LASA2014 / Democracy & Memory
XXXII International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association
University of Texas/Austin
Universidad de San Andrés
September 11, 2013, marks the fortieth anniversary of the violent coup that toppled a long-existing democratic regime in Chile. This country was not alone in experiencing repressive military rule. Indeed, during the 1960s and 1970s, democracies in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil were replaced by military governments. Moreover, during the same period, and extending to the 1990s, authoritarian regimes held power in numerous other countries — Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, and Paraguay among them.
Many of these authoritarian regimes made systematic use of violence, repression, disappearances, and fear to suppress resistance, protest, and human rights. They targeted enemies of the state broadly and used exile, torture, and executions as instruments of state power. Resistance to state repression was also widespread.
Beginning in the 1980s, democratic processes of government were reestablished throughout Latin America and new constitutions were written and introduced against a backdrop of public memories of past political experiences of repression and injustice, many of them constructed under years of authoritarian rule. Sufficient time has now passed for scholars to assess the longer term consequences of collective memory and institutional development and to reflect on a number of major questions: