Nixon Admin: Death of Dan Mitrione
Posted – August 11, 2010 - In Response Uruguayan Security Forces Launched Death Squads to Hunt and Kill Insurgents
Washington, D.C., August 11, 2010 - Documents posted by the National Security Archive on the 40th anniversary of the death of U.S. advisor Dan Mitrione in Uruguay show the Nixon administration recommended a “threat to kill [detained insurgent] Sendic and other key [leftist insurgent] MLN prisoners if Mitrione is killed.” The secret cable from U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers, made public here for the first time, instructed U.S. Ambassador Charles Adair: “If this has not been considered, you should raise it with the Government of Uruguay at once.”
The message to the Uruguayan government, received by the U.S. Embassy at 11:30 am on August 9, 1970, was an attempt to deter Tupamaro insurgents from killing Mitrione at noon on that day. A few minutes later, Ambassador Adair reported back, in another newly-released cable, that “a threat was made to these prisoners that members of the ‘Escuadrón de la Muerte’ [death squad] would take action against the prisoners’ relatives if Mitrione were killed.”
Dan Mitrione, Director of the U.S. AID Office of Public Safety (OPS) in Uruguay and the main American advisor to the Uruguayan police at the time, had been held for ten days by MLN-Tupamaro insurgents demanding the release of some 150 guerrilla prisoners held by the Uruguayan government. Mitrione was found dead the morning of August 10, 1970, killed by the Tupamaros after their demands were not met.
“The documents reveal the U.S. went to the edge of ethics in an effort to save Mitrione—an aspect of the case that remained hidden in secret documents for years,” said Carlos Osorio, who directs the National Security Archive’s Southern Cone project. “There should be a full declassification to set the record straight on U.S. policy to Uruguay in the 1960’s and 1970’s.”
“In the aftermath of Dan Mitrione’s death, the Uruguayan government unleashed the illegal death squads to hunt and kill insurgents,” said Clara Aldrighi, professor of history at Uruguay’s Universidad de la República, and author of “El Caso Mitrione” (Montevideo: Ediciones Trilce, 2007). “The U.S. documents are irrefutable proof that the death squads were a policy of the Uruguayan government, and will serve as key evidence in the death squads cases open now in Uruguay’s courts,” Osorio added. "It is a shame that the U.S. documents are writing Uruguayan history. There should be declassification in Uruguay as well,” stated Aldrighi, who collaborated in the production of this briefing book. Continued