1973 Uruguayan coup d'état

Last updated

The 1973 Uruguayan coup d'état took place in Uruguay on 27 June 1973 and marked the beginning of the civic-military dictatorship which lasted until 1985. [1]


President Juan María Bordaberry closed parliament, and ruled with the assistance of a junta of military generals. The official reason was to crush the Tupamaros, a Marxist urban guerrilla movement. The leftist trade union federations called a general strike and occupation of factories. The strike lasted just over two weeks. It was ended with most of the trade union leaders in jail, dead, or exiled to Argentina. As part of the coup all associations including trade unions were declared illegal and banned; the Constitution of Uruguay of 1967 was practically voided.

Unions and political parties remained illegal until a general strike in 1984 forced the military to accept civilian rule and the restoration of democracy in 1985.


Elected democratically in 1971, Bordaberry dissolved the parliament in 1973, instituting a civil-military dictatorship. Juan Maria Bordaberry.jpg
Elected democratically in 1971, Bordaberry dissolved the parliament in 1973, instituting a civil-military dictatorship.

On September 9, 1971, President Jorge Pacheco Areco instructed the armed forces to conduct anti-guerrilla operations against the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros. On December 16, a Junta of Commanders in Chief and of the Estado Mayor Conjunto (Esmaco) (Joint Chiefs) of the Armed Forces was created. Following the presidential elections of November 1971 a new government took office on 1 March 1972 led by Juan Maria Bordaberry. The role of the Armed Forces in political life continued to increase. On October 31, 1972, Defense Minister Augusto Legnani, had to resign for failing to remove a chief in charge of a mission of great importance for the ministry. Subsequently, military commanders made public statements indicting the President of the Republic.

On February 8, 1973, in order to control the buildup of military pressure, President Bordaberry substituted the Minister of National Defence, Armando Malet, by the retired general Antonio Francese. On the following day, the new minister met with the commanders of the three forces and only found support in the Navy.

At eight o'clock of the same evening, the commanders of the Army and the Air Forces announced from state television they would disavow any orders by Francese and demanded that Bordaberry sack him. At 10:30 pm Bordaberry announced from the (private) Canal 4 that he would keep Francese in the Ministry and called on the citizens to gather in Plaza Independencia, in front of Government House (Casa de Gobierno).

In the early hours of the morning of February 9, Navy Infantry (Marines?) barricaded the entrance towards the Ciudad Vieja of Montevideo. In response, the Army pulled its tanks into the streets and occupied various radio stations, from which they exhorted the members of the Navy to join their initiatives (or propositions).

Decree (Comunicado) No. 4 was issued, signed only by the commanders of the Army and Air Force, in which they posed in achieving or promoting socio-economic objectives, such as to encourage exports, reorganize the foreign service (the matters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), eliminate the oppressive foreign debt, eradicate unemployment, attack illicit economics and corruption, reorganize public administration and the tax system and redistribute the land.

On Saturday 10 February, three ministers sought a rapprochement with the positions of the rebel commanders, so that the president would retain his position. At night, the commanders of the Army and Air Force issued a new Decree N° 7, that somehow relativized the previous statement. Several officers of the Navy ignored the command of Vice Admiral Juan José Zorrilla and supported the statements of the Army and Air Force. The next day, February 11, Zorrilla resigned from the Navy Command, while Captain Conrad Olazaba assumed this position, so that this force also abandoned its constitutional position. [1]

On Monday February 12, Bordaberry went to the Base Aérea "Cap. Juan Manuel Boiso Lanza" and accepted all the demands of the military commanders and negotiated his continuation in the presidency, in what became known as the Pacto de Boiso Lanza. This "agreement" entrusted to the Armed Forces the mission of providing security for national development and established forms of military involvement in the political-administrative matters. this agreement resulted in the creation of the National Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nacional) (COSENA), advisory body to the Executive Power, subsequently established by Decree No. 163/973 of February 23 of 1973.

