Chapter

Introduction

Alexandra Barahona de Brito

in Human Rights and Democratization in Latin America

Published in print February 1997 | ISBN: 9780198280385
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598852 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198280386.003.0001

Series: Oxford Studies in Democratization

 Introduction

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Introduction is given to the subject (and structure) of the book: the analysis of Uruguayan and Chilean attempts to resolve the human rights’ violation conflicts inherited from military-state repression, focusing on how the post-transitional democratic governments handled social demands for an official recognition of the truth about human rights’ violations committed by the outgoing military regimes, and for the punishment of those guilty of committing and ordering those violations. The aim of the book is to shed light on the political conditions that permitted, or inhibited, the realization of policies of truth-telling and justice under these successor regimes. The objective is not to moralize politics or to politicize ethics, but rather to examine how far truth and justice can be realized in restricted political conditions. Four arguments are put forward: the first is that a policy that provides for ‘total truth’ and justice is impossible; the second is that the nature of success or failure of truth and justice policies is determined by the particular national political conditions and the institutional, constitutional and political limitations operating during the transitional period and under the successor democratic regimes; the third is that accountability for past abuses or backward-looking policies that deal with the legacy of a previous regime is not, of itself, necessary or able to consolidate democracy, although it may go a long way towards initiating that process; and the fourth is that reliance on a purely instrumental logic would be insufficient justification for policies of accountability. The book is organized chronologically, and is arranged in four parts: Problems of Transitional Truth and Justice in Comparative Perspective, and Human Rights’ Violations under Military Rule in Uruguay and Chile; Truth and Justice in Transition; Truth and Justice under Successor Democratic Regimes; and Assessing Truth and Justice in Uruguay and Chile: The Road to Democratic Consolidation. The bulk of the research is based on numerous interviews carried out in Uruguay and Chile between April and September 1991. In addition, the major newspapers in each country were systematically surveyed (for Uruguay 1983-87, plus selected press articles for 1980-83 and 1987-89; for Chile 1988-96), relevant debates in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in both countries were reviewed, and major political and legal periodicals from both countries and from the USA were surveyed on relevant issues.

Keywords: accountability; Chile; consolidated democracy; democratization; human rights' violations; justice; military-state repression; transition to democracy; truth and justice policies; truth and justice; truth-telling; Uruguay

Chapter.  6201 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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