Movimiento de Liberación Nacional – Tupamaros

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Logo of the Tupamaros

Flag of the Tupamaros

The Tupamaros, full name Movimiento de Liberación Nacional – T upamaros(MLN-T, National Liberation Movement – Tupamaros) were a communist guerrilla movement of Uruguay, formed from trade union elements and operating as an underground movement from 1963 until the 1970s. Since 1985 it has operated as a political party.


The name is derived from the Peruvian rebel leader Túpac Amaru II. (1738-1781). The Uruguayan popular army, which fought against the colonial power Spain until 1811, also called itself “Tupamaros”.


During the 1960s, the Tupamaros still distanced themselves from armed actions and violence. They attached importance to appearing more as a political movement than as a classic guerrilla. Their concept of urban guerrilla, on the other hand, included, in particular, irreverent public relations work. Beginning in 1968, government measures against labor unrest in the country intensified to the point of promulgating emergency laws. Government measures included political imprisonment, the use of torture methods during interrogations, and the violent suppression of protests

Beginning in 1968, the Tupamaros radicalized. That year they kidnapped Ulysses Pereira Reverbel, a leading politician of the Partido Colorado, and carried out several attacks and robberies (Hotel Casino Carrasco in Montevideo); police officers shot and killed students Líber Arce, Susana Pintos and Hugo de los Santos.[1][2] The kidnappings and assassinations of high-ranking personalities by Tupamaros, as well as attacks in several major cities, reached their peak in 1970 and 1971, during which time they applied their Carcél del Pueblo (People’s Prison) concept. The victims of their kidnappings, including, for example, the U.S. CIA agent and security advisor to the Uruguayan interior authorities Daniel A. Mitrione, were detained and interrogated and in some cases murdered, and the results of the interrogations were eventually released to the public. In 1971, more than a hundred Tupamaros escaped in a major prison break

Politically, the movement did not achieve a change in government, as was evident in the electoral defeat of the left in 1971. In addition, the Tupamaros came under increasing military pressure from the Uruguayan army and police, who were also trained and supported by the US Office of Public Safety. The massive use of violence weakened the movement, and by 1972 numerous leaders had been arrested. Among others, leader Raúl Sendic was captured and, like many others, imprisoned until the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. Surviving leading members decided at that time to participate in democratic elections. They founded the Movement for Popular Participation (Movimiento de Participación Popular), which has since become the strongest faction of the left-wing party alliance Frente Amplio. In October 2004, the party alliance won the elections and has since formed the government. One of the former leading members of the Tupamaros, José Mujica, was Minister of Agriculture from 2005 to 2008 and President of the Republic from 2010 to 2015.

“Tupamaros” in Western Europe

The concept of the Tupamaros was imitated many times in Europe with different political orientations, first from 1969 by the Tupamaros West-Berlin as well as Tupamaros Munich and then by the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Army Faction and the Movement 2 June.


  • Costa-Gavras: The Invisible Uprising. original État de Siège (1972)
  • Rainer Hoffmann, Heidi Specogna: Tupamaros. Documentary with Pepe Mujica et al. (1997)


  • Fritz René Allemann: Macht und Ohnmacht der Guerilla. R. Piper & Co., Munich 1974.
  • Ernesto G. Bermejo: Hands in the fire. A tupamaro looks back. (“Los manos en el fuego”). Focus-Verlag, Giessen 1986, ISBN 3-88349-341-4.
  • Thomas Fischer: The Tupamaros in Uruguay. The Model of the Urban Guerilla. In: Wolfgang Kraushaar (ed.): Die RAF und der linke Terrorismus. Volume 2. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2006, ISBN 978-3-936096-65-1, pp. 736-750.
  • Alain Labrousse: The Tupamaros. Urban guerrillas in Uruguay. (“Les tupamaros”) Hanser, Munich 1971, ISBN 3-446-11419-X. (Hanser series; 65).
  • Alfonso Lessa: La revolución imposible. Los Tupamaros y el fracaso de la vía armada en el Uruguay del siglo XX, Montevideo 2010. ISBN 978-9974-68344-0
  • Gerardo Tagliaferro: Adiós Robin Hood. 7 tupamaros, 40 años después. Montevideo 2008. ISBN 978-9974-49423-7

Web links


  1. Vania Markarian: El 68 uruguayo. El movimiento estudiantil entre molotovs y música beat. Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Bernal 2012, ISBN 978-987-558-240-8, p. 46.
  2. Eduardo Rey Tristán: A la vuelta de la esquina. La izquierda revolucionaria uruguaya, 1955-1973. Editorial Fin de Siglo, Montevideo 2006, ISBN 9974-49-380-3, p. 332.