The day after the "agreement", Néstor Bolentini was appointed as Minister of Interior and Walter Ravenna as Minister of National Defense. This completed the slide into a civil-military government, which formally ruled civilians but in fact the center of power had moved into the orbit of the military. It is considered that this episode amounted to a coup in fact. [1]


On 27 June 1973, arguing that "the criminal act of conspiracy against the country, in tune with the complacency of politicians with no national sentiment, is inserted into the institutions, so as to present formally disguised as a legal activity", Bordaberry dissolved the legislature with the support of the Armed Forces, created a State Council with legislative, constitutional and administrative functions, restricted freedom of thought and empowered the armed forces and the police to ensure the uninterrupted provision of public services.

In a speech broadcast on radio and television on the same day of the coup, Bordaberry said:

I affirm today, once again, in circumstances of extreme importance to national life, our deep commitment to democracy and our unreserved commitment to a system of political and social organization governing the coexistence of Uruguayans. And together with this, the rejection of any ideology of Marxist origin attempting to exploit the generosity of our democracy, to appear as a doctrine of salvation and end as a tool of totalitarian oppression.

This step that we had to take, does not lead (?) and will not limit the freedoms and rights of the human person.

We ourselves are here for this and for its surveillance; for this, furthermore, we have committed these functions to the State Council and beyond, and still above all, are the Uruguayan people who have never permitted their freedoms to be trampled (...). [2]

In response to the coup d'etat, in the same morning that the coup was brewing, the secretary of the CNT (National Confederation of Workers) began the longest strike in the history of the country, which lasted 15 days.

The decrees

Decree N° 464/973 of June 27, 1973, bears the signature of Bordaberry and his ministers Néstor Bolentini and Walter Ravenna. It expressed the following:

The President of the Republic decrees:

1° The Chambers of Senators and of Representatives are hereby declared dissolved.

2° Hereby is established a Council of State consisting of members that may be designated, with the following powers:

A) Perform the specific functions of the General Assembly independently;
B) Control the demarches of the Executive Power regarding the respect of individual rights and the submission of that Power to the constitutional and legal norms;
C) Develop a draft Constitutional Reform that reaffirms the fundamental principles of democracy and representatives to be duly acclaimed by the Electoral Body Elaborar.

3° It is prohibited to disclose by the press orally, written or televised, any kind of information, comments or recording, which directly or indirectly, indicate or refer to the provisions of this Decree, attributing dictatorial intentions to the Executive Power.

4° The armed forces and police are empowered to take the necessary measures to ensure the continued provision of essential public services.

Also, by Decree No. 465/973 of the same date, it is considered included within the text of Article 1 of Decree 464/973 "to all the Departmental Boards of the Country (art. 1º), the formation in each Departamento of a Board of Neighbours (Junta de Vecinos), that, where relevant, and at the Departmental level, will have powers similar to those granted to the State Council created by the art. 2 of the decree today" (art. 2º).

See also

Related Research Articles

The history of Uruguay comprises different periods: the pre-Columbian time or early history, the colonial period (1516–1811), the period of nation-building (1811–1830), and the history of Uruguay as an independent country.

Juan Carlos Onganía President of Argentina from 1966 to 1970

Juan Carlos Onganía Carballo was de facto President of Argentina from 29 June 1966 to 8 June 1970. He rose to power as military dictator after toppling the president Arturo Illia in a coup d'état self-named Revolución Argentina.

1973 Chilean coup détat coup détat in Chile on 11 September 1973

The 1973 Chilean coup d'état was the overthrow of the socialist President of Chile Salvador Allende by the army and national police. It followed an extended period of social unrest and political tension between the opposition-controlled Congress of Chile and the socialist President Salvador Allende, as well as economic warfare ordered by US President Richard Nixon.

Tupamaros Uruguayan guerrilla movement

Tupamaros, also known as the MLN-T, was a left-wing urban guerrilla group in Uruguay in the 1960s and 1970s. The MLN-T is inextricably linked to its most important leader, Raúl Sendic, and his brand of social politics. José Mujica, who later became president of Uruguay, was also a member. In their low-level insurgency against the Uruguayan government, the Tupamaros killed 50 soldiers, policemen and also civilians like Pascasio Baez, an innocent rural worker killed via pentothal injection after he discovered, by chance, one of the many tupamaro hideaways or "tatuceras". 300 Tupamaros died either in action or in prisons, according to officials of the group. About 3,000 Tupamaros were also imprisoned.

