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Military Power, Impunity and State-Society Change in Latin America Author(s): J. Patrice McSherry Source: Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Sep., 1992), pp. 463-488 Published by: Canadian Political Science Association and the Société québécoise de science politique Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3229578 . Accessed: 02/08/2013 14:55
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MilitaryPower, Impunity and State-Society Change in Latin America*
J. PATRICE McSHERRY
Ralph Bunche Institute on the United Nations
The transition from military to civilian rule in Latin America has thrown a searchlight upon two knotty and interrelated problems: the legacy of military repression from the era of the national security states, and the problem of still-powerful and unrepentant armed forces coexisting with new civilian governments. These intertwined problems have profound implications for the possibility of fundamental change in a region long characterized by extreme social inequality and political instability. After the Cuban revolution and its challenge to the hegemony of capitalism in the hemisphere, a series of coups brought military regimes-national security states-to power throughout Latin America. Their societies suffered, through the widespread use of state terror, gross human rights violations of unprecedented proportions from the 1960s through the 1980s. Central America still suffers systematic abuses. How new civilian regimes should deal with the military perpetrators of state terror, particularly when those forces still wielded preponderant power, became a burning issue throughout the region. In country after country, a major obstacle to unfolding democratization processes has been the military, or significant factions within the military institution. The military regimes often established laws giving the armed forces extraordinary powers, and/or appointed civilian allies to government positions, thus attempting to institutionalize permanently their power in anticipation of the eventual transition to civilian rule. At the moment of relinquishing government power, the major
* The author is indebted to Kenneth P. Erickson, John Hammond, Irving L. Markovitz, Ra6l Molina Mejia, Kenneth Sharpe and Martin Weinstein for their comments on versions of this article (although they may not recognize or agree with everything in the final product), as well as to the anonymous reviewers of this JOURNAL. J. Patrice McSherry, Research Associate, Ralph Bunche Institute on the United Nations, Box 530, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 33 West 42 Street, New York, New York, USA 100368099
Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique, XXV:3 (September/septembre 1992). Printed in Canada / Imprime au Canada
This content downloaded from 220.127.116.11 on Fri, 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
To paraphraseAlain Rouquie." In short. respect for the rule of law and civilian supremacyin new regimes. El Salvador. despite the transition. Argentina and Chile. 350. Decisions to allow impunity have far-reachingramificationsvisa-vis the possibility of implantingdemocratic values such as justice. choices which would shape the limits and possibilities of their societies and polities in the future. In Uruguay. tend to perpetuatemilitarypower to the detrimentof democraticforces in the state and society.or establishingmechanismsto ensureparticipation dinate classes excluded by the militaryregimes. and entrenched structures of the national security apparatus within the state. protected by impunity and able to define unilaterally what is a "nationalsecuritythreat.115.' civilianizationof the militarystate does not necessarily mean the democratizationor demilitarization of In countries civilian as and with weak such Guatemala power. and the constructing of institutions to sustain them. This test of power is a dialectical strugglethat has to variedin differentLatinAmericancountries.464 J. (Anothercrucialdeterminant of the phenomenonof restricteddemocracies in Latin America in the early 1990sis the highlyexclusionaryneo-liberaleconomic model being 1 See Alain Rouqui6. the referendumprocess demonstratedthat fear of military threatsdampenedpopulardemandsfor militaryaccountabilityand due process. 1987). 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .82. the new civilian regimes were faced with profound choices at the momentof transitionand beyond. This content downloaded from 139. regimes. the possibilities for achieving socio-economic change in the interests of the for subormajorities. to a greateror lesser extent dependingon the strengthof the organizedforces in society andthe civiliangovernments. military power is embedded in the structures of the state in various ways.the militaryhas continuedto dominatethe politicalsystem throughterrorand an intact clandestinecounterinsurgencyapparatus. impunityis an issue that symbolizes the relationshipbetween differentsectors of the state-the elected governmentandthe coercive apparatus-as well as between the state and society. In Brazil.but it is no exaggeration of that of at heart the the issue strikes the say very militaryimpunity limits and possibilities of transformingthe former national security states. civilian power. Moreover. The Military and the State in Latin America (Berkeley: University of California Press.34 on Fri. powerful armed forces are still a major factor defining the limits of This article attempts to show that impunitygrantedto the armed forces. PATRICE McSHERRY demandof the militaryin virtuallyall states was for guaranteesagainst accountability-widely called impunityin the region-for humanrights crimes. Thus. a demandthatimplicitlyplaces the militaryabove the law. remainthreatenedas long as politicized and undemocraticmilitary/securityforces remain above the law. In all these states.
Thisissue strikesat the very heartof the transformation placesthe military of nationalsecurity states and the democratization of power.the long-range prospectsfor consolidatingdemocracyin these countries seem dim. the way a new civilian governmentdeals with the questionof impunityin all its manifestations encapsulatesthe struggle-or lack thereof-between democratization and rule by militarydictate.as well as some of the legal and constitutional mechanisms of impunity embeddedin polities throughoutLatin America. As Rouquienotes. Un examende la questionde l'impuet les nit6et de ces structures 6troitement liees reveleles tensionsentrela d6mocratisation privilegeset le pouvoirpersistentsdes forces arm6es. imposed by the civilian governments. Ces sur les possibilit6sd'un chanlies pourraient problemes6troitement peser profond6ment gement fondamentaldans une region longtempscaract6riseepar une in6galit6sociale extremeet une instabilit6 de politique. the extent of militarypower in each country becomes clearer. a ete d'obtenir des garantiescontre toute inculpationde crime contre les droits de l'homme-ce qui est commun6ment appele impunitedansla r6gion-demande qui place tacitement l'arm6eau-dessusdes lois. malgr6 la tion des Etatsde securit6nationaleet de la d6mocratisation transitiondu pouvoir militaireau pouvoir civil.Unless the problemis confrontedand action taken to demilitarizestate and society. In other words. Le passagede l'autorit6 a l'autorit6 civile en Am6rique Latinea misen militaire evidence l'heritagede la repressionmilitaire depuis l'6poquedes ltats de s6curit6nationale et le problemepose par des forces arm6esimp6nitenteset encore puissantes.34 on Fri.andthe problemof still-powerful for the possibilityof fundamental problemshaveprofound changein a region implications andpoliticalinstability. Ce problemeest au centrememe de la transformadu pouvoir.115.Commele remarqueRouqui6. Pendantle danspratiquement tous les pays.the major for demandof the militaryin virtuallyall stateswas for guarantees againstaccountability humanrights crimes-widely called impunityin the region-a demandthat implicitly abovethe law. civilian-military This content downloaded from 139. Additionally.) Impunityperpetuatesthe political autonomyof the militaryand its abilityto act beyond the reaches of the rule of law and civilianauthority.An examination of the questionof impunityandthose and persistingmiliembeddedstructuresexposes the tensions between democratization and power.with significantpressure by the banks. howInternational MonetaryFundandinternational ever. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .82. Duringthe process of transition.How to dealwiththe perpetrators of stateterroris a burning demilitarization controversialissue throughoutthe region. les structuresde l'appareilde s6curit6 nationalerestentinbriqu6es dansles r6gimescivils.Throughthis exercise. and to establish a system of equaljustice.la transformation l'ttat militaireen Etat civil n'entrainepas n6cessairementla d6mocratisationou la du pouvoir. This article provides a sketch of the initial acts of impunityin severalcountriesat the momentof transition. structuresof the national security apparatusremainembeddedwithinthe civilianregimes. tary prerogatives Resume. longcharacterized by extremesocialinequality or civilianizationof the militarystate does not necessarily mean the democratization and of power. and the changingnatureof the state as a site of struggleamongclass forces and sectors begins to be revealed. These intertwined states. la principale demandede l'armee processusde transition.Abstract.L'attitude de demilitarisation a adoptervis-a-visdes responsables de la terreur la part du gouvernementest une question brilante et tres controvers6e.De plus. The transitionfrom militaryto civilian rule in Latin Americahas thrown a upon the legacy of militaryrepressionfrom the era of the nationalsecurity searchlight andunrepentant armedforces. is not the focus of this article.This aspect.despite the transitionfrom militaryrule.
