Tupamaros and Chilean Military


The Tupamaros was an urban guerilla movement in Uruguay that operated from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.It went by the name National liberation army but later became named for the inca revolution. It donned the name Tupamaros from the name Tupal Amaru who was the last ruler of the royal inca lineage and was executed by the Spanish forces in 1572. The group largely derived its support from an unshakable union between the peasant support movement and members of the trade unions bankrolled by Sendic who later rose to become the president and it mainly operated in poverty stricken rural zones. In the beginning, they were not committed to violence though they kept it as a last resort towards their achievement of improved social justice in Uruguay (CountyStudies, 2003). But as time went by Raul Sendic, a Marxist lawyer who thought he could bring social change by peacefully unionizing poor and impoverished sugarcane workers realized that continued oppression on the workers meant that he could not achieve his dreams peacefully. Consequently their methods began to increasingly get violent on the account of the military government crackdown on the citizens. They began to commit low level deviant crimes like robberies and distributing the loot in terms of of food and money to the poor especially in Montevideo and by the late 1960’s they were engaging in urban terrorism as well as political kidnapping and murder. Acting under the rallying call “words divide us, actions unify us” they had refrained from armed actions and violence claiming to be a political movement from armed actions and violence claiming to be a political movement not guerrillas, only with violence as a reserved possibility as per future strategy. Things got out of hand and in May 5th 1902, Raul Sendic led the sugar workers to burn the Uruguayan union confederation headquarters in Montevideo (CountyStudies, 2003).This led to a bloody confrontation with the police forcing the ring leaders to go underground from where they planned new activities. Some went as far as acquiring training in military skills from Cuba.

They began high level kidnaps such as that of Dan Matrione, an FBI agent seconded to train government police whom they executed upon government refusal to trade prisoners. Now they began to kidnap for ransom high profile people like ambassadors, judges and presidential close associates.

Owing to this the military began a bloody crackdown including mass arrests and disappearance and by early 1970’s the guerrillas had been virtually vanquished (Preager, 2003). However in a surprise turn of event and with no more real threat to civilian rule President Juan Maria ceded government to the military in 1973 in a bloodless coup that led to more aggression towards the populace and it was not until the early 1980’s that democracy was restored upon which the Tupamaros changed tack and converted into a political party becoming part of the general leftist coalition which they propelled to power in 2004 with Sendic their former member eventually becoming President.

On the other hand; the military in Chile had been ran as a highly and professionally trained outfit since its inception in Dec 2nd 1810 until the year 1973 September 11th, when they staged a violent coup which they justified as a call of both national duty and pride, to stamp out what they perceived as Marxist tendencies, to avert class warfare, restore the country back to an orderly rule of law, as well as to salvage the economy (Preager, 2003). They explained that enshrined in the constitution is the national security doctrine that defined their duty as the task to defeat the national enemy who had infiltrated national institutions such as the education system, religious institutions, political dispensation, trade union movement as well as the media.

To achieve this, the military generals took over all the strategic positions in government ceding to civilians prominent posts only in the economic sphere of the government and quickly got down to business the way they knew best. For start, they issued wide raging variety of decrees apparent to restore order in their own terms. They presided over a dictatorial phase of reforms characterized by rapid demobilization, depolarization and stabilization. The junta sent congress packing, controlled media, purged the varsities, burning books and exiling hard-line ideologies, banned political parties on account of Marxism and outlawed all trade union activities.

In the process thousands of civilians were murdered, jailed, tortured, brutalized or forced into exile if suspected of a link to popular political parties (Preager, 2003). On top of that, a secret police was created to replace the national intelligence directorate to gather with a national information centre in 1975 which ruthlessly kept dissidents in fear of arrest, murder or mysterious disappearance. (CountyStudies, Imposition of Authoritarian Rule, 2003)

Consequently, members of the popular movement went underground to survive the draconian repression as they had no capacity to resist or launch any counter aggression. Nevertheless, from their hide outs, they still kept the struggle alive by consistently rallying the world opinion against the regime and by the late 1970’s even the main stream church, the catholic democrats who had all a long cooperated with the government of the day joined the opposition in a strategic move to restore democracy. This was not a smooth sail as the military, which had staged a violent take over accusing President Allende of violating the constitution, had within a month of the takeover blamed breakdown of democracy on the parties of left as well as Marxist president together with institutional framework embodied in the constitution of 1925, which in their view encouraged use of venal parties and politicians as opposed to the broad welfare of the country. Something allowing rise of politicians who were self serving and harboring power hunger to allow foreign ideology to penetrate the nation leading to internal threat which the armed forces was obliged to confront. They consequently set off to rectify this. First, they appointed conservatives scholars to draft a new constitution. But to their dismay, the scholars only later realized that institutional reforms was not the priority as was the economy revival to an authority whose prime target was destroy a political process that leaned to the left and neither was there any hurry for the junta to set an early time table for their exit.

