Thursday 27 July 2017

Uruguay's last dictator dies in prison at age of 91

Gregorio Goyo Alvarez pictured arriving to court in the capital, Montevideo, for his trial in 2007 Picture: Reuters
Gregorio Goyo Alvarez pictured arriving to court in the capital, Montevideo, for his trial in 2007 Picture: Reuters

Jose Malves

The last leader of Uruguay's brutal dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s has died in prison at the age of 91.

Gregorio Alvarez was serving a sentence for human rights abuses. The Central Hospital of the Armed Forces confirmed his death.

Under Alvarez, Uruguay was part of the secret alliance of South American dictatorships known as 'Operation Condor', in which military leaders co-operated in persecuting and killing dissidents across the continent.

Alvarez, himself the son of a general, participated in the 1973 coup that dissolved congress following a government crackdown on the Marxist Tupamaro rebels who were trying to seize power by force. One of Alvarez's brothers was killed by Tupamaro attackers in 1972.

Tortured

Alvarez became army chief in 1978, finally taking over the country's presidency in 1981. His government imprisoned democratic critics and censored the press.

He finally agreed to hand over power to an elected civilian government in 1984 as the wave of dictatorships in the region was starting to recede. Argentina's military rule ended a year earlier and Brazil's a year later.

Hundreds of suspected leftists were arrested and tortured during the dictatorship and it is estimated that 180 Uruguayans were killed - most of them while in the custody of the government's Argentine allies.

In 2009, Alvarez was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his responsibility in the death or disappearance of 37 Uruguayans under Operation Condor.

During his trial, he said he knew nothing of illegal abductions and forced disappearances.

Irish Independent

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