The Legacy of Human-Rights Violations in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay

The Legacy of Human-Rights Violations in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay

The Legacy of Human-Rights Violations in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay

The Legacy of Human-Rights Violations in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay


The new democracies of the Southern Cone have publicly professed to reject and condemn the uses of the state power in various forms against citizens under military rule, thus dissociating themselves from their predecessors. And yet the experiences of military rule have become a grim legacy, raising major issues and dilemmas to the forefront of the public agenda. The Legacy of Human Rights Violations in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay analyses in a systematic and comparative way the struggles and debates, the institutional paths and crises that took place in these societies following redemocratization in the 1980s and 1990s, as they confronted the legacy of violations committed under previous authoritarian governments and as the democratic administrations tried to balance normative principles and political contingency. The book also traces how these trends affected the development of politics of oblivion and memory and the restructuring of collective identity and solidarity following redemocratization. Oxford Studies in Democratization is a series for scholars and students of comparative politics and related disciplines. The series will concentrate on the comparative study of the democratization process that accompanied the decline and termination of the cold war. The geographical focus of the series will primarily be Latin America, the Caribbean, Southern and Eastern Europe, and relevant experiences in Africa and Asia.


The home arrest of General (r.) Augusto Pinochet in London in October 1998, and the legal tug-of-war over his possible extradition to Spain, where he faces charges of crimes against humanity, triggered again what many consider the 'ghosts of the past'. Once more, the public sphere focused on the images of past polarization and violence, of the disappeared, of the tortured, and of those who spent time in concentration camps and prisons under the General's military rule between 1973 and 1990. As supporters and foes of the aged senator- for-life clashed in Chile and elsewhere, the images of national reconciliation and of a consolidated and stable Chilean democracy appeared tainted.

As the legal tug-of-war continued in the United Kingdom and the debate mounted on the feasibility, wisdom, and fairness of bringing former rulers to trial for their responsibility in human-rights violations, writer Isabel Allende, the niece of Salvador, evaluated in the New York Times Magazine that justice had been done, in the form of the opprobrium that fell upon the man who 'had the gall to pose as his nation's savior.' In a nation traumatized by past terror and apprehensions about the future, Isabel Allende saw in the detention of Pinochet the beginning of the end of the reign of fear in her country.

In Uruguay the popular Carnaval troupes, the murgas, captured in their 1999 lyrics the idea that this case was emblematic of their expectation of justice at home. Some talked of the inherent connection between the military's work and torture, while others addressed Pinochet's Uruguayan peers, who 'from now on, will have to live on the run.' They too, the murgas chanted, had much to hide and could expect to be captured one day, like the Chilean retired general. With avenues of institutional justice closed, popular culture kept collective grievances and expectations alive.

In Argentina, the news about Pinochet found a wide echo. In parallel, legal changes made possible the arrest of General Videla and Admiral Massera, accused of being responsible for the kidnapping of new born babies of disappeared persons, when they ruled Argentina in the late 1970s. The claims for justice, upheld during many years . . .

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