Military Dictatorships and the Dirty Wars
Resistance and Memory in National Security Regimes

I. What to do?

  1. How can people respond to a repressive government

  2.  How do societies cope with the aftermath of a murderous government?

II. The Question of Silence

  1. The National Security military governments depended on silence

  2. Silence, hiding the truth about repression, was critical for numerous reasons

    1.  Deniability - military can claim nothing is wrong

    2. Terror - lack of knowledge about the disappeared instills terror in population

    3. Legitimacy - easier for governments to claim they are just if crimes are unknown

  3. Many people in general population don't want to know

    1. Can ease their own fears if they don't know

    2.  Won't be forced to speak out if they don't know

    3.  Fear that knowledge would lead to repression against them

    4.  Some approve of what government is doing - happy to participate in cover-up

    5.  Easier to support government if full extent of crimes is unknown

III. Argentina

  1.  Proceso government ruled 1976-1983

  2.  Particularly violent

    1. High estimates of deaths run 20,000-30,000 - know one knows for certain

    2.  So violent because military was fractured, lacked strong command structure

    3.  With low-ranking officers not disciplined and in competition, chaos ensued

  3.  Mothers of the Disappeared/Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

    1.  Proceso regime had always said motherhood was most important role for women

    2.  One group of women turned this to their advantage, ability to resist

    3.  Began parading on the Plaza de Mayo with pictures of missing children, demanding information

    4.  Regime could not act against them too strongly, for they were playing their role as mothers protecting children

    5.  Thus the women had turned regime's values against it

    6.  Their weekly marches proved something was wrong, making it harder for people to ignore violence

IV. Chile

  1. Augusto Pinochet ruled from 1973-1990

  2.  Not as violent as Argentina, but efficient in use of terror to control population

  3.  Vicaria de la Solidaridad

    1. Founded in 1976 by Archdiocese of Santiago

    2.  Provided legal aid, welfare assistance, sanctuary, and more to victims of repression

    3.  Although put under much pressure by government, survived in part because of government values

    4.  Pinochet government argued it had come to power to protect Catholic values from Socialist Allende government

    5.  Thus it was difficult for it to move against a branch of the Catholic Church

    6.  Not all of Catholic Church supported the Vicaria - more conservative elements supported Pinochet

V. Brazil

  1. Military regime 1964-1985

  2.  Known for torturing and imprisoning large numbers of political prisoners

  3.  Highly legalistic 

    1. Insisted on full legal protocol in military court for prisoners

    2. Judges allowed prisoners to make statements for record

    3.  Allowed defense lawyers to remove files related to case from courthouse for 24 hours to prepare case

    4.  This legalism based on need for legitimacy, desire not to look like more barbaric Argentina

  4. The Nunca Mais Conspiracy 

    1. Cardinal Arns and Presbyterian pastor Jaime Wright wanted full truth of tortures told

    2.  Convinced defense lawyers to help them (with assistance of many) to photocopy all the records of the military courts

    3.  Military believed no one would ever see these records

    4.  Used documents to create a detailed report of tortures and other crimes called Nunca Mais - "Never Again"

    5.  Released in 1985, shortly after return of democratic elections

    6.  Became a best-seller - meant military could not pretend these things did not happen

VI. Uruguay

  1. Military government 1973-1985

  2. 1973 coup had many causes 

    1. Economic decline increased social tensions

    2.  Growing number of strikes

    3.  Government's frustration at inability to control guerilla group Tupamaros

  3. While military killed few people, much torture and psychological terror and repression

    1. Used behavioralist  punishment-reward systems to control, terrorize the population

    2.  Populations divided into three groups

      1. "A"s - people who were politically reliable - could work for government

      2.  "B"s - politically suspect, could not work for government, tens of thousands fired

      3.  "C"s - politically unreliable - almost impossible to get work anywhere

    3. Behavioralist psychology used to torture prisoners

    4.  Prisoners routinely and universally physically tortured

    5.  At least 400,000 out of 3 million people went into exile

  4. Impunity and the Referendum

    1. First civilian government fairly conservative

    2.  Passed amnesty law for all of the military

    3.  Only way to overturn amnesty was through referendum

    4.  This required 555,000 signatures for ballot - supporters just barely got needed amount

    5.  But referendum failed, 53% to 41% (6% bad ballots)

  5. Why did referendum fail?

    1.  Some voters didn't care or thought what military did was fine

    2.  Others were afraid military might return to power to prevent being put on trial

    3. Others wanted just to forget the whole thing rather than live through memories of that time