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Uruguay Ministry of Defense

The armed forces are constitutionally subordinate to the president through the minister of defense. Under the constitution, the president is commander in chief of the armed forces and exercises administrative control over the three services through the Ministry of National Defense. In practice, operational control passed through the service commanders, who were appointed by the president. There was a nominal chief of the joint staff but no substantive joint staff organization. In 1990 the defense minister was a former law professor who had been active in the transition to democracy. Assistants from each of the three services were assigned to the minister.

During the 1973-85 period, first the military government's Council of State and then the Council of the Nation passed several laws that limited the president's military control. Principal among these was the February 1974 decree that served as an organic law for the armed forces. Under this law, the commanders of the three services were chosen by a board of generals from each respective service.

The Defence Staff [Estado Mayor de la Defensa - ES.MA.DE.] is the advisory body to the Ministry of Defence in planning and coordinating the activities of the Armed Forces. Its tasks are highlighted doctrinal development and planning concept of joint operation of the various forces, analysis and assessment of strategic scenarios. It is responsible for logistics planning of the Armed Forces at ministerial level, particularly with regard to weapons systems, communications, equipment and new technologies. The ES.MA.DE. performs planning and coordination of combined operations, centralizing in your organization different issues related to military intelligence. It is also the office in charge of the Military Attaches of the Republic accredited to foreign governments.

During the 1984-85 transition to civilian rule, the appointment procedure was amended so that the boards of generals chose candidates from which the president then appointed service chiefs of staff. In 1986 the reestablished General Assembly returned the power of direct appointment of the service commanders to the president.

In 1987 the General Assembly passed a new organic law for the armed forces establishing that the "basic duty of the armed forces is to defend the honor, independence, and the peace of the republic, its territorial integrity, its Constitution, and its laws." The law explicitly stated that the armed forces should always act under the supreme command of the president and the minister of national defense in keeping with constitutional measures. Training practices were modified to include courses for military cadets on the proper role of the military in a democracy.

The length a service commander could serve was cut from eight to five years, and service commanders were required to retire when the term of service expired. As of 1990, the government and the armed forces appeared to be adhering to all provisions of the law. The Ministry of National Defense was responsible for the administration of military training, health, communications, and construction, and it supervised the military retirement and pension system. The ministry supervised the triservice Military Institute for Advanced Studies, which served as a national war college to train senior officers.

Also under the ministry was the General Directorate of Defense Information (Direction General de Information de DefensaDGID). As reorganized by the executive branch in 1989, the DGID was a triservice agency that coordinated and planned all operations of the three separate military intelligence services. Traditionally, the army's intelligence branch was the most powerful of the military intelligence services.

The country was divided into four military regions. Military Region I, headquartered at Montevideo, had responsibility for the national capital and the departments of Montevideo and Canelones. Military Region II, headquartered at San Jose, included the departments of Colonia, Durazno, Flores, Florida, San Jose, and Soriano. Military Region III, headquartered at Paso de los Toros, comprised the departments of Artigas, Paysandu, Rio Negro, Rivera, Salto, and Tacuarembo. Military Region IV, headquartered at Maldonado, included the departments of Cerro Largo, Lavalleja, Maldonado, Rocha, and Treinta y Tres.

Uruguay had cordial foreign military relations with both Argentina and Brazil, as well as with the United States. During the 1980s, armed forces personnel represented the nation in foreign peacekeeping activities in Cambodia, on the Angola-Namibia border, in the Sinai, and on the Iran-Iraq border. Uruguay was a member of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), which maintained a headquarters and staff in Washington and acted as a military advisory group to the Organization of American States (OAS), of which Uruguay was also a member.

Uruguay had a long history of military cooperation with neighboring countries. It joined with twenty other Latin American nations and the United States in 1945 to sign the Act of Chapultepec, in which each agreed to consult on any aggression against a cosignatory. Uruguay was also a signatory to the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), in which the United States and Latin American and Caribbean countries committed themselves to working toward the peaceful settlement of disputes and collective self-defense in the Americas.

Uruguay is one of the top 10 per capita contributors to UN peacekeeping forces, with between 2,500 and 3,000 personnel in 15 UN peacekeeping missions. As of February 2012, Uruguay had 962 military personnel deployed to Haiti in support of MINUSTAH and 1,175 deployed in support of MONUC in the Congo.

Uruguay also was a signatory to the 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Tlatelolco Treaty) and the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Uruguay also accepted the Biological Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of such weapons.

Uruguayan President Tabare Vasquez announced 01 April 2019 the dismissal of top officials in the Ministry of Defense and the Army Court of Honor over covering up human rights violations during an investigation into a case dating back to the countrys military dictatorship. Hundreds were arrested and tortured during the dictatorship and around 192 people were forcibly disappeared. More than 40 members of the military have been investigated over accusations of human rights crimes while some have died in prison.

The president dismissed Defense Minister Jorge Melendez, the Deputy Minister Daniel Montiel, the new army chief Jose Gonzalez, as well as two members of the Army Court of Honor, over the omission of key confessions of human rights violations during the country's 1973 to 1985 military dictatorship.

Following a newspaper report from Uruguayan newspaper El Observador Saturday, President Vasquez learned of confessions from ex-military Jose "Nino" Gavazzo and Jorge "Pajarito" Silveira in 2017. Both had been investigated for dozens of cases of crimes against humanity. In his statements, Gavazzo admitted to having thrown the body of leftist Tupamaro militant Roberto Gomensoro into the Negro River in 1973 with the intent to make him disappear. Silveira accused Gavazzo of murdering Gomensoro, as well as young activist Maria Claudia Garcia de Gelman, who was pregnant at the time of her abduction, as well as another detainee. Despite the evidence, in September 2018, the military court concluded the acts of both involved did not affect the army's honor according to minutes signed by the Minister of Defense and his deputy minister, Daniel Montiel.

The Uruguayan president Vazquez was "very upset" for not having been warned of the content of the minutes and the confession of Gavazzo. Over the weekend and after the publication of the newspaper article, several leaders and politicians from Frente Amplio had called for the dismissal of those responsible for the omission.

The head of the army, Jose Gonzalez, had been appointed to his post by the Uruguayan president on March 18. Upon taking office and after knowing the files with the statements, Gonzalez did not take any action to inform the army nor prosecutors. He has been removed within a month of taking office.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2019 16:35:20 ZULU