI agent alleged to have taught techniques of torture to police forces in various Latin American countries.
The peak of the Tupamaros was in 1970 and 1971. During this period they made liberal use of their Cárcel del Pueblo (or "People's Prison") where they held those that they kidnapped. In 1971 over 100 imprisoned Tupamaros escaped the Punta Carretas prison. Nonetheless, the movement was hampered by a series of events including serious strategic gaffes and the betrayal of high-ranking Tupamaro Héctor Amodio Pérez, and the army's counteroffensive, which included the Escuadrón de la Muerte ("Death Squad"), police officers who were granted liberal repressive powers to deal with Tupamaros.
Sendic was arrested in Uruguay on August 7, 1970, and remained in prison until his escape September 6, 1971. Sendic remained in Uruguay as a fugitive until his eventual capture one year later.
The Uruguayan military unleashed a bloody campaign of mass arrests and selective disappearances, dispersing those guerrillas who were not killed or arrested. The torture tactics were incredibly effective, and by 1972, the MLN-T had been severely weakened. Its principal leaders were imprisoned under terrible conditions for the next 12 years.
Despite the diminished threat, the civilian government of Juan María Bordaberry ceded governmental authority to the military in 1973 in a bloodless coup d'état that led to further repression against the population and the suppression of all political parties.
Raúl Sendic and 8 of the MLN-T leaders were confined to different improvised prisons in aberrant and humiliating conditions for 12 years. They suffered continuous physical and psychological torture.
After the military dictatorship fell in 1985, Sendic was released from prison. The Tupamaros returned to public life as part of a political party, the Movement of Popular Participation. Today, the party comprises the largest single group within the ruling left-wing Frente Amplio coalition.
United Nations complaint
In November 1979, Sendic's wife, Violeta Setelich, submitted a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on his behalf, alleging breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty to which Uruguay is a party. In October 1981, the Committee found that Uruguay violated articles 7, 9, 10 and 14 of the ICCPR in respect of Sendic during his trial and imprisonment.
Death and legacy