On 31 May the bodies of three Uruguayan marines were discovered in a naval base in Montevideo, each with a bullet wound to the head.
This is the first time since Uruguay’s return to democracy in 1985 that a crime of this sort has been committed. The brutality of the murders suggests that they could have been carried out by drug trafficking organisations (DTOs), for which executions of this sort are commonplace. President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou only took office on 1 March, and his centre-right government has prioritised combating violence and organised crime to improve public security.
- The three marines were carrying out the night watch at an old naval radar base. In addition to the cranial gunshot wounds, they sustained several other bullet wounds to the body. Their bodies were discovered in the morning by colleagues who had come to relieve them.
- President Lacalle Pou held a two-hour meeting with the navy to discuss the murders. He then proceeded to give a short message, flanked by his defence and interior ministers, Javier García and Jorge Larrañaga respectively, the commander in chief of the navy, Jorge Wilson, and the head of the police, Diego Fernández.
- Lacalle Pou conveyed his condolences to relatives of the victims, and declared two days of national mourning. He promised to get to the bottom of the crimes and to bring those responsible to justice. “We are not prepared to allow society to become inured to violence; we have repeated this time and time again, and as a government we will use every constitutional and legal tool … to repel this aggression to the Uruguayan people,” Lacalle Pou said.
The police are working on three lines of inquiry around the executions. The most likely explanation is that they constituted a warning from DTOs, following recent drug seizures and the decision by the Lacalle Pou administration to take tougher action against organised crime and to combat micro drug trafficking. García, who condemned the “atrocity”, said that the authorities had received intelligence in recent months of a possible theft of weapons by criminal groups.
In brief: Chile’s unemployment rate highest in a decade
* Chile’s national statistics institute (INE) has released the latest figures on unemployment, according to which the unemployment rate reached 9.0% in the quarter from February to April 2020. This is the highest that the unemployment rate has been since reaching 9.1% in March-May 2010 and marks 1.9 percentage point increase compared with the same period in 2019. INE director Sandra Quijada stressed to the local press that the February-April unemployment rate only “partly reflects the effects caused by Covid-19, which began to impact the labour market in the second half of March.”