Since 1996, every May 20, thousands of people through the streets in Montevideo and the rest of the country, demanding truth and justice for all the victims, especially those disappeared, during the last Uruguayan Dictatorship, which lasted from June 1973 to March 1985. During that span, there were more than 5000 thousand political prisoners, and almost 500 dead prisoners by torture, including 195 whose bodies were disappeared.
The march began in the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Héctor Gutiérrez Ruiz and Zelmar Michelini, two legislators; while they were in exile in Buenos Aires. They were kidnaped and executed by joint Argentinian and Uruguayan paramilitary forces, coordinated under the Operation Condor, along with former MLN-Tupamaros militants, Rosario Barredo and William Whitelaw.
After that first march, every other year since, Human Rights NGO’s have kept organizing it, with the call “Let them tell us where they are: against the impunity of yesterday and today”.
As the name speaks for itself, the march is held in absolute silence; only broken when the names of those disappeared are read, and ends with all the people singing the National Anthem.
This year, not even the heavy rain that was falling in Montevideo and the most populous cities, could stop thousands of Uruguayans from marching and reclaiming that the Armed Forces end with the pact of silence of the crimes committed, since the returning of Democracy in 1985.
The march was fueled for the confession of José Nino Gavazzo, a former military officer during the Dictatorship, who recognized having tortured and then disappear the body of Roberto Gomensoro, a political prisoner, by throwing him to the Río Negro. This confession was made to a Military Court of Honor, which, despite that, dismissed that confession, and concluded that neither him, nor Jorge “Pajarito” Silveira had affected the army’s honor by their actions; with the exception of allowing another comrade to be unfairly imprisoned for, precisely, Gomensororo’s assassination.
This led to the dismissal of Guido Manini Ríos in March 12, the Army’s Commander in Chief, for making some harsh critics against Judiciary Power. But he omitted informing Gavazzo’s confession to the President. Later, on March 30, the newspaper El Observador published the transcription of the Court of Honor, wich in turn led President, Tabaré Vazquez, to announce the dismissal of the new Commander in Chief, the Ministry and Vice ministry of Defense, and several top officials who took part in the Court of Honor.
Since then, Manini Ríos has retired, and is now a presidential candidate. He has criticized both President Vazquez, and the interpretation that he, and the Armed Forces, covered up Gavazzo.
Before all this, from 1989 to 2004 the “Ley de Caducidad” (Expiration Law), was used by successive governments as a legal wall to impede any investigation and trial to military officials accused of committing crimes like torture, kidnaping, assassinations, and disappearance of victims. When the leftist Frente Amplio won the elections in 2004, for the first time, the Executive Power allowed the Judiciary Power to investigate and even judge military personnel for crimes committed during the Dictatorship; and allowed anthropological studies in military barracks, or places nearby, where the remains of 4 disappeared people have been found.