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Tupamaros, also known as the MLN-T (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros or Tupamaros National Liberation Movement), was an urban guerrilla organization in Uruguay in the 1960s and '70s. The MLN-T is inextricably linked to its most important leader, Raúl Sendic, and his brand of social politics. José Mujica, current president of Uruguay, was also a member.
The Tupamaro movement was named after the revolutionary Túpac Amaru II, who in 1780 led a major indigenous revolt against the Viceroyalty of Peru. Its origins lie in the union between the Movimiento de Apoyo al Campesino (Peasant Support Movement) and the members of trade unions funded by Sendic in poverty-stricken rural zones.
The movement 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. It took as slogan "Words divide us; action unites us."
At the beginning, it abstained from armed actions and violence; they have always made clear about not being a guerrilla group but a political movement; the eventual use of violent means would be made according to strategy and possibilities. In June 1968, President Jorge Pacheco, trying to suppress labour unrest, enforced a state of emergency and repealed all constitutional safeguards. The government imprisoned political dissidents, used torture during interrogations and brutally repressed demonstrations. The Tupamaro movement engaged then in political kidnappings, "armed propaganda" and assassinations. Of particular note are the kidnapping of powerful bank manager Pereyra Rebervel and of the British ambassador to Uruguay, Geoffrey Jackson, as well as the assassination of Dan Mitrione, the Federal Bureau of Investigation agent documented to have taught techniques of torture to police forces in various Latin American countries. A very close friend to President Jorge Pacheco, the banker Pereyra Rebervel was highly unpopular, having "once killed a newsboy for selling a paper attacking him." He was released four days later, unharmed but a bit fatter. According to Langguth, the "poor in Montevideo were quoted as joking, 'Attention, Tupamaros! Kidnap me!'".
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 and interrogated them, before making the results of these interviews public. In 1971 over 100 imprisoned Tupamaros escaped the Punta Carretas prison.
Nonetheless, the movement was hampered by a series of events including important 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 repressive powers to deal with Tupamaros.
Along with police forces trained by the US Office of Public Safety (OPS), the Uruguayan military unleashed a bloody campaign of mass arrests and selected disappearances, dispersing those guerrillas who were not killed or arrested. Their usage of torture was particularly 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 government authority to the military in July, 1973 in a bloodless coup that led to further repression against the population and the suppression of all parties. The following month, the Tupamaros formed the Revolutionary Coordinating Junta with other leftwing groups pursuing urban guerrilla warfare in the Southern Cone. The following year, various South American regimes responded with the collaborative, international counterinsurgency campaign known as Operation Condor.
List of attacks
|This section requires expansion. (June 2008)|
- 31 July 1970 - Unsuccessful kidnap attempt on U.S. Foreign Service officer Michael Gordon Jones.
- 31 July 1970 - Kidnapping of USAID public safety advisor, FBI agent, and CIA advisor, former Indiana police officer Dan Mitrione, executed on 10 August 1970.
- 31 July 1970 - Kidnapping of the Brazilian consul Aloysio Mares Dias Gomides, released on 21 February 1971 for ransom ($250,000).
- 7 August 1970 - Kidnapping of U.S. agronomist Dr. Claude Fly, released on 21 March 1971.
- 29 September 1970 - Bombing of the Carrasco Bowling, gravely injuring the elderly caretaker Hilaria Ibarra (rescued from the rubble by Gustavo Zerbino who would later be a survivor in the Andes disaster).
- 8 January 1971 - Kidnapping of the British ambassador Geoffrey Jackson, released after eight months for ransom (₤42,000).
- 21 December 1971 - Killing of rural laborer Pascasio Báez by sodium pentothal injection
- 18 April 1972 - Four soldiers killed by machine gun fire while watching over the house of the commander-in-chief of the Army, General Florencio Gravina.
- Raúl Sendic
- Jorge Zabalza
- José Mujica
- Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro
- Julio Marenales
- Mauricio Rosencof
- Adolfo Wasem
- Henry Engler
- Jorge Manera
- Benjamín Nahum's El Fin Del Uruguay Liberal (Ediciones de la Banda Oriental, 1991) Volume 8 in Historia Uruguaya series
- "Las dos muertes de Hilaria".
- Heinz, Wolfgang & Frühling, Hugo: Determinants of gross human rights violations by state and state-sponsored actors in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, 1960-1990. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1999, page 255. ISBN 90-411-1202-2
- Tupamaros (Official Site)
- Tupamaros (Official Site)
- Broad Front Coalition (Official Site)
- List of attacks (in Spanish)
- Attacks attributed to the Tupamaros on the START database