Uruguayan woman given proper burial 47 years after abduction by dictatorship

Last Updated: April 24, 2024By

The Long-Awaited Farewell: Honoring Amelia Sanjurjo


Finding Amelia After 50 Years

A woman from Uruguay, Amelia Sanjurjo, who was taken by security forces during the country’s military dictatorship, has finally been laid to rest nearly half a century after her disappearance.

The Discovery

A year ago, investigators unearthed Amelia’s bone fragments from a military base in a small town in southern Uruguay. Just last week, DNA tests confirmed her identity. The DNA was matched using samples from her relatives in Uruguay, Spain, and Italy.


Remembering Amelia

Amelia was well-loved by her family and friends. She worked at a publishing house and was a member of Uruguay’s Communist Party. In 1977, when she was 41 and newly pregnant, she was taken from the streets of Montevideo. Prosecutors revealed that she died after being tortured and beaten in a military detention center six days after her arrest.

A Rare Success

Since 2005, when the search for the disappeared began, only six people, including Amelia, have been identified. This is a small number compared to the nearly 200 people who vanished during the dictatorship.


A Somber Tribute

On a Thursday in downtown Montevideo, people gathered to honor Amelia. They stood around a small wooden box that contained her remains. The crowd included both those who embraced and those who shed tears. This event took place outside Uruguay’s University of the Republic, where forensic experts had identified Amelia.

Family Devotion

Amelia’s family, who had spread across Europe, sent a heartfelt message to be read at her wake. Ignacio Errandonea, part of a group with missing relatives, expressed the bittersweet closure, saying, “Today means we have found Amelia and are able to say goodbye to her, which was the right thing to do for many years.”


Roses and Memories

During the service, supporters placed red and yellow roses on Amelia’s coffin. Mikaela Mall, speaking for the family, highlighted Amelia’s dedication to her ideals and her relentless pursuit of a more just world. She said, “The dictatorship was cruel to her as it was to so many others, making her pay dearly for the simple and brave act of dreaming of a more just and supportive world … She dedicated her entire life to her activism and was consistent until the very end.”

A Bigger Picture

The search for the disappeared in Uruguay is part of a broader effort to seek justice and accountability. The country endured a brutal dictatorship from 1973 to 1985, during which 197 people were disappeared. Many of those taken were moved to Argentina under Operation Condor, a secret plan by South American dictatorships to eliminate left-wing opponents. So far, forensic teams have identified 31 Uruguayans from remains found in other parts of the region.

Seeking Justice

While Argentina has made significant strides in addressing past crimes, with over 300 court verdicts and thousands of sentences, Uruguay has been slower. Only around 30 trials have taken place in Uruguay, though recent legal changes aim to speed up the process. Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou emphasized the government’s dedication to finding the disappeared, citing Amelia’s identification as proof of this commitment.

Amelia Sanjurjo’s story is a powerful reminder of the lasting impact of past injustices and the ongoing efforts to find and honor those who were lost.

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