BUENOS AIRES – The Argentine Senate on Thursday honored Uruguayan lawmakers Zelmar Michelini and Hector Gutierrez Ruiz, murdered 40 years ago by agents of Argentina’s then-military regime.
Relatives and colleagues of the two legislators were on hand for the posthumous presentation of the Juana Azurduy de Padilla Citation, named for a heroine of South American independence and awarded to foreign individuals or entities in recognition for contributions to the common good.
Michelini and Gutierrez were found dead in Buenos Aires on May 20, 1976, along with compatriots Rosario Barredo and William Whitelaw, members of the Tupamaros guerrilla group.
The four were among the many Uruguayans who fled to Argentina to escape the clutches of the military-controlled government in Montevideo, Argentine Sen. Juan Manuel Abal Medina told EFE.
Uruguayan physician Manuel Liberoff, another political exile, disappeared in Buenos Aires the same day the four bodies were found and his fate is still unknown.
The Uruguayan political exiles became targets for the junta that seized power in Argentina in March 1976, marking the consolidation of military rule across the Southern Cone of South America.
“It’s been 40 years since an episode that unites both peoples in terror,” Abal Medina said.
Noting that the Argentine and Uruguayan military regimes cooperated in “murdering and massacring” their peoples, he stressed the need for peoples to come together and “say ‘never again’ to state terrorism.”
Around a hundred politicians, diplomats and human rights activists attended the ceremony, where the deaths of Barredo and Whitelaw were also commemorated.
The Argentine, Bolivian, Brazilian, Chilean, Paraguayan and Uruguayan dictatorships of the 1970s and ‘80s are known to have collaborated in eliminating each other’s opponents under the aegis of “Plan Condor.”