Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Daniel Rey Piuma, Messenger of Bad News

At the beginning of 2017 the Institute received the papers of Daniel Rey Piuma. Not a well-known name, but certainly a life marked by the military dictatorships established in Latin America in the 1970s. As a conscript, Rey Piuma, born in 1958 in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, was assigned to work for the intelligence service of the Uruguayan navy.
In 1976, in Argentina, Jorge Videla came to power in a violent coup that deposed Isabel Perón. During the subsequent reign of terror by the military junta, it was customary, after torturing political opponents, to drop them dead or alive from airplanes into the La Plata River and the Atlantic Ocean. Many bodies were washed ashore near Montevideo in neighbouring Uruguay. The regime in Uruguay worked closely with the Argentinian dictatorship. The corpses washed ashore were extensively photographed and documented by the intelligence service though.

Piuma decided to make this unique secret material public, and after being betrayed he only narrowly managed to escape to Brazil. Concealed in the clothes he wore during his escape were a large quantity of microfilms and other material. In Brazil he continued to fear for his life, and in 1980 he fled to the Netherlands with the help of a Dutch delegation led by Liesbeth den Uyl, the wife of the former prime minister.

Piuma settled in Amsterdam, trained as a graphic designer, and worked for many years at the municipal printing house there.

However, Piuma wanted to publicize his story and draw attention to the unique evidence he had smuggled out of Argentina. Eventually, in 2012, he would tell his story to an Argentinian court, handing out photographs of the victims as well as documents about secret torture sites, thus contributing to the truth being exposed.

Piuma was in the news when, on the eve of the wedding in 2002 between Prince Willem-Alexander and Máxima Zorreguieta, he protested on Dam Square in Amsterdam. He held up a placard denouncing the crimes of the Argentinian military dictatorship and the years of silence that followed. Piuma was arrested, his home searched, and his computer seized. He was tried for insulting the crown prince and his wife.

Daniel Rey Piuma died in Amsterdam on 21 August 2016 after a short illness.

His widow donated his papers to the Institute. They contain correspondence and other documents relating to the torture practices in Argentina, to the evidence smuggled out by Piuma, and to the various occasions on which Piuma had an opportunity to tell his story.
(Bouwe Hijma)

The photograph was taken from


21 March 2017