in terms of levels of economic development. as the hegemonic power in the hemisphere. eds. and elaborated in J. The Dangerous Doctrine (Boulder: Westview Press. these states can be usefully compared in key aspects such as direct governance by the military institution. Clearly. 1979). eds. Philippe C. Guatemalan Church in Exile (IGE)." in David Collier. Lopez. State and Opposition in Military Brazil (Austin: University of Texas Press. Guillermo O'Donnell.. 1973).3 The doctrine assumed an internal 2 This is my definition. "The Evolution of the National Security State: The Case of Guatemala. Another common factor is the historic role of the US government.. "National Security Ideology as an Impetus to State Violence and State Terror. "Of Victims and Executioners: Argentine State Terror. 1980). Penny Lernoux. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 35. and "Tensions in the Bureaucratic-Authoritarian State. 6-10. 121-53. ed. the militarization of state structures. N. Traditional one-man dictatorships such as Duvalier's Haiti. April 1989). Patrice McSherry. Saul Landau. 1988). Colombia." Comparative Political Studies 21 (1988). Modernization and Bureaucratic Authoritarianism (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1979). Lopez. Ecuador.466 The National Security States J. The Church and the National Security State (Maryknoll. Guillermo O'Donnell. "The National Security Doctrine.82. Honduras and Peru share some similar traits.2 In the national security states. The New Authoritarianism in Latin America (Princeton: Princeton University Press. the military undertook to reshape totally society in accordance with its messianic vision of national security. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Guatemala: Security. Military Threat Perception and the 'Dirty War' in Argentina." International Studies Quarterly 35 (1991).115. 3 Important contributions to the literature on national security doctrine include Jose Comblin. although other states such as Bolivia. The national security doctrine-still held by important sectors of the Latin American militaries-is an extremist ideology incorporating Latin organic and corporatist theories of the state and US counterinsurgency and cold war ideology. 1975-1979. the national security ideology held by these military institutions.. 382-407.Y. associated with a dependent and internationalized capitalist model of development. types of participation in the global economy. Lopez. and the mechanisms of impunity they imposed. which was governed directly by the military as an institution. Govern- This content downloaded from 139. 1988).: Orbis Books. social structure and so on. Brazil. El Salvador. especially the selections by Manuel Antonio Garret6n and Luciano Martins in Latin America (1989 edition). David Pion-Berlin. George A." Socialism and Democracy 10 (1990). However. strategic and ideological). David Pion-Berlin and George A. Other sources in English on this type of state include: Marian Helena Moreira Alves. 1986).34 on Fri. and Democracy (Mexico City. Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead. Somoza's Nicaragua and Stroessner's Paraguay fall outside my definition of national security states. Chile. Cry of the People (Garden City: Doubleday. drawn from the literature. financing and support of these armies. Guatemala and Uruguay. PATRICE McSHERRY The national security state is defined here as a type of authoritarian state. Development." in Michael Stohl and George A. in the training (tactical. there are major differences between the Central American countries and the larger South American states. particularly after the Second World War. This analysis highlights Argentina.
1988). and Martin Weinstein. disappearance and assassination were among the means used to maintain "security" and ensure "favorable investment climates" for foreign capital. See AlfredStepan. economic and social life.Rethinking Military ton: PrincetonUniversityPress." The national security state was characterized by fierce anticommunism and a commitment to pursue the twin objectives of "security and development.promoted ratherthanexterarmiesby focussingon internalsubversionandcounterinsurgency nal defence. linked to foreign investment and international capital. "a terrorist is not just someone with a gun or a bomb. the national security projects of the militaries coincided with the interests of key sectors of the agro-export classes in Central America. "Of Victims and Executioners. 9.5 Struggles by subordinate classes to better their lives and to demand socio-economic justice or political participation have been regarded as communist-inspired threats to "Western Christian civilization. In the 1960s and 1970s." 79.34 on Fri. 6 A numberof analysts have stressed that militaryrole expansion (or what Alfred is a dangerouspreludeto politiciStepanhas called "new military professionalism") Politics(Princezationandmayleadto coups.115. the national security state closed off democratic channels and seized control of political. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . US training. with the exception of the guerrilla groups in El Salvador and Guatemala.82. with the aim of eliminating the breeding grounds for communism. 73-95. State and Opposition in Military Brazil. Uruguay: Democracy at the Crossroads (Boulder: Westview Press. Torture. With its extensive repressive intelligence and counterinsurgency apparatus. 1986).13-15. the left was hunted down and largely eliminated. 1988)." US military aid and training tended to encourage and justify military role expansion. the national security doctrine is in practice an ideology of class domination. working and peasant classes were considered subversive and were primary targets for repression. The working and peasant classes were violently excluded from political life and economic influence." "Development" was envisioned as economic growth. As Maria Helena Moreira Alves has noted.30-34. and promotingcivic action programmes.'military-in-development" This content downloaded from 139. and the national bourgeoisies and elites linked to transnational capital in the Southern Cone.6 Alarmed by the ment Violence and Repression (New York: Greenwood Press.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 467 situation of total war between the military guardians of the nation and expansively defined "subversion." As General Videla of Argentina once said. as well as US policymakers obsessed with the "communist threat. 1976). and contributed to the all-encompassing character of the national security doctrine held by the Latin American armed forces. and as detrimental to national security. CivilianControlof the Military (Albany:State Universityof New YorkPress.andClaudeWelch."4 Democracy was regarded with suspicion at best. roleexpansionin the LatinAmerican especiallyafterthe Cubanrevolution. 5 Moreira Alves. 4 Quotedin Pion-Berlinand Lopez. but also someone who spreads ideas that are contrary to Western and Christian civilization.
Doctrine and Performance 1950-Present (New York: Free Press. ed. The US government. 7 See O'Donnell's classic work. Cry of the People. which believed the Latin American militaries to be the only forces capable of stabilizing the region and eliminating the "communist threat.. The Counterinsurgency Era: U. usually backed by the United States. In Central America. and by the strengthened organizations of labour and newly politicized peasant classes throughout the region. In the Southern Cone. these elites encouraged the Latin American militaries to crush the threat from below. mainly agro-export and transnational sectors of the bourgeoisie (and their allies in the military). Popular mobilization was seen as destructive." supported (overtly or covertly) or condoned the wave of coups in these years. Military Indoctrination and U. which marginalizes large majorities in conditions of extreme underdevelopment while allowing small minorities. for a sampling of literature on US influence on Latin American militaries. 1977). "The Military Obstacle to Latin Democracy. 96-113.S. and McSherry.82. Imperialism.S. The Evolution of the National Security State.115. See ibid. export-oriented. public administration and other civilian functions. in Central America. which violently imposed national security states. stressed that inflation and economic crisis were due to "excess demand" from subordinate classes. especially part two on US intervention. and Miles Wolpin. Military power.34 on Fri. This image coincided with the military perception that democracy had become a dangerous threat to national security. to live in luxury. overwhelming and threatening to the survival and development of the capitalist model. These military coups.. the violence of recent decades is rooted in military enforcement of a particularly inequitable form of capitalist development. military rule reinforced the dominance of the agro-export oligarchic elites. to the hegemony of this class structure. Martin Edwin Andersen." in David Collier. debt-led growth strategies aimed at rapid capital accumulation replaced import-substitution policies and strengthened sectors of the upper classes linked to foreign capital. and his "Tensions in the Bureaucratic-Authoritarian State and the Question of Democracy. Lernoux. supplied the coercion and control necessary to defeat perceived threats from social movements. The New Authoritarianism in Latin America. and training in economics. American Institute for Marxist Studies. This content downloaded from 139. opening the state to subversion and disorder. were thus the result of a confluence of specific domestic and international interests. peasant organizations and intellectuals. fiscal planning. In the Southern Cone. especially influential in Chile and Argentina in the 1970s. and was particularly targeted for military repression. 1973. Modernization and Bureaucratic Authoritarianism.468 J. Occasional Paper #13." Foreign Policy 73 (Winter 1988-1989). organized labour was perceived as the major threat to expanded capital accumulation as the import-substitution model collapsed. The monetarist orthodoxy of the Chicago Boys. including unions.7 projects. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Douglas Blaufarb. PATRICE McSHERRY Cuban revolution.
