MONTEVIDEO, May 7 -- The written confessions of a retired Uruguayan navy captain refueled discussion in the country Tuesday about the 'dirty war' waged against opponents by the military government of 1973-1985. Defense Minister Raul Iturria described the confessions by retired navy captain Jorge Troccoli as 'respectable.' 'They express the mood of an officer who was involved in the events of the 1970s and express the thought that, for me, in the end is a call for reconciliation,' he said. In a letter to the newspaper El Pais de Montevideo, published on Sunday, Troccoli wrote down his recollections of the period of military rule, between 1973 and 1985. Troccoli has been accused of being one of the principal torturers in the Uruguayan navy during that period, and of being involved in joint acts of repression with members of the Argentine military. His letter, acknowledging torture and killings of prisoners, was the first public confession of a former member of the Uruguayan military over the tactics used by the government to combat leftist guerrillas. Iturria said the question of rights violations during the period 'has been solved legally, and we have to try, if not to forget, at least not to feed the future of our country with deeds from the past.' Vice Adm. Raul Risso, commander-in-chief of the navy, said Troccoli's letter was 'not revisionist, but pragmatic, with an objective treatment of the experiences of a high-ranking former officer and which many of us lived through.'
But Risso said the letter was personal 'and does not affect the navy as an institution.' Jose Mujica, a legislator and former leader of the Tupamaro guerrilla movement said he would 'always be on the side of those who fight to know the truth.' Former legislator Matilde Rodriguez Larreta de Gutierrez Ruiz, whose husband was killed by the Argentine military in Buenos Aires in 1976, said she felt nauseated by Troccoli's letter, and doubted it could clear up the past. Senator Rafael Michelini, whose father was killed along with Rodriguez's husband in Buenos Aires, said it was now up to the navy to explain 'why there was torture and why human rights were violated.' Members of the armed forces and police were cleared of any human rights violations under an amnesty passed following Uruguay's return to civilian rule in 1985 and ratified in a national plebiscite in 1989.