Jose Gavazzo was born on 2 October 1939 in Uruguay. He is married and is the father of three daughters.
He joined the army in 1956 and served in the artillery. He became specialized in the Intelligence service and participated in anti-insurrection courses in the United States. During the military dictatorship he worked in the Office for the Coordination of Anti-Subversive Operations (OCAO). He was then head of Department III POE (Planning-Operations-Links) for the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIS) which coordinated arrests of Uruguayans in Argentina.
The period between 25 and 29 November 1975 saw the start of “Operation Condor” which had as its aim to find a regional solution to the security of the countries within the Southern Cone against subversive alliances operating throughout the south of the continent. José Gavazzo was known to have played a leading role in this operation on behalf of Uruguay. The operation took aim at the regional activities of groups such as the Revolutionary Coordinating Junta (JCR) which was made up of the MLN-Tupamaros of the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP) of Argentina, the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) of Chile, and the Bolivian National Liberation Army (ELN).
Intelligence documents discovered in 2005, indicate that “Operation Condor” was set up by five countries, which in alphabetical order were Argentina “Condor 1” , Bolivia “Condor 2”, Chile “Condor 3”, Paraguay “Condor 4”, and Uruguay “Condor 5”. Brazil was not formally a member of the operation but collaborated with its neighbours in coordinating the repression. In Uruguay, the operation was led by the Defence Intelligence Agency with the documents showing also that the head of the “Condorop” (Operation Condor) in Uruguay was Jose Gavazzo, at the time a major in the army.
One of the documents, dated 16 August 1976, was established following the first mass abductions which Gavazzo and the OCAO, carried out in Buenos Aires with the illegal transfer of 23 Uruguayans to be tortured in the secretive Automotores Orletti Centre. This document was signed by Gavazzo as the head of “Condorop”.
It confirmed at the same time that Gavazzo was the head of Operation Condor when, in September 1976, another mass seizure of 22 Uruguayans took place. After being captured and tortured in Orletti they were illegally put on board the “second flight” to Montevideo, and have never been seen since.
Gavazzo and other military personnel responsible for these crimes were protected by the 1986 Law on the Expiration of the Punitive Claims of the State (Expiry Law), a law which had permitted impunity for policemen and military personnel who had been guilty of human rights violations. This law was adopted in 1986 by the first government following the restoration of democracy then ratified in 1989 and again in 2009 following two national referendums, which were however considered to be held under doubtful circumstances.
The administration of Tabare Vazquez (2005-2010) then provided a new interpretation of the Expiry Law, which allowed for the prosecution of a certain number of former military officers and policemen for crimes committed during the regime.
On 19 June 2002, with the help of the Center of Legal and Social Studies, the families of Juan Gelman and María Claudia García brought a complaint against Gavazzo and six other militaries for the disappearance of Maria Claudia Garcia Iruretagoyena de Gelman.