and significant regions of power and decisionmaking remain beyond the scope of civilians. "national security" meant the exclusion (political and economic) and repression of the popular sectors. This new state type is an exclusionary and constrained system. 1984). Again. as noted above. The Politics of AntiPolitics (2nd ed. each country examined here has a different balance of forces between its military and civilian sectors. 1989). where structures of the military apparatus of repression remain intact. "Of Victims and Executioners. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1991. The Transition to Militarized Civilian Governments In previous work. 285-318. The State as Terrorist (Westport: Greenwood Press. In some.82. The significance of this situation is that restructuring of the militarized state and society continues to be hindered under civilian government." 63-86. and Pion-Berlin and Lopez. This content downloaded from 139.. demobilize and destroy organized labour and preserve the system from challenges. there are fundamental differences between the Central American states and those of the Southern Cone. 99-122. Juan Corradi. eds. whose interests were seen as threatening to the status quo. "The Political Economy of State Repression in Argentina. where human rights violations and state terror have largely ceased with the transition. Jr. in all these cases the militaries have imposed "pacts of impunity" at the moment of transition to protect themselves from accountability afterward. officers involved in the repression remain in high-ranking positions. Proceso a la Impunidad de en Aeulnrica Latiloa (Bogota: Liga Internacional por Crimenes de Lesa HumanidCad los Derechos y la Liberaci6n de los Pueblos. "Global Transformations and the Future of Socialism in Latin America.. to a significant degree. and Paulo S6rgio Pinheiro.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 469 In all these countries. Civilians hold office. I have characterized these new civilian regimes as militarized civilian governments in order to avoid the assumption that they are as yet full democracies. see Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos. eds.34 on Fri.. James Petras. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . However. the limits of social change and participation are also defined. 335-44. Further. but civilian functions and prerogatives are still subject to military approval or control. key structures of the national security apparatus remain embedded within the new civilian regimes.. "The Legacy of Authoritarianism: Violence and the Limits of Democratic Transitions. Davies. The national security states utilized the dual mechanisms of economic restructuring and coercion to terrorize and exclude the subordinate classes. 1991). 181-93.9 In most.115." New Political Science 18/19 (Fall/Winter 1990)." in Brian Loveman and Thomas M.8 Today. David Pion-Berlin." in Michael Stohl and David Lopez. by the threat of military reaction. 8 See. 'Military Government and State Terrorism in Argentina. 9 For examples of the persistence of these repressive structures after the transition to civilian rule." paper presented at the Latin American Studies Association. the military institutions remain largely intact and in many cases strengthened. for example.
moreover. impunityhas come to have a specific meaningin politicaland humanrightsterms:it means that acts of repressionandabuse of power by the state againstits citizens are shieldedfromjudgmentor accountability before national law. the militaryregimes made concessions and withdrewfrom formalgovernance." New YorkTimes. to be permittedonly after the regimeshad institutionalizedpower structures of militaryauthorityand reorganizedeconomic and social structures.freedomfrompunishment. This has taken place via military selfamnesties. Brazil and Uruguay. The resultof impunityis invariablya renewedclimateof fear in the Citizens society. and a pervasive sense of injusticeand helplessness. In sum. andthe military'sidea of its missionandrole are still in place. Impunity and Its Mechanisms Impunitymeans. This content downloaded from 139.This has occurred. Jacobo Timerman's anguished account of President Menem's 1990 pardon of his torturers.470 J.constitutionsrewrittenundermilitaryruleare still the legal basis for the civilian regimes. and civil and are political rights legally recognized. for example. notablyof the left. The militaryremains a state within the state. the redemocratizationand/or liberalizationprocesses now under way were originallyformulatedby the militaryregimes.115. "Fear Returns to Argentina.10 to become resignedto the fact thatjusticeis beyondreachanddangerous demand. In ChileandGuatemala. various amnestylaws. However. In Latin America. structuresof coercion and repression. but retainedtheirperceived historicalprerogativeto act as political arbiter.Chile. Parallelmilitarycourts often serve to protect militaryoffenders from civilianjustice (a dimensionof impunitywhich is not examinedhere). PATRICE McSHERRY In these countries.To act withimpunity means to act with the knowledgethat one is above the law.82. to a greater or lesser degree.it will not permitciviliansto hold it accountablefor its past repressiverule. or other mechanisms. the militarydemandsimpunity.despite outragedpublic mobilizationin favour of prosecution and legal penalties. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . formal democratic mechanisms such as elections and civiliangovernmenthave been restored. In many of these countries. must operate withinstrictlydefined boundaries. literally.34 on Fri. pardonsgrantedby new civiliangovernments.Populardemandsforjustice and due process vis-a-vis militaryabuses areusuallydeflected or discouragedby the civilian governments. the national security doctrine is still predominantin the military institution: the type of internationalizedcapitalist model. some genuine. newly "civilianized"participatory structureshave been created. impunity limits the horizons of what is possible. such as Guatemala. Most especially. Fundamentalsocial change remainsoff limits. civilianopposition. January 5. 1991. Simulta10 See.
2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . In 1986. Polls at that time showed that 70 per cent of the public was opposed to this law. Uruguayan political leaders (excluding the Blanco Party) negotiated the transition from military rule with the generals in the "Navy Club Pact. ordered that no military man should appear before the courts for upcoming civil cases of military human rights abuses. The result of the Brazilian amnesty was to head off investigations of police and military human rights violations. impunity engenders a bolstered sense of power within the ranks of the military. mutilasummarizing tion and abuse of victims and namesof prisonersand their torturers. the 11 See "Brasil:NuncaMais"-published in Englishas "Torture in Brazil"-an account one millionpages of militaryfiles documenting torturecentres. the minister of defence. J. 1989. but soon after General Medina.408-10.82. Langguth. (New York:Pantheon 12 "Tumbaclandestinacon 1500cadaveres. March27. for example. the Colorado Party of President Sanguinetti introduced a proposal for a military amnesty.500 graves believed to contain the remains of disappeared political prisoners missing since the early 1970s. after leading competitors were excluded. which shielded military offenders from prosecution.13 As outraged citizens began organizing for a popular referendum on the amnesty. 1973-the day of the coup against Allende. This was voted down. a "reciprocal amnesty" was passed in Brazil.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 471 neously. HiddenTerrors Books. Memory and Justice. a clandestine cemetery was found beneath a new forest in Sio Paulo.34 on Fri. which included extensive torture and disappearance. "Torture.These records were secretly photocopiedby humanrightslawyersover a periodof severalyears in Brazil. April 1989. 1978). Pinochet appointed members of Congress who are still able to block executive efforts to democratize and demilitarize the Chilean state." El DiariolLa Prensa. The Sanguinetti government won the first election in 1985. and new rationalizations for terrorist methods." The andInternational Nation. Leaguefor HumanRights(ILHR). In 1979.See also A. Under the current civilian government. with 1. but it soon became clear he favoured amnesty for the military. Hours before these court cases were to begin." Part of the bargain was an agreement that the executive branch would not prosecute military violators of human rights. In 1984. This content downloaded from 139.12 The Uruguayan case illustrates the alliance of certain military and civilian elites at the moment of transition. the Supreme Court upheld this amnesty. 13 Cynthia Brown and Robert K. March27 1991. This type of amnesty has been criticized by international lawyers for its equation of individual crimes against the state (which the state can pardon) with state crimes against its citizens (the state cannot pardon itself). In Chile. "HumanRightsin Uruguay: WillHumanRightsViolatorsGo Free?"New YorkCity. Pinochet's national security state passed a self-amnesty law in 1978 which "forgot" all crimes committed by the military after September 11. Sanguinetti promised justice to Uruguayan society."1 In March 1991.115. Goldman. Sanguinetti managed to win Congressional authorization for the so-called Ley de Caducidad. 5.