Gregorio Conrado Álvarez Uruguayian general, dictator

Gregorio Conrado Álvarez Armelino, also known as El Goyo, was an Uruguayan Army general who served as the de facto president of Uruguay from 1981 until 1985 and was the last surviving President of the civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay.

Odysseas Angelis was a Greek military officer, who served as head of the Greek military during the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, and was selected by junta principal Georgios Papadopoulos as Vice President of the junta-proclaimed republic in 1973. He was deposed along with Papadopoulos by junta hardliners in November 1973, and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for high treason in the Greek Junta Trials in 1975.

Juan María Bordaberry Politician, rancher

Juan María Bordaberry Arocena was a Uruguayan politician and cattle rancher, who first served as a constitutional President from 1972 until 1973, and then ruled as the head of a civilian-military dictatorship up to 1976.

Ricardo Pérez Godoy President of Peru

Ricardo Pío Pérez Godoy was a general of the Peruvian army who launched a coup d'état in July 1962, headed a military junta until March 1963 and served as the 55th President of Peru.

José Toribio Merino Chilean politician and admiral

José Toribio Merino Castro was a Chilean admiral who was one of the principal leaders of the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, along with General Augusto Pinochet of the Army, General Gustavo Leigh of the Air Force, and General César Mendoza of the Carabineros. Together they established a military government that ruled Chile from 1973 until 1990.

On 27 June 1973 a coup was declared in Uruguay by the president, Juan María Bordaberry, who closed parliament and imposed direct rule from a junta of military generals. The official reason was to crush the Tupamaros, a Marxist urban guerrilla movement.

Alberto Pedro Demicheli Lizaso was a Uruguayan political figure. Demicheli was a de facto President of Uruguay in 1976 as a non-democratically elected authority of the Civic-military dictatorship (1973–1985).

Raúl Sendic Antonaccio was a Uruguayan Marxist lawyer, trade unionist and founder of the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement (MLN-T).

Rafael Addiego Bruno was a Uruguayan jurist and political figure.

Jorge Sapelli was an Uruguayan political figure. He was the Vice President of Uruguay from 1972 until his resignation in 1973.

Argentine Revolution military coup détat

Argentine Revolution was the name given by its leaders to a military coup d'état which overthrew the government of Argentina in June 1966 and began a period of military dictatorship by a junta from then until 1973.

The history of Argentina can be divided into four main parts: the pre-Columbian time or early history, the colonial period (1530–1810), the period of nation-building (1810-1880), and the history of modern Argentina.

Civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay 1973-1985 military regime in Uruguay

The civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay (1973–85), also known as the Uruguayan Dictatorship, was an authoritarian military dictatorship that ruled Uruguay for 12 years, from June 27, 1973 until February 28, 1985. The dictatorship has been the subject of much controversy due to its violations of human rights, use of torture, and the unexplained disappearances of many Uruguayans. The term "civic-military" refers to the military regime's relatively gradual usurpation of power from civilian presidents who continued to serve as head of state, which distinguished it from dictatorships in other South American countries in which senior military officers immediately seized power and directly served as head of state.

1980 Uruguayan constitutional referendum

A constitutional referendum was held in Uruguay on 30 November 1980. Although the new constitution drafted by the military regime was rejected by voters, some of its proposals were implemented anyway.

Armed Forces General Staff (Portugal)

The Armed Forces General Staff, or EMGFA, is the supreme military body of Portugal. It is responsible for the planning, command and control of the Portuguese Armed Forces.


  1. 1 2 3 Lessa, Alfonso (1996). Estado de guerra - de la gestación del golpe del 73 a la caída de Bordaberry. Editorial Fin de Siglo.
  2. La Dictadura en Uruguay Consultado el 1 de mayo de 2010