President Vázquez's pledge

12 September 2005 by Santiago O’Donnell

After weeks of excavations, it came as something of a surprise that the body of María Claudia García, Uruguay's most emblematic victim of state terrorism, was still missing. The information seemed trustworthy enough, divulged in an official report presented by Gen. Guillermo Bertollotti, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to the Uruguay president, Tabaré Vázquez.

"We are more than 99 % sure that we have located the body of María Claudia García" the president had solemnly announced at a press conference last month, shortly after receiving the general's report. But the team of world-reknown forensic anthropologists called in for the dig concluded that there were no human remains at the site known as Battalion 14, near the capital Montevideo. Vásquez was swept into office last March in a landslide electoral victory that made him the first leftwing president in Uruguay's history. One of his first decisions was to order the reopening of several judicial investigations into state-sponsored terrorism in the 1970s, starting with the disappearance of García. At the time, the military dictatorships in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay had joined forces in a secret venture known as Operation Condor, which sent death squads across borders to kidnap and murder leftwing guerillas and exiled opponents.

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