April 8. and in December 1990 pardoned the notorious junta and military/ security leaders who had been convicted for their atrocities in the "dirty war. "In Uruguay. and Shirley Christian. Cerezo basically accepted this self-amnesty despite widespread outrage among Guatemalans." New York Times. In 1987. (Significantly. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in 1986." New YorkTimes.82. 1989. The Due Obedience law forgave hundreds of officers accused of human rights crimes. October 2. the referendum won 54 per cent to 42 per cent in Montevideo.34 on Fri. Known as "the Lord of life and death" by his victims.115. Colombia and Peru. A Vote for Forgiveness. "Menem's Pardons and Purges. 1988. the civilian governments have failed to take decisive action in cases of human rights violations and systematic abuses. and with its counterinsurgency apparatus intact." Among those pardoned was former General Carlos Suarez Mason.15 he commanded concentration camps where horrendous torture was practised. under President Duarte and in the context of tens of thousands of civilian murders. 15 Katherine Bishop. This content downloaded from 139. thus allowing de facto impunity for their powerful military forces. who had been extradited from the US to face trial in Argentina after a landmark case in 1987-1988. and then the Due Obedience law (which essentially exonerated all those military personnel who were "following orders") after mutinies by a faction of the military." New York Times." The referendum took place in April 1989. "Foreign Abductors Held to be Liable in the U. the military issued Decree 8-86 (a selfamnesty) four days before civilian president Cerezo took office. torture and murder directed against popular leaders continue to be tools of political control. El Salvador. where the country's most politicized half lives. passed a reciprocal amnesty which was widely recognized as primarily benefitting the military. The President condemned the referendum organizers for "seeking revenge" and General Medina called them "mentally ill. August 26. "Human Rights in Uruguay.)14 A number of other legal-constitutional mechanisms of impunity were put into place by civilian regimes in the region. 14 ILHR. President Menem pardoned over 200 military officers in 1989." 6.472 J. 1989. President Alfonsin declared the Punto Final in 1986 to cut off hundreds of new cases of human rights violations. Today.S." The government-appointed Electoral Court was openly obstructive towards the referendum.16 In Guatemala.. thus upholding the amnesty for the military. In Bolivia. In Argentina. PATRICE McSHERRY Uruguayan military issued dark threats about the consequences of overturning the "Impunity Law. 16 Aryeh Neier. the Guatemalan army continues to operate with total impunity. disappearance. and after more than 20 years of military rule. arbitrarily disqualifying thousands of signatures and enacting difficult new regulations as the campaign appeared to be succeeding. it was defeated (57% to 43%).
as noted. as are the secretary general of the National Security Council.115. 19 Margaret Crahan. "MilitaryProfessionalism. andtwo high-ranking accusedof overseeingthe assassinationsof OrlandoLetelier(Allende'sambassador to the US.and Democracy:Les17 See J.Hereafter cited as Columbiapresentation.34 on Fri. in 1976)and RonniMoffittwere arrested. 1991. 15. appointed by President Aylwin. September24. 18 NathanielC.September19. "Chile'sLeaderandArmySquareOffOverthe Past. above and beyond monopolization of national security in the ideological sense described above. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . is totally composed of Pinochet appointees. the former head of the SNI and the head of the Armed Forces General Staff." New York Times. In Brazil.and"ChileSeizes TwoPolicemenin LetelierCase. although the SNI was reduced in size and renamed by President Collor. and including labour policy and agrarian reform.18 Pinochet himself issued threats regarding the 1990-1991 human rights investigation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.presentationat ColumbiaUniversity. Congress and the courts are still stacked with right-wing Pinochet allies. The commanders of the three armed services are ministers in the cabinet. (Summer1987).Some encouraging steps to combat impunitywere taken in September1991in Chile: a court order to exhume bodies of the disappearedfrom officers clandestinecemeterieswas obtainedfor the first time. 1991. Fitch. and FrancesHagopianand Scott andProspects.20 The crimes of the military state. and all four branches of the armed forces vehemently oppose criminal sanctions for officers guilty of human rights violations.C. "GravesWithouta Name YieldingTheir Secrets.19 Pinochet and the national police have rejected any culpability for the widespread human rights crimes of the dictatorship. of the former national security states are characterized not only by various "legal-institutional" acts of impunity but also by entrenched national security structures which persist in the newly civilianized regimes. members of the Servigo Nacional de Informag6es (SNI). D. cases of torture not ending in death were not included. 502-07." World PolicyJournal "Democracyin Brazil:Problems Mainwaring. the military intelligence service. Nash.82. for the annualmeetingof sons fromthe LatinAmerican Experience. 20 Ibid. which. the military is able to exert a rightist influence upon all national policy. killedin Washington. 1989." New YorkTimes.See NathanielC. March26.000 cases of dead and disappeared victims of the military. Nash. upheld the 1978 self-amnesty of the military. the Chilean Supreme Court. This content downloaded from 139. The military controls the National Defence Council. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented over 2.492.17 Pinochet's national security laws were institutionalized in Chile's 1980 Constitution and subsequent law. retain extensive autonomy and power under the civilian government."paperprepared the LatinAmericanStudiesAssociation. detailed by the NationalSecurity. if not all. 1991.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America Embedded National Security Apparatuses 473 Most." NewrYork Times. Thus. S.September 1990.
March 6. Mohamed Ali Seineldin.an attackwhich was savagely crushedby the military. Some accounts have pointedto the possibility that militaryprovocateursor counterinsurgency agents Reuters.new measureswere adopted by the government which re-authorizedmilitary and intelligence involvementin domestic affairs. in December 1990. "Argentina: The Human Rights Record." Argentinais the only country where incominggoverning elites rejectedthe military'sself-amnestyand initiatedtrials for crimes againsthumanity. victims were drugged. emboldened by acts of impunity. 32. January 1. 23 International League for Human Rights. 1990.far-right factions of the militaryhave carriedout four mutiniessince 1987.474 J. In spite of Menem's 1989pardons.82.34 on Fri." 22 "El ex dictador Videla comienza a plantear exig6ncias a Menem. The Punto Final and Due Obedience laws failed to appease key sectors of the Argentine military. prisoners were forced to watch as relatives were raped or beaten. Alfonsinsubmittedto a numberof demandsof the rebels.againstthe Menemadministration. The first mutinies were aimed at ending the trials of military officers for crimes in the "dirty war. Seineldin.After a mysteriousand bloody attackon the La Tabladamilitarybarracksin 1989by armed. 1991. As General Jorge Videla. and droppedinto the sea from helicopters. included systematic torture and murder. were encouraged to seek completevindicationfor the "dirtywar. people were strappedto metal grills and electrocuted. 21 This content downloaded from 139. reportedly linked to the Argentine AnticommunistAlliance (a death squadactive in the 1970s)once said in the ArgentineperiodicalPdgina 12.three againstthe Alfonsin administration and one. for example. These mutiniestaughtthe militaryextremiststhatthe use of force would bring results.." in defianceof the civilianlegal process which convicted their leaders. In all my public declarationsI will only seek the vindicationof the armyand the restorationof militaryhonor.115."23 Recent disturbing developmentsin Argentinahintat the reconstitution and increasinginfluence of the militarynationalsecurity apparatus upon the civiliangovernment. former de facto presidentduringthe Argentinedictatorship."22 In short. "there is no such thing as a green horse or a decent Jew.leftist militants.unrepentant sectors of the military. and Nash. the fourthmutinywas carriedout by supportersof an ultra-rightist leader of previous revolts. "Chile Details Over 2000 Slayings Under Pinochet." New York Times.The revolts were quelledby loyal troops andopposed by hundredsof thousands of citizens who ralliedin Buenos Aires.21 In Argentina.their stomachs cut open (so they would not float)." El DiariolLa Prensa. conscious that complyingwith my unjustsentence constitutedact of service .put it afterhe was pardoned:"I havebeen in prisonfor morethansix years. March 1990. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . PATRICE McSHERRY Commission's report. Col. Yet afterthe dust cleared.. "Graves Without a Name Yielding Their Secrets." New York City.
