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New Left Review I/163, May-June 1987

David Ransom

Uruguay after the Dictatorship

At 9.00pm on the evening of 22 December, the noise of a caceroleo swept once more over the city of Montevideo. This is one of a number of ritual protests employed by Uruguayans during the savage military dictatorship which lasted between 1973 and 1985. In houses, on balconies and street corners people stand and bang together saucepans and anything they can lay their hands on, even an empty oil drum rolled over the cobblestones. Furtive groups of demonstrators move through dimly-lit streets as if to disturb the ghosts of repression. The demonstration, deafening and slightly sinister, was all the more pointed because these ghosts had supposedly been laid to rest by the elections of 1984, replacing the military with an elected government. But the elections had left many unanswered questions—most obviously with regard to human rights. What was to happen to the assassins and torturers who had flourished during the dictatorship and still walked the streets of Montevideo? In Argentina the Generals had attempted to bargain for their immunity with prospective civilian governments; they had failed. Generals and ex-presidents, discredited by the Malvinas war, found themselves in the dock. In Uruguay, on 22 December 1986, a Law was passed—the Ley de Caducidad—which in effect gave the armed forces immunity from prosecution before a single case had reached court.

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David Ransom, ‘Uruguay after the Dictatorship’, NLR I/163: £3

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