Quote of the day

This one appeared in an article written by Nick Alexandrov which discussed Leon Panetta‘s recent trip to Uruguay. The United States has had a long and disreputable history in that country just as it had throughout Latin America during the Postwar era. Alexandrov shared a bit of that history:

Little had changed in Uruguay by 1969, when U.S. official Dan Mitrione arrived to supervise police training. Writing to Washington late that year, he explained, “Life today seems normal on the streets of Montevideo, and the real problem facing the police is the number of assaults on police officers[.]” The “real problem,” it bears repeating, was not that Uruguay’s government, functionally a one-party system, was forcing citizens to cope with the stark choices a ruined economy imposes. The problem was that Uruguayans protested these conditions. The U.S. government trained Uruguay’s police to punish them for this sin — punishment that would only intensify when a few dared to retaliate against their aggressors. Mitrione himself understood well the business of discipline. His reputation, in certain circles, was that of a master torturer.

He had a simple motto: “The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect.” And he was proud of his abilities, according to a Cuban double agent working with the CIA in Uruguay. This man attended one of Mitrione’s seminars. Four homeless people were picked up off the street for the occasion. They were used first to show the effects “of different voltages on different parts of the human body.” Next came a demonstration of an emetic’s functions. Once they had finished vomiting, they were forced to ingest another chemical. In the end, all the subjects died. The Tupamaros subsequently kidnapped Mitrione in July 1970, and killed him in early August. Two months later, the Uruguayan Senate issued a report indicating that the Montevideo police tortured its prisoners on a regular basis. By June 1973, President Bordaberry — whom Washington aided in the 1971 election by suppressing his leftist opponents — completed the transformation. Uruguay had become a dictatorship.

Mitrione’s Wikipedia page can be found here.

2 Responses to Quote of the day

  1. Nick Alexandrov says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for featuring me in your “quote of the day” section; glad you got something out of my article. I’d never been to your site before, but am impressed with the range of articles, videos and analysis you have here– looks like a great resource. I’ll be checking back often.

    Best,
    Nick Alexandrov

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