renaming it the National Defence Council. and "Menem acusa a los nazis. Vol.115. The new government decree restructured the Council." The G2." El DiariolLa Prensa. was also linked to G2." El DiariolLa Prensa. 103."12-14. to advise him on "subversive threats.24 President Alfonsin. who publicly criticized the Menem government for betraying its electoral promises. and which now demands information on missing children and an end to impunity for military crimes-received a wave of death threats in the spring of 1991. President Menem dismantled Alfonsin's Council by Decree 392/90. and excluded all civilians from it. including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.554. Navy and Air Force. Guatemala's military intelligence agency. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the Secretary of State for Intelligence and the Chiefs of Staff of the Army. carried out by military and security forces both in uniform and in the guise of "death squads. September 1989. which challenged the national security doctrine by redefining national defence in terms of external aggression.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 475 were involved in provoking the La Tablada attack. No. in January 1989. "Argentina. The G2 has historically drawn up lists of "subversives" to assassinate. 25 ILHR. set up a National Security Council which was dominated by military officers. and after widespread food riots in 1989. In Guatemala. and controls the Indian peasant population through counterinsurgency structures such as civil patrols. Serrano's first minister of interior. he was the same 24 See Joe Schneider."NACLAReporton the Americas. Latin America: Transitions to Democracy (London: Zed Books. 23. A leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo-the group that demonstrated to protest disappearances during the military dictatorship.82. who resigned in 1991. the military institution virtually occupies the countryside." This was a stunning setback for a major legal achievement of earlier years: Law 23. and Ronaldo Munck. a well-known film maker. In the administration of President Serrano. The decree explicitly authorized military intervention in situations of "internal commotion. May 23. In May 1991." The Assistant Secretary for Human Rights resigned in protest. 1989).26 In El Savador and Guatemala. This content downloaded from 139. terror against the population. for example. is the "brain" that orchestrates acts of state terror and repression. 26 "Solanas ratifica que Menem 'traiciono' a sus electores." continues on a daily basis despite the existence of civilian governments. Approximately a year later. 1991. was the next day shot eight times in the legs by mysterious assailants."Argentina: The Enigmaof La Tablada. May 24. "model villages" and "poles of development. not internal subversion. two G2 officers hold key posts in the office of the Chief of Staff for the Army and in the office of the President. 9-13.34 on Fri.25 Political violence also continues in Argentina. 3. because its consequences were to discredit human rights organizations and justify military warnings of impending national security crises. as of fall 1991. 1991.
impunityfor those who "followed orders" was perpetuated. were running. oppositioncandidatesfrom the DemocraticConvergence.115. "Bizarre Justice in El Salvador. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Today. February 19-25.The Lawyers Committeefor HumanRights argued that the Salvadoran military covered up the involvement of officers." New YorkTimes. In El Salvador. "Colonel in Jesuit Deaths in El Salvador. September 30.30 The obstacles to democratizationin El Salvadorcould be vividly seen in January1991duringthe first electoral campaignafter the election of the right-wing ARENA governmentthe year before. "Jesuitas buscan a los autores intelectuales.Negotiations between the governmentand the Frente FarabundoMartipara la LiberacionNacional (FMLN) were in progress.000 innocent civilians have been murderedin Guatemalaand El Salvador since 1980.27 ministerof defence also has long-standingties to G2. the judgmenthas been criticizedby the Jesuits and others for failing to look higher in the military high commandfor those who orderedthe massacre. Excerpts of the message are worth quotingat some length." editorial in El DiariolLa Prensa. October 4.476 J. Year 9. 30 Shirley Christian. October I. Enfoprensa. San Salvadorradiostationsbegan broadcastinga written threatfrom two of El Salvador'sdeath squads.In the midstof this activity.including former members of the Frente Democratico Revolucionario(progressive civilians who had aligned themselves with the revolutionary FMLN). 1991. priests and labour leaders.2 Some 200. who directed genocidal exterminationcamThe current paigns against the Indian peasants in the early 1980s. 1991.29In short. hundredsof grisly massacres of Mayan Indians have been carriedout by the Guatemalan army. No. February 1991. as 27 28 29 Noticias de Guatemala. intellectuals. Cynthia J." El Diario/La Prensa. and only tolerated the trial because of pressure high-ranking from the US Congressand threats of an aid cut-off.34 on Fri. and impunityseeminglyremainedintactfor those at the apex of the militaryapparatus.as well as for exonerating the seven paratrooperswho confessed to actually murderingthe victims. Yet in only one recent case have officers in Guatemalaever been convicted for humanrights crimes. Arson.an army colonel and lieutenantwere convicted in October 1991-a precedentin that country-for the 1989murderof six Jesuits and two women. For the first time.82. threateningto kill opposition leaders.includingthe massacre at Santiago Atitlan in December 1990 (one of dozens since the transition). and "El Salvador at the Crossroads. This content downloaded from 139. 1991. October 3. the World Council of Churches calls Guatemala-often referredto as a "fragile democracy" in the United States-the most dangerous country in the world for human rights defenders. 1991. PATRICE McSHERRY army officer who held the post underthe militaryregimeof fundamentalist general Rios Montt. However. 1991. 4123." New York Times.
studentsandsmallbusinessmen. In society.. We will shortlyresumeour conquestthat will lead to absolutepower. the lifetime president of ARENA. and the mechanisms of impunity built into the state. pardons or institutionalized "national security" constitutions and laws.poorpeasants.31 The impunity which remained entrenched in El Salvador emboldened the armed forces and their affiliated death squads. whateveraction. As documented by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.a smallerclass that tries to imitatethis superiorclass. and in El Salvador were linked to Roberto D'Aubuisson. In sum. This content downloaded from 139. as well as to democratize and demilitarize the state. "Salvador Death Squads Threaten Leftist Leaders. its self-defined mission is to act against perceived threats to the political and economic order.it has a dutyto exploit.115... the ability of popular classes to struggle for better conditions and an expansion of their political and socio-economic rights is limited by fear of military retaliation.32Significantly.andeven exterminate elements of these inferior classes when the benefits of capitalism require such. Whatevercourse of action is justified. impunity and the role of the military have been key issues to be resolved in the peace negotiations between the Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments and their respective insurgencies. the militarized structures described above. Impunity protects the prerogatives of the military institution and its political autonomy. conquer. amnesty laws passed by civilian governments. death squads are usually composed of military and security forces.82. There was 31 Jean Kavanagh. established in the 1992 Salvadoran peace accords over the strong opposition of sectors of the military. 32 Ibid. who died in 1992. The military. impunity has been a major obstacle to reaching an agreement on human rights. January 14. de facto situations of impunity. and an inferiorrustic class that is made up essentiallyof workers. In the Guatemalan negotiations. limited political participation and perpetuated a climate of terror.34 on Fri. 1991.Another groupexists that we hold in low regardand considervery small-the dangerous intellectualclass that tries to contaminatethe above-mentioned classes. Mechanisms for overcoming impunity and democratizing the state." TlheGlobe and Mail. shielded by impunity.. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . dispose of. In all these states impunity was effected through unilateral amnesties passed by the military to forgive itself.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 477 they demonstrate the ideology of El Salvador's far-right sectors and reveal the threats to the democratization process: This country's society is divided into three classes: a superiorcreative class composed essentially of specialists and large landowners. remain to be implemented. And whatis more.. or in extreme cases by continued threats to life.justice is a luxurythat we cannot allow. the destiny of the superiorclass is to govern and regulatethe inferiorclasses. impede attempts to control the military. continues to make the rules and define the terms for its own intervention.
478 J. 1990."34 response government ness arenecessaryfor nationalreconciliationandprogress. whetheror not there has been a change of government. PATRICE McSHERRY little or no accountabilityto the popularmajoritiesnor democraticinput from society.or to prevent new militarycoups. the state should not have the prerogativeto forgive its own crimesagainstits own citizens. once observed. Further. have been among the most vocal in their condemnationof impunity. Victims cannot be forcibly "reconciled" with their torturersand deprivedof any means of justice in a democraticpolity. 36 Note the worldwide outrage generated by Lithuania's decision to pardon its fascist This content downloaded from 139."35 The victims and theirfamiliespoint to the irony of Nazi war criminals still being sought after 45 years. Question of the Human Rights of All Persons Subjected to Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment/Question of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances." El Diario/La Prensa. a Uruguayan senator. as well as victims of the militaryregimes and their families.33Often.34 on Fri." February 28. impunity andthe ruleof law. 35 "Report of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. "Closing the Books.115. January 3. Social Oppositionto Impunity Humanrightsorganizations andinternational lawyers. The anguish and horror of many after Menem's pardons were well expressed by Nazi-hunter SimonWiesenthal:"The Argentinegeneralscommittedthe same crimes their againsthumanitythatthe Nazis did.36 International lawyers argue that crimes against humanity 33 Editorial in The Nation. In bothits 1990and 1991reports.4/1990/13. These critics also chargethat despite its professedintent.The Working Group'sexperience over the past ten years has confirmedthe age-old adage that impunitybreeds contempt for the law. 34 "Firmenich inicia los tramites para salir del pais. this situation has been facilitated by incoming civilian elites.the Working noted: "Perhaps the single most importantfactor contributingto the phenomenonof disappearancesmay be that of impunity. undermines ratherthanstrengthensdemocratization Concessions grantedto militarydemands spark new revolts and new demands. by rewardingthe forces most dangerousto democracy." E/CN.The criticsfurtherarguethatattemptsto appeaseunrepentant sectors of the militaryproduce the opposite of the claimed effect.furtherabuses are DisapGroupon Enforcedor Involuntary encouraged. As Alberto Zumaran.The UN Working Group pearancesconcurs. Giventhis I cannotunderstand and that In to claims forgiveamnesty liberty. impunity insures a kind of permanentcoup by a defiant military.82. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1987. January 24. 1991. these groups arguethat only the victims have the right to forgive. while they are accused of vindictiveness andurgedto forgivemilitaryofficers whose crimeswerejust as abhorrent.
