An elevator repairman who was fixing a lift at the former Defense Ministry uncovered a secret room between two floors. Inside were thousands of documents that may shed light on the human rights crimes committed during Uruguay’s 1973-85 military dictatorship.
The building, constructed in the late 19th century in central Montevideo, has been closed since 1985 when the regime ended until 2003, when it re-opened as the Pre-Columbian and Indigenous Art Museum.
Álvaro Rico, a member of a special office under the presidency that follows the Peace Commission’s recommendations, said that between 20 and 25 packets of documents were found with thousands of papers sealed by the army and Defense Ministry.
“The find is very interesting for [the secetariat],” said Graciela Jorge, head of that special office, which was created in 2007 to process the findings of the 2000-2003 Peace Commission on the dictatorship-era rights violations. “Each find always brings new connections with old ones, other figures.”
Investigators will likely open up other parts of the building, particularly the basement, which local media have reported was used as a jail and torture chamber.
The 2006 discovery of a military archive in the former army reserve instruction center, with microfilms from the Defense Information Service and the Coordinating Body of Anti-Subversive Operations, gave valuable information on the military operations and names of those detained during the regime. The information is being used as evidence to prosecute former military officers.