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Authoritarian Rule in Latin America Essay

“Latin American politics since independence have been characterized by instability, authoritarianism, and violence. In a three page essay please discuss the role of the military in creating such problems using the chapter in the course reader entitled “The Good Sailor. ” Also, discuss whether or not the Argentinean case is typical or unique to Latin America. Provide explanations and analysis from “The Good Sailor,” lecture, and the textbook. An “A” paper will use all three. Use size 12 Times New Roman font.

The paper must be typed (or word-processed) on standard size paper (8 ? y 11) and double spaced with appropriate margins. Use MLA format with parenthetical citations-i. e. (Rosenberg, 84). ” “Violence in Latin America is a significant part because so much of it is political: planned, deliberate, and carried out by organized groups of society. It is used to make a point. ” The above quote supports that the violence and military is interrelated and it is used as tool by the military to instill fear and dominate people of the Latin America. Ranked as the third most unstable region in the world in the post-war era, political instability has been a pervasive problem in Latin America.

Whether it is a caudillo, a charismatic boss with an armed following, or a general leading a golpe de estado or an authoritarian institution, Latin America is conceived as an authoritarian region always ruled by either military or civilian leaders. Only three Latin American countries were consistently democratic over the thirty year period from 1935 to 1964: Costa Rica, Colombia, and Venezuela. During this time, there were 56 changes of government by military coups in 20 Latin American nations. In sum, political instability is a persistent and pernicious problem in the region.

The question arises how military insurrection remained instrument of ruling in Latin America. It might be because since the time of caudillos, violence when used as a method to rule has brought desired results and authority. So it has become a used and proven instrument in the ruler’s toolbox. Also, it might be possible that the institutional inertia of the violent politics as inherited from predecessor’s success is deep rooted in the psychic of the rulers. Brazil was the first of these Institutional dictatorships.

When military rule began in 1964 after the overthrow of Joan Goulart, it was not a long project but hard liners in military demanded more and more until soft liners came into action in 1974 to loosen up the political rein. This military regime was institutionalized and created two political parties to channel political activity [Skidmore, Thomas Pg 358-360]. While in Chile, you will see the example to an institutional regime changing into personalistic one with emerging of a dictator Augustus Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1989.

Pinochet staged a very bloody coup in which probably 2,000 people were killed in the coup and in the years immediately afterwards. Most Chileans supported some sort of army intervention, in part ironically because of their democratic history. They felt, “It can’t happen here. Our military isn’t like the other militaries. ” They meant that the Chilean military cannot be as brutal as Argentinean military was. “Our military will come in and restore order and clean house for six months and then leave.

Seventeen years later, the military left after carrying on one of the most brutal and repressive regimes in Latin America and becoming a symbol of state terrorism. Argentina presents one of the most acute cases in the period after 1955. In this country during this period there occurred 12 military coups. While Colombia’s violence had its roots because of the lack of social order and the Government’s inability to place rules on a most chaotic society, in Argentina, the junta that came in power in military created exactly the opposite situation. When the military coup came into power in 1976; it suffocated Argentina with social order.

It took over the educational institutions, changed the life style of people even their appearance. [Article “The Good Sailor” Pg. 13] Alfredo Astiz, a lieutenant general for the Navy who was active in it from 1970 to 1995. [Article “The Good Sailor” Pg. 24] Astiz was in Task Force 3. 2. 2 which killed more people during the Dirty War than any other group. The Dirty War lasted from 1976 until 1983 and involved people getting disappeared. The term disappeared describes those who vanished during this period and were probably killed by the military before being tortured in inhumanely ways.

It is these trocities and the new and brutally creative ways to torture people that made the Argentinean military different from the other regimes in Latin America. The term “Dirty War” originates in the military junta itself, which claimed that a war, albeit with “different” methods was necessary to maintain social order and eradicate political subversives. Although the junta claimed its objective to be the eradication of guerrilla activity, the repression struck mostly the general population, and specifically all political opposition, trade unionists (half of the victims), students, and other civilians.

Many others were forced to go into exile, and many remain in exile today. When the Dirty War was a year and a half old, it had “disappeared” more than 6,500 Argentines. [Article “The Good Sailor” Pg. 12. ] Even though the military knew in 1978 that 90% of the left was eradicated, they kept on fighting against imaginary subversives for 5 more years. Human rights were not important to the Argentines. Despite contrary opinion from the military, the article “The Good Sailor” by Tina Rosenberg proves that excessive torture occurred. It is evident from testimonies in the article and the experience of Vilerinos. Article “The Good Sailor” Pg. 15, 16. ]

He talked about a torture chamber with an electric shock machine, torturing instruments and sand bags to hit people so no marks would show up. The military General and even the low rank officers believed that they have godlike powers instilled in them and it is their duty to clear all the dirt from the society by killing people they see fit. They had no shame in executing horrendous tortures instead they took pride and enjoyed the process. As compared to Argentina, Mexico had one part rule (PRI ruled since 1929 to 2000) rather than military wars but still there was colossal bloodshed.

It is not that only military intervention brings in political instability and violence as Mexico is a live example of both. However, after the study of the article “The Good Sailor” and reading the book “Modern Latin America” it seems to me that the extent of atrocities military regimes brought is incomparable to civil dictatorship. It is their hunger for power and vehemence to rule that make them feel they are god and have right to “punish” people. “Here we are the only gods” said by a torturer in a chamber after brutally torturing a 52 year old women.


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