the Convention against Genocide and the Convention against Torture are violated by acts of impunity. extermination. showed that 62 per cent condemned amnesty for military criminals. 259-308. were discovered in Chile." Newsweek. See.34 on Fri. address at Columbia University. October 4.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 479 (extrajudicial execution. Robert Goldman. E/ CN. A poll in fall 1990 in Chile showed that 67 per cent of the population wanted investigations and punishment (as opposed to forgiving or forgetting) for human rights crimes. for example. and Louis Joinet." The Law Group Docket (Summer 1989). "Argentine Defends Release of 'Dirty War' Leaders. 1990. Paul W. "U. Hereafter cited as Columbia address. Large sectors of these societies have opposed impunity for military violators of human rights. "Pinochet pide indultar violadores de DH.40 With Menem's December 1990 pardons the number of citizens opposed was 70 per cent. "Menem Defends Amnesty.82. "An Unpardonable Amnesty. "Argentina's Obligation to Prosecute Military Officials for Torture. George C. 37 38 39 40 41 This content downloaded from 139. disappearance. 1992).115. September 16. Reuters. Naomi Roht-Arriaza. victims of Pinochet's national security state. See David Binder. arguing it was "time to stop the party" and "not reopen the wound" ("Gobierno califica de 'crueles' comentarios de Pinochet sobre ejecutdaos politicos." California Law Review 78 (1990)." Columbia Human Rights Law Review 20 (1989). 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . another source cites the figure of 95 per cent opposed to the pardons. international agreements and treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. murdering captured prisoners) are exempt from amnesties under international law. as bodies packed two per coffin were exhumed from clandestine cemeteries. at the time of Menem's first pardons." He also demanded general pardons for violators of human rights. 1985.4/Sub. Pinochet outraged Chileans by commenting "How economical!" and congratulating "the seekers of cadavers.38 Public outrage was heightened as. September 6. almost weekly. and the American Convention on Human Rights. 1989. June 21. 1990. radio stations were flooded with calls protesting the measure. National Security: Civil-Military Relations in Latin America (Boulder: Lynne Rienner. torture) and war crimes (massacres. September 16. 449-512.37meaning that states party to these agreements are reneging upon their international obligations. In September 1991. 1991.2/1985/16. Expects Lithuania Not to Erase War Crimes. Zagorski gives the 95 per cent figure in the manuscript for his Democracy vs. Further. International Law. Chris Kline. "Study on Amnesty Laws and Their Role in the Safeguard and Promotion of Human Rights. with only 28 per cent in favour." special report to the UN Commission on Human Rights. December 31. 1991.41 war criminals in September 1991." El DiariolLa Prensa [September 4. "State Responsibility to Investigate and Prosecute Gross Human Rights Violations in International Law.39 A poll taken by a Buenos Aires paper in September 1989. Arturo Valenzuela. September 28.S. 1991])." New York Times." Ed DiariolLa Prensa." The Times of the Americas. and Jonathan Alter and Michael Meyer. mass graves of tortured cadavers." New York Times. 1991. and all political parties except Menem's Peronist movement and its conservative allies urged citizens to join marches against the pardons. Rogers. "Amnesty Laws.
Bold Plans for Brazil.34 on Fri.82. 70 per cent of Uruguayans opposed amnesty for military offenders in 1986. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . as well as to challengesome of the military'sprojects and privilegesaccumulatedsince the 1964coup. the PT's Lula (Luis da Silva)came very close to winning. and CERJ. "Salvadoran Legislature Passes Reforms in Time. demandingan end to of popularorganizations Representatives impunityand disappearances. CUNY presentation. an organization advocates respect for the constitutionalrightsof the campesinos. In Brazil. Both have demandedthat the militariesbe held accountablefor crimes against humanity and war crimes. PATRICE McSHERRY As noted. duringthe last presidentialelection. and the instituIn September tion of a commissionto investigatehumanrightscrimes. " Bad Times. She called the PT the strongest party because of its millions of members and disciplined grassroots organization. the organizationof widows. but superior access to resources." New YorkTimes. 1991. 1991. Collor's victory was at least in part the result not of superior organization. Mark A." New YorkTimes.46 42 Maria Helena Moreira Alves.the leftist WorkersParty(PT)is the strongestpartyin the country. "Salvadorans in Accord on Army Curbs. 1991. NGO Coalition Against Impunity Newsletter #3.held a mass demonstrationof 15." New York Times. Shirley Christian. both the FMLN in El Salvador and the Unidad RevolucionariaNacional Guatemalteca (URNG) in Guatemalahave engaged in UN-monitored negotiations with their respective governments. During the summer 1991 Guatemalan negotiations.000in GuatemalaCity.new civiliancontrols. "Salvadoran Chief and Rebels Reach Broad Agreement.These includedsignificantlimits on militarypowers and autonomy. December 15. in a nation where millions of people cannot read. and AP." New York Times.42 subordinatethe militaryto civilian rule.43 In April 1991. The high-ranking militaryechelons lobbied hardagainst the PT before the election. also presented the URNG negotiators in Mexico with a petition on behalf of thousands of Guatemalansdemandingan end to impunity.480 J. popular organizations including CONthat AVIGUA. Hereafter cited as CUNY presentation. and James Brooke. "Brazil Will Vote with Eye on Army.44 1991. 1991. the outgoing Salvadoranlegislature unanimously approved constitutional reforms hammered out in the negotiations between the FMLN and the ARENA government. exclusion of the militaryfrompublic securityfunctions. January 7." New York Times. Election percentages from James Brooke. September 26. 1990. Moreira Alves. particularly O Globo television.45 As noted. City University of New York. 1990. 43 44 45 46 This content downloaded from 139.115. April 29. President Cristianiand the FMLN negotiators reached a broad agreementon the futureof the country which included "purification" and reductionof the armedforces. Uhlig. July 1991. presentation at the Graduate School. April 30.with 47 per cent of the vote (31million The PT's programme includedplans to dissolve the SNI andto votes). February 20.
where PresidentJean-Bertrand Aristidewas elected by 65 per cent in early 1991. In some cases. the Latin American elites have had a shallow commitment to democracy when democracy begins to give voice to demands from the working and peasant classes for structural change. There is hope today that the years of military terror have eliminated this tendency. the demand for military accountability by important sectors of Latin American civil society reflects a profound rejection of the national security state.34 on Fri. cynically attempting to use the legitimizing function of civilian government to re-establish public confidence and provide the perception of fairness in the absence of substantive justice. 48 Crahan.47 The Commission was prohibited from even publishing names of accused military criminals. even among right-wing sectors. 49 A recent exampleis the case of Haiti.. while the Aylwin government did establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In sum. a rebel faction of the military opposed to the neo-liberal economic programme of Presi47 Valenzuela.Columbiapresentation. impunity structurally impedes the struggle to change the social balance of power between the politicized coercive apparatus of the state and the majority populations. In effect.in September1991. and provoked anguished mass demonstrations in Argentina as well as international condemnation. In Chile. In such conditions of impunity.See also Evelyne HuberStephens. Conjectures on the Current Historical Moment History has demonstrated time and again in Latin America that political and economic elites invariably knock at the barracks door when they perceive their interests threatened by subordinate classes.82. This content downloaded from 139. with a ready-made machinery of repression-to enforce the status quo. 157-76."Democsupport racy in Latin America.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 481 Among the demands of the Guatemalan insurgents in the negotiations are elimination of all the legal and structural mechanisms of impunity and dismantling of the repressive apparatus. military factions may make their own decisions to intervene-at times using the language of nationalism to justify military rule. the clear policy of the government was that legal penalties would not be part of the process. and the recognition that impunity perpetuates fundamental violations of justice and social inequities.48 Menem's pardons represented the apex of impunity. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . right-wing.49 They may still turn to the military-usually the best-organized. substantial sectors of society have seen civilian governments as complicit in the perpetuation of terror by the military and the exoneration of military crimes." Latin American Research Review 25 (1990). In Venezuela in early 1992. notably in El Salvador and Guatemala.115.only to be overthrownby the military.Columbiaaddress. quasi-party. the potential for democratization is seriously curtailed. However. Or.with the of the elites.
