MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – Raul O. Garces, a veteran Associated Press correspondent who defied military censors and leftist guerrillas as he covered many of the tumultuous events of South America for more than a half-century, died on Saturday from a massive heart attack. He was 73.
Garces died at the city's Spanish Hospital, where he had gone for a checkup, his son-in-law said.
For nearly 56 years, Garces covered the top stories in Uruguay and Argentina, where he was forced into an unhappy exile after his determination to report the facts clashed with military censors during Uruguay's 1973-1985 dictatorship. He also had faced death threats from the country's leftist Tupamaro guerrillas, and after six arrests, the military told AP managers they would not guarantee his safety.
"When they interrogated me for many hours they tried to get me mixed up in some situation, but I could always demonstrate it wasn't so, because it wasn't so: My only guide was my obligation to inform," Garces said. "I was never an activist of any kind; I didn't belong to any cause. I went to jail because of my news coverage ... for my refusal to agree to censorship."
With AP's help, Garces fled in 1977 to Buenos Aires, where he continued to write for the agency until the Montevideo correspondency reopened and he moved back home in 1991.
Raul Omar Garces Cabrera was born in Montevideo on May 7, 1939, and joined AP as a 17-year-old office boy in 1956, picking up journalism skills along the way. He also kept up side jobs writing for the Uruguayan newspapers El Diario, Sport, Busqueda and La Manana before focusing his work on AP.
Garces reported on countless presidential visits, beginning with France's Charles de Gaulle and Cuba's Fidel Castro, and developed sources throughout Uruguay. When Ernesto "Che" Guevara came to town, rather than wait in a packed stadium for his speech, Garces knew the real news would happen at the airport, where he talked his way onto the tarmac and witnessed police hustling the Argentine revolutionary out of town.
He also covered the fall of Argentine President Arturo Frondizi and in one of many scoops, beat the competition by six hours with his report that Uruguayan President Juan Maria Bordaberry would be toppled by his own military. Later, when Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner blocked telex cables, Garces went out of his way to take dictation in Buenos Aires from his colleagues in Asuncion.
Garces served as correspondent until April of this year when his position was eliminated as part of a restructuring.
"I would like to be remembered as someone who always tried to do the best for the AP," Garces said in 2009 when he was asked about his career. "Despite the passage of so many years, I still keep at it with the same enthusiasm."
His survivors include his mother Carmen Cabrera, wife Maria Teresa Nunez, daughter Maria del Carmen Garces, son-in-law Marcelo Viscarret; and three grandchildren: Tania, Yamila and Imanol Viscarret Garces.