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Consent of the Damned

Ordinary Argentinians in the Dirty War

David M. K. Sheinin

Publication Year: 2012

Under violent military dictatorship, Operation Condor and the Dirty War scarred Argentina from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, leaving behind a legacy of repression, state terror, and political murder. Even today, the now-democratic Argentine government attempts to repair the damage of these atrocities by making human rights a policy priority.

But what about the other Dirty War, during which Argentine civilians--including indigenous populations--and foreign powers ignored and even abetted the state's vicious crimes against humanity? In this groundbreaking new work, David Sheinin draws on previously classified Argentine government documents, human rights lawsuits, and archived propaganda to illustrate the military-constructed fantasy of bloodshed as a public defense of human rights.

Exploring the reactions of civilians and the international community to the daily carnage, Sheinin unearths how compliance with the dictatorship perpetuated the violence that defined a nation. This new approach to the history of human rights in Argentina will change how we understand dictatorship, democracy, and state terror.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to librarians and archivists at Memorial Library (University of Wisconsin), Robarts Library (University of Toronto), the Library of Congress (United States), the Library of Congress (Argentina), the National Archives and Records Administration (United States), the Library...

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Introduction: How Unpopular Was the Argentine Dictatorship?

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pp. 1-7

Argentines have not yet begun to contemplate with rigor a set of questions that many around the globe have begun to debate openly and sometimes ferociously. Dictatorship implies violent control from above, but is there a popular component to authoritarian rule? If so, can that...

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1. Dictatorship, Media, and Message

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pp. 8-29

There is no denying that democratic rule in Argentina after 1983 marked a break with authoritarian rule. Just over half of the voters chose Raúl Alfonsín’s Radical Civic Union party in an election that fielded over fifteen candidates. The election demonstrated that democratic institutions...

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2. “A Correct, Hermeneutic Reading”: Fantasies of a Constitutional Coup and the Promotion of Indigenous Rights

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pp. 30-63

In his 1980 novel Respiración artificial, Argentine writer Ricardo Piglia imagined a protagonist who mysteriously disappears. Readers understand that this disappearance comes in the context of a dictatorship, though Piglia makes no mention of military rule. There is no...

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3. The Frank War, the Fabrication of an Ongoing Menace, and the Jews

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pp. 64-92

Carlos Beltramino and a host of other Argentine diplomats and policymakers presented an image of Argentina as different from “violent” societies such as Paraguay or Uganda. However, the military’s trumpeting of Argentine rectitude on human rights depended on ongoing...

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4. Democracy and the (Re)Shaping of Human Rights Politics

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pp. 93-124

After Argentina lost the Malvinas War, the military trumpeted what it described from mid-1982 through presidential elections in December 1983 as the nation’s transition to democracy, one more piece of evidence that it supported human rights. In April 1983, a year after the war, the...

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5. Finding a Cynical Center

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pp. 125-148

Over the Easter weekend of 18–19 April 1987, Argentines watched anxiously as a group of rogue officers who adhered to dictatorship-era policies and ideals tried to overthrow the government. This event became known as the Semana Santa uprising. Alfonsín ended the crisis by announcing...

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Epilogue: Saving Jorge Omar Merengo

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pp. 149-158

Even though the Alfonsín administration could not right all its human rights wrongs, democracy brought remarkable, life-altering change for many. For one thing, it saved the life of Jorge Omar Merengo. In early 1977, Merengo was living with his common-law partner, Felisa Villalva...


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pp. 159-190


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pp. 191-206


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pp. 207-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780813042596
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813042398
Print-ISBN-10: 0813042399

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 818734015
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Consent of the Damned

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Argentina -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Political persecution -- Argentina -- History -- 20th century.
  • National socialism -- Moral and ethical aspects -- Argentina.
  • Political violence -- Argentina -- History -- 20th century.
  • Human rights -- Argentina -- History -- 20th century.
  • Argentina -- Military policy -- 20th century.
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