coincided with the interests of foreign and internationalized The current form of the state in these countries seems for these reasons to reflect better the currentstage of world capitalist development.115. and the interests of key elite sectors. more direct political control and free markets.domestic and international. The collapse of the communistbloc removeda majorjustification for large militaryapparatuses.One importantelement was that the interests of statist elites and militariesbegan to conflict with the interests of international national sectors linked to foreign capital.Also." The United Statescontinuesto supplymilitaryaid that is far moregenerousthanaid to strengthenweak civilian institutionsin the region in many cases. Today. to establish "order" in the face of growing insurgency and socio-economic desperation. internal.it appearsthatthe militaryinterestsin national security and development.Militaryinstitutionstended to demandnational development (in the context of security) and control of strategic resources and industries. which demandedprivatization. massive military-industrial complexes imposed an auto-golpe (a self-coup). They preferred more direct influence and representationin government.482 J. began to diverge from the requirementsof the globalization of production in international capitalism. was now an obstacle to further America) and restructuring capitalistdevelopment. In the rapidlydeveloping global politicaleconomy. markedby the globalizationof markets. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and nationalpower.82.The nationalsecuritystatesweakeneddue to a numberof complex factors on several levels.PresidentFujimori system. abolishing the democratic political This content downloaded from 139.key sectors often tended to oppose drastic neo-liberal market "solutions" (with the exception of the Pinochet regimein Chile). however.manymembers corporations. economic and technologicalfactors are now more often drivingpolitics. while free markets and privatizationsbetter suited the interests of international capital and nationalelites linked to and transnational markets Further. export of dominantclasses had come to believe that the terror and arbitrary governmentof the militarywere threateningtheir interests. reversing previous tendencies where national security drove politics. in many cases the militarieswere deeply involved in runningstate enterprises. Moreover. new social coalitions and forms of the state have emergedin LatinAmerica. PATRICE McSHERRY dent Carlos Andres Perez (as well as corruption)staged a significant andthe military coup attempt. the nationalsecurityprojects of the militariesno longer elites.In short. having performed the function of eliminatingthe threat from below (except in Central the state. recentlyin Peru. The historic propensity of the United States to intervenewhen it perceivesits hegemonythreatenedhas often reinforcedthis tendency to look for military"solutions.34 on Fri. productionand finance andthe increasingmobilityof international capital. The perception developed among domestic elites that militaryrule. In sum.
Norton. 153. As Peter Winn has noted. yet. which appeared starkly illegitimate under military rule. wealth and power. the greatest failure of the transition in Chile has been the reinforcement of negative social features: the maldistribution of income. as John Peeler has noted. Under Pinochet. protected by impunity."52 Yet liberal systems are clearly far preferable to dictatorships.115. in short.53Further. 52 JohnPeeler.. a dangerous situation when military forces. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1991. may still decide (or be asked) to intervene to "maintain social peace. 1985).51 The hegemony of capitalism (and the US sphere of influence) are still in place without the stigma of military rule. minimal or nonexistent benefits and weak labour organizations. in a presentationentitled "New Political and EconomicOrdersin the World. 51 See RobertHeilbroner for a cogentanalysisof capitalistdemocracy(The Natureand Logic of Capitalism[New York:W. liberal democracy's immobilism must be seen as defending social injustice by making it virtually impossible to bring about fundamental change. The pressure from abroad to ameliorate these conditions.LatinAmerican Democracies(ChapelHill:Universityof NorthCarolina Press.50 On the other hand. A liberalized system allows some dissent and social unrest to be ventilated. the establishment of these new governments. "Liberal democracy as a structure.34 on Fri. Thus. In contrast to direct coercive rule. at least for a time they have great legitimacy. W. the same class structure and the same control mechanisms for "challenges from below" are maintained.82. 53 Paraphrased fromPeterWinn'spresentation at the LatinAmericanStudiesAssocia- This content downloaded from 139. has tended to diffuse criticism of the extreme socio-economic inequalities that still exist. but with greater legitimacy."partof the RalphBuncheInstituteSeminarSeries. under the new civilian governments the same capitalist economic model and harsh neo-liberal measures. The "neo-liberal" paradigm which is predominant today depends upon low wages. widely welcomed after the national security states." In sum. civilian rightists and internationalized elites 50 Thisinsightwas expressedby Yoshihiro Business Tsurumi.. restructuring and privatizations throw thousands more out of work. has lessened with the advent of the civilian governments. the invisible hand of the market and the structural power of capital camouflage naked exploitation and obscure the beneficiaries of the system. tends to lock the choices of policy and leadership into a relatively narrow range around what comes to be called the center of the political spectrum. this was perceived as illegitimate. market forces impose their own demands. The new civilian governments converge quite well with the USpreferred liberal model of democracy. All this suggests the possibility of new social conflicts. but the democratic government has now endowed legitimacy upon ill-gotten gains and severe social inequality. 1985]). on October 16.Professorof International at City University of New York.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 483 are becoming an economic and political burden.
andits politicallyautonomousstatus. Washington. (3) fostering respect for human rights.but one requiredfor democratization." organized by Ivan Jaksic.C. "Chile's Return to Democracy: The First Year.particularly in times of economic crisis or political challenge. D. April 1991. equity.it is extremelyproblematicto dislodge them from power. A militaryinstitution accountable to civilian authorities is a fundamental element of democracy.484 J. national development or political decision-making. knowing that the latent threat of militaryreaction inhibits potential opposition. removedas to what occurred frompositionsof publicauthority an institution (similar with the Churchin a previous historicalperiod). A new militarymission.34 on Fri. This situationhas disturbingimplicationsfor the future of democratizationprocesses and the consolidation of civilian rule in these countries. militarized civilian governments are embedded with authoritarianstructures persisting from the national security states. Yet democratization in any meaningfulsense cannot be achieved without requiringthe armedforces to take their properplace undercivilian rule. The process by institutionalizing damage done to new governments'credibility and legitimacy by elite pacts and impunitymeasuresmay be deep. focussed on nationaldefence rather than internal security. This content downloaded from 139. includingmechanismsof impunity.82. reducingthe role of the armies in public policy makingis a challengefor all these countries. (2) establishingthe rule of law and an impartial system of justice. Demilitarization..115.or the Nicaraguanarmyof Somoza in 1979). Special thanks to Diane Hawney for her notes on the panel. Such a changed role for Latin American militariesrequiresa rejection of the of the militarymission. Unless armies are defeated in war (as was the Germanarmyin 1945. Prospects for Consolidation of Constitutional Rule and Democratization In summary. As O'Donnelland Schmitter tion conference. The military institutionis able to continue to act outside the scope of the rule of law and civilian control.is part of the process of democratization. and (5) increasingsocio-economic (4) increasingpoliticalparticipation. nationalsecurity doctrine and a reformulation Obviously. Pacts and mechanismsof impunityunderminethe demilitarization the power of the militaryover society. The prospects for consolidatingconstitutionalrule and advancing democratizationin these societies seem to involve several dimensions:(1) demilitarization.These structuresand mechanisms reflect boththe institutionalized powerandprivilegeheld by the military vis-a-viscivil society. PATRICE McSHERRY can press their agendas more easily. as is a police force that is trustworthyand protective of citizens' rights. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .
