Former Uruguayan dictator sentenced to 30 years

By Alfonso Castiglia
Associated Press Writer / February 10, 2010

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay—Former dictator Juan Maria Bordaberry was sentenced to 30 years in prison for violating the constitution when he led a 1973 coup that began 12 years of dictatorship in Uruguay, the prosecutor said Wednesday.

The 81-year-old Bordaberry is the second former Uruguayan dictator sentenced to a long prison term in the past four months, as the South American nation grapples with the 1973-85 dictatorship and its legacy of disappearances, torture and the exile of thousands of dissidents. In late October, ex-strongman Gregorio Alvarez was sentenced to 25 years.

Prosecutor Ana Maria Tellechea said Wednesday that she had spoken with judge Mariana Motta, who informed her Bordaberry received a 30-year sentence -- the maximum allowed under Uruguayan law. Details of the ruling were to be released Thursday.

"Apparently the judge had the same interpretation that we had asked for in demanding a 30-year sentence for violating the constitution," Tellechea told The Associated Press.

Bordaberry also faces charges for 11 homicides and forced disappearances of dissidents.

Lawyers for Bordaberry have rejected the accusations against him.

Elected democratically in 1971, Bordaberry dissolved Congress and banned political parties the following year at the behest of military leaders who seized power outright in 1973. The military ousted Bordaberry in 1976, and Uruguay remained under the control of a right-wing dictatorship until 1985.

The former president-turned-dictator has been hospitalized for breathing troubles, leading a judge to let him remain under house arrest rather than be jailed during his prosecution. He has been in preventative detention since 2006.

Bordaberry and his foreign minister, Juan Blanco, are the only civilians convicted or facing charges for alleged crimes committed during the dictatorship.

Ten members of the armed forces, including ex-dictator Alvarez, are in prison for human rights violations. Alvarez, Uruguay's final dictator, was convicted in connection with 37 homicides.

Prosecution of alleged human rights abuses during Uruguay's dictatorship accelerated when the small nation's first leftist president, Tabare Vazquez, took office in 2005.

Bordaberry's son, Pedro, placed third in last November's presidential election that saw the candidate of the leftist governing party win.