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Viewing cable 09MONTEVIDEO298, DICTATORSHIP ERA ABUSES CONTINUE TO RESONATE IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MONTEVIDEO298 2009-06-01 17:05 2010-12-14 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Montevideo
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMN #0298/01 1521708
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 011708Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9041
C O N F I D E N T I A L MONTEVIDEO 000298

SIPDIS

WHA/BSC FOR MDASCHBACH

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/27/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM UY
SUBJECT: DICTATORSHIP ERA ABUSES CONTINUE TO RESONATE IN
THIS YEAR'S ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN

REF: MONTEVIDEO 128

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES ROBIN MATTHEWMAN
FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Although Uruguay emerged from dictatorship
rule 23 years ago, the legacy of that period and the fate of
the disappeared continue to resonate in the political
spectrum. A citizens' group in late April presented
signatures to place a referendum on the October ballot to
annul Uruguay's 1986 amnesty law, which ostensibly shields
members of the military and others from prosecution for
crimes committed during the military regimes of 1973-85.
Simultaneously, the executive branch presented a draft law to
the parliament on May 4, 2009 to approve reparations for
victims of the dictatorship. With the presidential campaign
in full swing, politicians are leaning more heavily toward
recognition of victims' rights than they have in many years.
End Summary.

Referendum on the Amnesty Law
-----------------------------

2. (U) A citizens' group in late April presented more than
340,000 signatures to the Electoral Court to place the
constitutionality of the amnesty law on the ballot this
October. The signatures vastly exceed the 250,000 needed to
ensure the referendum makes it on the ballot. Each signature
must be validated and many will be rejected, though few doubt
that the measure will make it to the ballot.

3. (U) The law is already being challenged through other
channels, the executive and legislative branches having
declared it unconstitutional in February (reftel).
Nevertheless, the annulment proposal continues to pick up
political support during the election campaign. Several
leading politicians, including President Vazquez and Frente
Amplio candidates Jose Mujica and Danilo Astori, have
switched to supporting the referendum. More surprisingly,
the leading Colorado Party presidential candidate, Pedro
Bordaberry, has also been active in garnering support to
annul the amnesty law. Note: Bordaberry is the son of former
president Juan Maria Bordaberry who began the dictatorship in
Uruguay. End Note. Political opposition to the annulment of
the law now comes primarily from the National Party who
argues in favor of preserving the law to avoid focusing on
the past.

Victim Reparations
------------------

4. (SBU) On May 4, the executive branch introduced a draft
reparations law to the congress, which would compensate
relatives of the victims of state terrorism. The law covers
individuals who were killed or disappeared, and children who
were detained for more than 30 days or who were born and died
in prison. It would not include economic reparations for
former prisoners or exiles from the dictatorship period.
Opposition to the law comes from non-governmental
organizations supporting the rights of the victims who argue
that the law would not compensate all the victims of the
dictatorship. However, President Vazquez has defended the
amount and extent of reparations, saying that the 40,000 US
dollars per victim is as much the government can afford to
pay. On May 26, the law passed the senate committee on labor
and social security. As the legislation moves forward, the
senate commission has asked former prisoners for their
suggestions, and it is expected that human rights
organizations will also continue to weigh in.

Remembrance
-----------

5. (SBU) There has also been strong support for the
remembrance of the victims by citizens' groups. May 20 is
the anniversary of the discovery of the bodies of several
Uruguayan political opposition leaders during the
dictatorship. This date has been commemorated since the end
of the dictatorship, but organizers reported that
participation in these events was significantly larger than
in previous years and included a large number of young
people. Thousands of individuals, including Frente Amplio
presidential candidates Jose Mujica and Marcos Carambula,
participated in a silent march to remember the detained and
disappeared during the dictatorship and to demand justice for
those responsible. At the end of the demonstration,
organizers read a poem on the disappeared by Mario
Bennedetti, the prolific Uruguayan writer who had just passed
away that week. Organized yearly by the family members of
the detained and disappeared (Las Madres y Familiares de
Detenidos y Desapecidos), organizers hope this year's march

raised support for the referendum. In another event, the
Fundacion Wilson Ferreira Aldunate and the National Party
organized a memorial for Zelmar Michelini, a Frente Amplio
legislator, and Hector Gutierrez, a National Party
legislator, who were assassinated along with two Tupamaro
guerrilla leaders in Buenos Aires in 1976.

6. (C) Comment: The issue of addressing abuses continues to
be a polarizing debate for Uruguayans and politicians,
arousing emotions and sentiments ahead of the October
elections. To some extent, the referendum is a symbolic
move, albeit a deeply emotional one, since prosecutions of
officials accused of human rights abuses in the 1970s and
early 1980s are proceeding. While discussion continues over
the issue, it is posed to awaken emotions among the Uruguayan
population and party bases, and will likely resonate among
some undecided and swing voters during the electoral season.
It is notable that the Colorado party's traditional
opposition to the annulment of the amnesty law is being
questioned by Bordaberry. Meanwhile, the National Party is
struggling not to appear heartless while opposing a measure
that is more political than productive. At the same time,
stalwart conservatives point out that little has been done to
prosecute the Tupamaros' crimes and abuses. End comment.

Matthewman