For starts, for a developing country, Uruguay had an enviable attribute of a fast world as a peaceful, conservative country with an excellent and beautiful livestock oriented economy in the later part of the 19th century (CountyStudies, 2003). It bequeathed South America its first social state democracy. A cradle to grave state welfare system and possessed an immense and well educated homogeneous urban population. It took off to a heaven like dream state leading a famous political slogan ion the 1940s that there is no place on earth like Uruguay. On the other hand Chile emerged from a nondescript outpost in the expansive Spanish empire to a prosperous and well demonstrated state though heavily reliant on foreign powers to chart its future at different evokes. Thus during the colonial period Spain, the colonial master controlled its economic as well as political influence. In the turn of the 19th century, Britain was the master of influence and in the 20th century America had the upper hand.

In both countries, over reliance on agri based exports led to massive social unrest and uprisings in the wake of prolonged stagnation of industrial and agri and livestock based sectors. In Uruguay that led to evaporation of the citizens sweetly adored economic well being, civility and tranquility and by 1960s there was rampant inflation, public deficits and an increasingly authoritarian government, something which was a far cry from the previous collegiate executive modeled on the Swiss system and designed to avoid power concentration.

Across the borders in Chile, the economic orientation driven by the over reliance on the agricultural sector led a rise in the desire to extract prime products meaning government drive for both forced labour as ell as brutal treatment of mines with the greater worker victimization being witness when the military took over.

This persistent feature in Chile’s economic history caused conflict over land as the Spanish displaced people to create land for farming and later the agrarian revolution led to massive expansion of great estates leaving the country railing on the verge of turmoil. While in Uruguay, a struggling economy led to run away inflation leading to high crime rate, and sympathy for rebel groups like the Tupamaros which promise to bring about social change and a return to the good old times now embeIDed in history! On their part, the military in Chile felt that they had a duty enshrined in the national security doctrine under the constitution detailing their task as that of defeating the enemies who had infiltrated the national institutions- schools, churches, media, political parties as well as the union movement (Minster, 2004). Thus in one swoop, they fell on prevailing political and economic situation in the country which had precipitated a lot of discontent to justify their violent coup as a necessary to stamp out Marxism, avert an eminent class warfare, restore order and to salvage the economy. In the same breath, the economic crisis and social uprising besetting Uruguay that continued through 1950’s and got out of hand left a country that was really in a gloom and sad state and by the 1962 election inflation was as high as 52%. This saw the country fall economically behind many countries as its economy could only reminisce their former welfare state (Minster, 2004). Consequently rampant crime saw the emergence of violent groups like the Tupamaros who could commit robberies and other urban terror activities and distribute the loot to the urban poor. They just like their civilian counterparts i.e. the military junta capitalized on massive discontent occasioned by the prevailing stagnation in the countries industrial and livestock sector to remind the populace of their last good days of welfare state, tranquility with the final blow for the camel back being their loss of their cherished freedom as well as their democratic system.

Their paradise on earth was no more! So the Tupamaros were quick to quote the countries past glorious history both in the political as well as the economic spheres to promise a return to good old days of Uruguay epitomized by the mythical paradigm, ‘No place like Uruguay’.

Their name derived from Tupac Amaru, the last ruler of their traditional Inca line executed by the Spanish in 1572 was specifically pegged on past glorious history of national pride to evoke historical connection and sympathy for the mother land and swing the huge union between the peasant support movement and the members of the trade union, to their side of the political divide arguing that they were only out to bring a much needed social change through social justice this time their clarion call was “words divide us, action unites us” (CountyStudies, 2003)Consequently, it is crystal clear that the prevailing economic hardships in both countries was the driving force behind the drive for change and a clamour for the return to the good old timers as the case is for Uruguay and the need for the army to move in and arrest a struggling economic situation before it got out of hand.

Historically, the Chilean military felt it their duty as a matter of national pride to salvage the economy, stamp out Marxism or put clearly foreign influence which was highly manifest even though Chile had a strong elitist and conservative political system that was representative enough, it allowed and often attracted foreign ideologies and formulas. On the other hand, the Tupamaros relied on the precedence of welfare system where people drew from the state to justify their ways and means thus their distributing the proceedings of their looting to the poor urban masses. However, it is worth to note that their interpretation of economic and political situation and use of the same to justify their violent deeds does not wash (Minster, 2004). The two countries do not entirely control their destiny in the same sphere they’re part of am wider global arena where a wave can cause stagnations world over and so not be taken in isolation.



CountyStudies. (2003). Imposition of Authoritarian Rule. CountyStudies .Retieved on 2nd March 2011 from


CountyStudies. (2003). Millitary Rule, 1973-90. CountyStudies .Retieved on 2nd March 2011 from


Minster, C. (2004). The Tupamaros. Uruguay’s Marxist Revolutionaries .Retieved on 2nd March 2011 from


Preager, M. F. (2003). Questia. Freedom or Security: The Consequences for Democracies Using Emergency Powers to Fight Terror.Retieved on 2nd March 2011 from


term papers to buy
research papers

Place this order or similar order and get an amazing discount. USE Discount code “GET20” for 20% discount

Posted in Uncategorized