Michelini, Zelmar (1924–1976)

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Michelini, Zelmar (1924–1976)

Zelmar Michelini (b. 24 March 1924; d. 20 May 1976), Uruguayan senator and founder of the Movement for a People's Government, a splinter faction of the Colorado Party, known as List 99, which later became the Party for a People's Government (PGP). Michelini abandoned his law school studies and position as general secretary of the Federation of University Students (FEUU) to become an organizer in the Bank Employees Union (AEBU). An active member of the Colorado Party, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1953 as a close associate of Luis Batlle Berres. Michelini was reelected as a deputy in 1958 and 1962. Growing disagreements with the leadership led Michelini and others to form List 99 within the Colorado Party. With the party's return to the presidency in 1966, Michelini was given the post of minister of industry and commerce. On the death of President Oscar Daniel Gestido and the ascension of Jorge Pacheco Areco to the presidency amid ongoing social tension and political conflict, Michelini, now a senator, took his group out of the Colorado Party in December 1970. In February 1971, Michelini's group, later known as the PGP, joined the Christian Democratic and the Socialist and Communist parties to form the Frente Amplio (Broad Front), a coalition modeled after Unidad Popular in Chile.

Michelini was reelected a senator in 1972 but this time as a member of the Frente Amplio. From this position he protested eloquently against the increased authoritarianism of President Juan María Bordaberry and the growing role of the armed forces. The 27 June 1973 coup found Michelini in Buenos Aires, where he went into permanent exile. He spent the next three years fighting the dictatorship and denouncing its violations of human rights. He testified on these matters before the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal in Rome in March 1974. His tireless efforts on behalf of political prisoners and his work with other exiles led to his abduction by Uruguayan and Argentine security forces on 18 May 1976. His body was found two days later along with that of a fellow Uruguayan, Héctor Gutiérrez Ruíz. In the 1990s Michelini's PGP, as an independent party, was the dominant force in a social-democratic political movement known as the Nuevo Espejo (New Model). Michelini's son Rafael was a PGP deputy to the Chamber of Deputies.

See alsoUruguay, Political Parties: Broad Front; Uruguay, Political Parties: Colorado Party.


César di Candia, ed., Ni muerte, ni derrota: Testimonios sobre Zelmar Michelini (1987).

Mario Juanaren, ed., El pueblo vencerá: Discursos, entrevistas y artículos de Zelmar Michelini (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Trobo, Claudio. Asesinato de estado: Quién mató a Michelini y Gutiérrez Ruiz? Montevideo, Uruguay: Ediciones del Caballo Perdido, 2003.

                              Martin Weinstein

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Michelini, Zelmar (1924–1976)

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