it is a necessary element for democratic consolidation. attemptsto establishdue process and equalityunderthe law are seriouslyundermined.especiallyin the context of persistingacts military of terror(for example. if victims of abuse have no recourseto justice. Victims and relatives are afraid to come forward. a stratumof second-classcitizens develops. promotingcynicism and disrespect for civilian governmentand law. Some human rightsactivists arguethat. If the foundationof democracyis justice.dissent and opposition are stifled. the extent of organizedterrorunderthe nationalsecuAdditionally. society suffer extreme insecurity when identified criminals are at large. Schmitter and Whitehead. where the torturersare "more equal" than their victims. rity states meant that society sufferedas a whole. This process intensifies the social divisions in society. Whilethe process of establishingthe rule of law andaccountability is obviously sensitive and difficult. which militatesagainstthe fosteringof a sense of citizenshipandequalityunder the law. impunity corrupts that foundation. in CentralAmerica).. impunity "risks provokingjustifiably indignantreactions which may prove more difficult to cope with than the specter of a possible coup."54 Unless guilty individualsare removedfrom positions of authority. Failure to sanction those responsibleperpetuatesa climateof fear andmay set into motiona chain reaction of processes which underminethe rule of law. However. Official disregardfor the fundamentalrights of the victims and their relatives continues as painfully under civilian government as under militaryrule. unimpededby the nationalsecurity apparatus.A doublestandardof justice emerges. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The effect upon society is corrosive.Second.. these would still violate democraticprinciplesregardingthe protection of the rightsof minorities.and repressivestructuresare dismantled.34 on Fri.judges are afraidto act and implementthe law for fear of retaliation. Since impunityimplicitlyplaces certainpowerfulgroupsin society above the law. some horrorsare too unspeakableand too fresh. the state avoids responsibilityfor the past and loses legitimacy in the present. This content downloaded from 139.it is difficultto be optimisticabout the prospects for consolidatingconstitutionalrule in Latin America.Truthand justice are recognized by most human componentsof this process. 54 O'Donnell. Thisis not to say rightsgroupsas inseparable the leniency or even eventualpardonscannot be options.82. even if majoritieswere to supportamnesties. the process of civilianjustice should be allowed to complete its course.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 485 have noted.115.amnesties and pardons of impunityfor the used to avoidthejudicialprocessbecomeinstruments powerful. members of First. Establishing the rule of law and an impartial system of jus- tice. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule. 30. and impartially equally applied.
. a civilian governmentalienates a with the most undemocrucialsocial base. Greater political participation.As Varasnotes." in Augusto Varas.115. Achievingciviliancontrolof the military.486 J." 169. or to overthrowciviliangovernmentswhen the military deems it necessary. PATRICE McSHERRY thatacts of sendsthe messageto extremistsin the militaries Impunity it communicates state terrorwill be eventuallyforgiven. movements of politicized sectors theirrightshavebeen necessaryto open the politicalsystems demanding effortin Uruguayand the partial and keep them open. they provide an important politicalconstituencyfor effortsto builda system based on due processandthe ruleof law.34 on Fri.by failingto alignitself with the aspirationsof a mobilized citizenry. "Democracy in Latin America. especially among those responsibleto enforce the law. political participation 55 56 Stephens. ment risks its chances to democratizepower and begin to bring the militaryunderciviliancontrol. ed. respect for humanrights and the renunciationof the nationalsecurity which will only occur throughsocial strugdoctrineare transformations gle.Simultaneously. "Democratization and Military Reform in Argentina. such as reductionof troops. Historically in Latin America.56Sanctions by civilians to hold militaryviolators to accountstrikeat the heartof the military'spoliticizedrole morethanany other effort. Fostering respect for human rights. are good examples accomplisheddue to the mobilization movements. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .whichassertsthe clearrejectionof the military right. are significant becausethey helpto create Struggles againstimpunity a high social consciousnessabouthumanrightsandjustice. 1989). and democratizing of such consciousness-raising AugustoVarasarguesthatthe humanrightsquestionis centralto the process of bringingthe militaryunder civilian control in newly democratizingsocieties. However.even rewarded. sanctions primacyof the state above any individual also weaken the military'scapacityto establishpoliticalcoalitionswith civiliansectors. and influence in decisions expansion of citizens' politicalparticipation that affect theirlives. Democratization also implies the This content downloaded from 139. Democracy Under Siege (New York: Greenwood Press.82. 47-64.55 The referendum process of truthandjustice exemplifiedby the trials in Argentina.both of civil society. Civilianrejectionof military relationsanda state terroris a crucialsignalof transformed civil-military nationalsecuritydoctrine. impunitymay weaken such attemptsto Hite notedin in new civilianregimes. A daunting task for new civil- ian governmentsstruggling to democratizeis to establisha politicalculture of respect for humanrights and humandignity. and strikesan unholybargain cratic sectors. Augusto Varas. Democratization requiresthe milito discardits notion that massive violationsof human tary in particular rightsare justifiablein the name of nationalsecurity.As Katherine broadenparticipation has declined in Chile markedlysince the 1991. tacitacceptanceof military the civiliangovernmethods. Finally.
000 persons annually from hunger and malnutrition.57Impunity is an important factor in this climate of fear. for the same military that commanded massive repression still holds substantial power today. with no money for housing or medicine. who argues that there is a great fear of participation because Chileans still associate politics with death. the struggle for democratization includes a socio-economic dimension which threatens entrenched class interests (and often. presentation in panelentitled"Chile:Afterthe Transition. October 1991. in Peru and elsewhere. While 57 Katherine RobertsHite. In short. October7. The current socio-economic order in Latin America. especially if powerful military institutions continue to act autonomously. The question of impunity is also a central element in the struggle for social justice. cholera is sweeping the population for the first time in a century. the possibilities for social mobilization and structural socio-economic change in favour of the majorities are confined by still-powerful militaries (together with other factors such as macro-economic conditions in today's global economy and the strictures of the IMF). Greater socio-economic equity. Yet the marginalization and human misery of large proportions of the populations in these countries warn of new social conflicts. in Chile. after its history of intervention and support for repressive armies and "dirty wars" in the hemisphere. in El Salvador. Clearly. She quoted Chilean social psychologist Elizabeth Lira. None of these dimensions of democratization will likely be achieved without substantive international support. in Argentina. 58 "En AmericaLatina muerende hambre700.Military Power and Impunity in Latin America 487 transition to civilian rule. The US government has a particular responsibility. The rights of those who struggled against the dictatorships-for justice and for protection from the ravages of neo-liberal capitalism-are still being denied.000 personaspor aio. Such a situation does not bode well for democratization. in Brazil and Guatemala. military police and death squads routinely murder impoverished street children. Erickson for the annual meeting of the New England Councilon Latin AmericanStudies. wages remain below the 1970 level. nine out of ten families live in squalid conditions.34 on Fri.58In Guatemala. the dictates of the IMF). beyond the reach of civilian control. The 1991 Haitian coup graphically demonstrated that even elected governments which attempt to voice the interests of the majorities are violently opposed by elite classes and the military institution. has resulted in the deaths of 700." organized by KennethP. loss ofjobs and exploitation.115. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The "lost decade" of the 1980s threw hundreds of thousands into deepening poverty." El DiariolLa Prensa. one third of the population is below the poverty line. according to one source. torture and disappearance. 1990. half the children under five are malnourished. This content downloaded from 139.82. If social conflicts cannot be peacefully resolved through the political system another cycle of repression may be triggered.
34 on Fri. The unsatisfied public demand for justice thus has moral.82. in those dimensions outlined above. legal. socio-economic and political reverberations in all the former national security states.488 J. 2 Aug 2013 14:55:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Concluding Remarks The argument for absolving or forgetting military crimes in the interests of reconciliation is based upon an assumption of ends and means: the end of stable democracy and social peace is said to depend on the means of impunity. will enjoy the blessings of the United States. The phenomenon of impunity tends to institutionalize the power and political autonomy of the military institutions and perpetuate the skewed balance of power between the military apparatus and civil society. Embedded authoritarian structures of the national security state restrict the possibilities for substantive change in these societies. Mechanisms of impunity foster attitudes and structures antithetical to democracy and. fortify those forces least committed to democratization. the effort to eliminate impunity and these embedded structures is an important element of the struggle for state-society transformation on a number of levels in these countries. PATRICE McSHERRY the US government has supported elections.115. with profound implications for democratization. it remains to be seen whether the deeper development of democratization. In short. This content downloaded from 139. as this article has tried to show. Yet the end of any process is born within and shaped by the means employed.
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