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Chile Under Pinochet

Recovering the Truth

By Mark Ensalaco

Publication Year: 2000

"When the army comes out, it is to kill."—Augusto Pinochet

Following his bloody September 1973 coup d'état that overthrew President Salvador Allende, Augusto Pinochet, commander-in-chief of the Chilean Armed Forces and National Police, became head of a military junta that would rule Chile for the next seventeen years. The violent repression used by the Pinochet regime to maintain power and transform the country's political profile and economic system has received less attention than the Argentine military dictatorship, even though the Pinochet regime endured twice as long.

In this primary study of Chile Under Pinochet, Mark Ensalaco maintains that Pinochet was complicit in the "enforced disappearance" of thousands of Chileans and an unknown number of foreign nationals. Ensalaco spent five years in Chile investigating the impact of Pinochet's rule and interviewing members of the truth commission created to investigate the human rights violations under Pinochet. The political objective of human rights organizations, Ensalaco contends, is to bring sufficient pressure to bear on violent regimes to induce them to end policies of repression. However, these efforts are severely limited by the disparities of power between human rights organizations and regimes intent on ruthlessly eliminating dissent.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights


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p. iii


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p. iv


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xv

In August 1991, just weeks before the eighteenth anniversary of the coup d'etat that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power, the Vicariate of Solidarity announced the gruesome discovery of more than one hundred bodies in Santiago's General Cemetery. The bodies had been interred secretly between September and December 1973. In a few cases, two bodies ...

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1. The Victors and the Vanquished

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pp. 1-21

President Salvador Allende began to receive disturbing reports of troop movements in and around Santiago late on the night of September 10. His advisors placed calls to senior military officers for explanations, but their answers were evasive or deceptive. Chile was plunged in the midst of a profound political crisis, and the breakdown of its vaunted democracy seemed inevitable and imminent.' These rumors could be the first reports of an ...

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2. An Invented War

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pp. 22-46

The Chilean nation's motto, "By Reason or Force," was never more apropos than on September 11. Politics had become a deadly serious business during the three years of Allende's Popular Unity government, although the origin of the crisis can be traced back much farther. Political discourse verged on irrationality, and the failure of reason inevitably meant that the victors ...

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3. The New Order

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pp. 47-68

Only hours after the body of Salvador Allende was removed from the charred Moneda palace, the men who had deposed him appeared on television to justify their actions and to declare their intentions. Until that moment they were obscure figures. Three of them had assumed the senior leadership positions of their respective services in the final weeks of August, when the ...

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4. A War of Extermination

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pp. 69-97

In fact, the army of the working class was virtually nonexistent, and it did not stand up well to the test of fire. The MIR's most militant organizations, the Revolutionary Workers Front (MIR-FTR) and the Movement of Revolutionary Shanty-Town Dwellers (MIR-MPR), were barely able to sustain symbolic acts of resistance on September 11; the Revolutionary Campesino Movement (MIR-MCR) suffered savage losses in the Valdivia and Osorno; ...

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5. The Court of World Opinion

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pp. 98-124

In one of history's small ironies, the decision to create the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was made in Santiago, Chile in 1959. Thereafter the historical relationship between Chile and the IACHR seemed almost fated. In 1972 the Commission returned to Chile to hold its twenty-seventh annual meeting in Vifia del Mar on the invitation of beleaguered President Salvador Allende. Less than two years later, in July 1974, the ...

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6. A War of Resistance

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pp. 125-155

By the time Pinochet and his most fervent supporters celebrated the fourth anniversary of the coup d' etat in 1977, the transformation of Chile was well underway. The security forces had all but eliminated the most dangerous elements of the left; neo-liberal economists had redefined the country's role in the international economic order; and a small group of constitutional ...

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7. The Peaceful Way to Democracy

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pp. 156-180

The simmering three-year crisis between 1983 and 1986 had economic causes, but it was paramountly political. The crisis became an opportunity to challenge the regime at its core and to initiate in Chile a process of democratization that was already culminating in the other countries of the Southern Cone. Consequently, the crisis became a test of the regime's institutional resilience, a test that centered on the timing and circumstances of the ...

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8. Recovering the Truth

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pp. 181-211

The inexorable reality of Chilean politics in 1990, given the trajectory of that nation's democratic transition, was the latent antagonism between the first democratic government in more than seventeen years and the armed forces still firmly controlled by Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet had been repudiated, but he remained a formidable actor in Chilean politics and had ...

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9. The Politics of Human Rights

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pp. 212-238

As one of his first acts as president, Patricio Aylwin assigned the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation four tasks in order to satisfy a set of moral and national imperatives. When the commission delivered its report to Aylwin in February 1991, it had substantially accomplished three of those four tasks. The commission had established a reasonably complete ...


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pp. 239-260


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pp. 261-268


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pp. 269-278

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l owe a debt of gratitude to many persons for the various forms of support and assistance they have given to me and this project. The support and assistance of the University of Dayton was crucial. Frederick Inscho and David Ahern, as chairs of the Department of Political Science, supported the faculty exchange that enabled me to conduct research at the Facultad de Ciencias Juridicas y Sociales of the Universidad de Concepción, Chile. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812201864
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812235203

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
Series Editor Byline: Bert B. Lockwood, Jr., Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 759158169
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Chile Under Pinochet

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Subject Headings

  • Military government -- Chile -- History.
  • Chile -- Politics and government -- 1973-1988.
  • Human rights -- Chile -- History.
  • Disappeared persons -- Chile.
  • Pinochet Ugarte, Augusto.
  • Political persecution -- Chile.
  • Victims of state-sponsored terrorism -- Chile.
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