Uruguay ex-ruler Gregorio Alvarez dies at age 91

Friday, December 30, 2016

Military health authorities on Wednesday announced the death of Gregorio Alvarez, military ruler of Uruguay from 1981–85. He was 91 years old.

Alvarez was serving a 25-year term imposed in 2009 for 37 homicides, and other human rights violations. He was initially detained in 2007 suspected of kidnapping dissidents living in exile in Argentina. Hundreds vanished during his term.

a rapist, a murderer, a torturer, a 'disappearer' doesn't redeem himself by dying

—Prosecution lawyer Oscar Lopez Goldaracena

In 1972 his brother died at the hands of militants. The following year he participated in a coup, leading an assault on the national legislature. Then-President Juan Maria Bordaberry ousted Congress and ruled with military backing. Alvarez led the army for a time before himself taking over the presidency.

Hardline rule led to protests in 1984, eventually resulting in a fresh democratic election. This was won by Julio Maria Sanguinetti; Alvarez resigned with fifteen days left to serve. A 1986 law prevented his prosecution without legislative approval, and he lived openly in Montevideo.

Modern-day Montevideo, from file.
Image: Maryam Laura Moazedi.

Pressure from relatives of those missing led to his 2007 arrest. Convicted of killing Argentinian-resident exiles, he maintained his innocence. He died in a Montevideo hospital.

"With the greatest respect, a rapist, a murderer, a torturer, a 'disappearer' doesn't redeem himself by dying," said Alvarez prosecution team laywer Oscar Lopez Goldaracena. "Kidnapping children, robbing babies, disappearances, raping men and women[....] He had an interminable list of crimes", said activist Beatriz Benzano, who says she was detained and sexually assaulted under the Alvarez regime. "[...H]e died with the secret of all the people he 'disappeared' and killed," she said.

The murders were part of Operation Condor, a South American joint venture to repatriate fleeing dissidents.

Modern-day Uruguay is ruled by a left-wing coalition comprised largely of Alvarez opponents, including ex-militants from Tupamaro. Tupamaro was the group that killed Alvarez's brother.