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Emergence of Militarism, 1972-73

In March 1972, Bordaberry was sworn in as president (1972-76). He ran as a Colorado, but he had been active in Nardone's Ruralist movement and had been elected to the Senate as a representative of the National Party. Bordaberry' s narrow victory forced him to seek the support of other political parties. He found it in Mario Aguerrondo's Herrerist faction of the National Party and in the Colorado Party's Unity and Reform, led by Jorge Badle Ibafiez, a son of Luis Batlle Berres, who had founded the faction. Bordaberry appointed Julio Maria Sanguinetti Cairolo, who headed a faction of Unity and Reform, as minister of education and culture.

Sanguinetti promoted education reform that brought together primary, secondary, and vocational education under the National Council for Education (Consejo Nacional de Educacion Conae) and established secret and mandatory voting for the election of university authorities.

Unity and Reform also took charge of economic policy by implementing a five-year development plan inspired by neoliberal (free-market) and monetarist principles, which would slowly open the economy to greater influence from financial and commercial groups, as well as to foreign investment. The Bordaberry administration, however, continued its predecessor's policies, giving greater budgetary priority to the military than to education and other social areas. Bordaberry also proposed legislation to eliminate university autonomy and enhance the powers of the army and police.

When the Tupamaros finally renewed their armed activities following their six-month electoral truce from October 1971 to April 1972, they faced a firmly entrenched administration backed by an increasingly well-equipped and adequately prepared military, which had a blank check to defeat them. In April 1972, after a bloody shoot-out with the Tupamaros, Bordaberry declared a state of "internal war".

All civil liberties were suspended, initially for thirty days but later extended by the General Assembly until 1973. On July 10, 1972, the government enacted the draconian State Security Law. By the end of the year, the army had decisively defeated the Tupamaros, whose surviving members either were imprisoned or fled into exile. Despite their victory over the Tupamaros, the military had grown impatient with civilian rule. It was now time for the armed forces' final assault on the Uruguayan polity.

According to Amnesty International, a private human rights organization, under the military regime Uruguay had the world's highest per capita ratio of political prisoners: one in every 500 citizens. By 1980 many citizens had been detained and tortured at some point, and one in every 500 had received a sentence of six years or longer. Between 300,000 and 400,000 Uruguayans went into exile.

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Page last modified: 18-05-2017 19:43:32 ZULU