January 8, 1971: Marxist terrorists kidnap UK Ambassador to Uruguay

On January 8, 1971 Uruguayan Marxist Tupamaros terrorists kidnaped the UK Ambassador in Montevideo and held him hostage for 8 months.

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY – Is the friend of my enemy my friend, or is it better to say ‘any port in a storm’?

There are times when a situation gets so bad that those immersed in it will go to any length to resolve it. When things are as low as they can possibly go, or when those suffering simply cannot take it anymore, they are willing to do a ‘deal with the Devil‘.

Anyone up for some ‘negotiations? (Photo: By Gustave Doré from Dante‘s Divine Comedy, Public Domain)

Kidnaping is a good example of a crisis where, if the hostage sequester continues over a long period of time, states may end up bringing in a party that, at least on the surface, seems a little odd.

Take today’s featured attack.

On this day in 1971

The UK Ambassador to Uruguay, Geoffrey Jackson was seized by leftist Tupamaros terrorists who ambushed him and his chauffeur. He was taken to a damp dungeon where he ended up held for 245 days: his government initially refused to bargain for his release.

Eventually, though, the Brits brought in Salvador Allende, a Marxist leader in nearby Chile (Allende was later overthrown in a coup on September 11, 1973 by General Augusto Pinochet and died/committed suicide/was killed on that day), to obtain their diplomat’s freedom. A ransom of £42,000 was also paid. Jackson had been deprived of liberty for 8 months.

My captors could read on my cell wall my personal decalogue including the sentence: I represent a great and noble nation which is a force wholly for good in the world.

Geoffrey Jackson

As this crisis played out in the context of the Cold War it is hard to over-emphasise how anguished the UK government felt about using a Marxist to rescue their man from fellow Marxist terrorists. And yet that is what they did. Still, “necessity is the mother of invention” as they say.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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