Democracy in Latin America: (Re)Constructing Political Society

By Manuel Antonio Garretón M.; Edward Newman | Go to book overview

8
Reconciliation
Edward Newman

The ghosts of the past, if not exorcised to the fullest extent possible, will continue to haunt the nation tomorrow.

–JoséZalaquett 1

A pervading challenge has accompanied (re)democratization in many Latin American countries: how to balance the needs of justice, truth, and reconciliation in a viable and progressive democratic project. The manner in which (sometimes fragile) democracies have dealt with a history of human rights abuse and dictatorship amidst a plethora of political and social tensions is a major theme of democratic transition and consolidation. 2 This challenge is central to the processes of (re)democratization and for some people, even the concept of citizenship in the region. The legacy of brutality and human rights abuse has left its mark not only upon the dynamics and terms of democratic transition but on public life. This legacy is thus central to the nature of transition.

The modalities of dealing with a past of human rights abuse the possibilities for achieving justice and accountability are conditioned and in most cases constrained by the terms and pace of democratic transition. Moreover, the manner in which political elites and society in general deal with this legacy is central to the democratic project. Thus, even when democratic transition and consolidation are no longer jeopardized or threatened by regression in the search for justice and accountability in countries such as Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil this does not

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