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Tragedy in Uruguay

Jose Yglesias, translated by Lee Lockwood

To the Editors:

Your readers may be interested in the following declaration by the University of the Republic of Uruguay following the death of Dan Mitrione, the American adviser who was kidnapped by the Tupamaros in August.

José Yglesias

Montevideo

DECLARATION BY THE CENTRAL GOVERNING COUNCIL

Faced with the events that are stirring the country, the University of the Republic recognizes its specific duty to contribute actively to that calm and exhaustive reflection that is required for each event to be understood as a part of the historical and social crisis which we are now undergoing.

Our attitude is in contrast to that of a [certain] propaganda machine, whose sole purpose is to play on the sentimental heartstrings of our people, and which is run with an intent quite at odds with the search for an authentic clarification of the facts and their causes. It would be easy indeed for the University of the Republic simply to issue a declaration of dismay over the loss of human lives. Instead we present here an analysis which is a conclusive confirmation of the facts that this university has been denouncing in a series of declarations during the last few years.

Violence does not erupt capriciously. Rather, it is the most painful expression of an economic and social crisis which no amount of propaganda can cover up, no matter how perfectly organized and carried out.

It is deceitful and hypocritical to cite as the explanation of the violence the inability of our citizenry to subordinate itself to a state of legality which those who are now invoking it were the first to undermine.

Historically, repressive violence has always engendered a resistance to the repression which is itself inevitably, and tragically, violent. The Uruguay of today, which we have described as being in a state of social and economic crisis, finds herself, in order to maintain her structure, submitting to a concentration of cold and inhumane power without precedent, oriented and directed against the people and their natural aspirations.

We cannot hold blameless a regime which practices a silent and persistent form of social violence—which is no less dramatic than physical violence—a regime which in the working sector generates unemployment and freezes salaries, resulting in undernourishment and starvation; which in the area of public health assures a cruelly increasing number of deaths of young children; and which in the area of housing condemns the very poor to a life of torture in the unhealthy surroundings of slums and shanty settlements. A regime which simultaneously defends the privileges and the businesses of the minority while implacably persecuting militant students and trade union members, closing down organs of the press, censoring the dissemination of information, banning political parties and suspending individual guarantees.

Even less can we exonerate such a regime when we remember that it has not hesitated to resort to the violation of human rights through such well-documented practices as torture and brutal repression. This began in 1968 with the treacherous murders of and agressions (with their tragic sequels) against students who were simply manifesting their protest; these were followed by the murders of insurrectionists who were in the act of surrendering (they thus carried out, in effect, their own death sentences). All of this has set back democratic life in the Republic to an era of primitivism that all of us believed had long since passed.

In the midst of all of this, the unfortunate death of the North American adviser to the forces of political repression—a man who arrived in our country under the protective title of “aid to development”—together with the no less grievous deaths of the humble police agents who fell defending interests that were not their own, constitute a deplorable loss of human lives.

As to the tragic denouement of these recent events, we must blame the obduracy of the Executive Power, whose consistently negative attitude toward every possibility of peaceful mediation of the aforementioned situation culminated in the arrest of clergymen who, for the most respectable of humanitarian reasons, had undertaken risky negotiations in this very sensitive area.

The University of the Republic, perceiving most intensely the dramatic state in which its country finds itself, and feeling deeply and vitally bound to its country’s destiny, feels obliged to reaffirm that only through a profound restructuring of our society on a basis of equality and effective social justice, together with the full enforcement of the democratic freedoms and social norms which are our national heritage (among which predominates the respect for human beings and human lives), will all forms of violence disappear and both its causes and its consequences be eliminated.

The University has faith in the judgment of the Uruguayan people, and in their ability to be the builders of their own destiny.

(Approved by the Central Governing Council by a unanimous vote of all members presentfifteen out of fifteenin a session held on August 17, 1970.)

translated by Lee Lockwood

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