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The Rise and Fall of Repression in Chile

Pablo Policzer

Publication Year: 2009

In The Rise and Fall of Repression in Chile, Pablo Policzer tackles the difficult task of analyzing how authoritarian regimes utilize coercion. Even in relatively open societies, coercive institutions such as the police and military tend to be secretive and mistrustful of efforts by outsiders to oversee their operations. In more closed societies, secrecy is the norm, making coercion that much more difficult to observe and understand. Drawing on organization theory to develop a comparative typology of coercive regimes, Policzer analyzes the structures and mechanisms of coercion in general and then shifts his focus to the early part of the military dictatorship in Chile, which lasted from 1973 to 1990. Policzer's book sheds new light on a fundamental, yet little-examined, period during the Chilean dictatorship. Between 1977 and 1978, the governing junta in Chile quietly replaced the secret police organization known as the Dirección de Informaciones Nacional (DINA) with a different institution, the Central Nacional de Informaciones (CNI). Policzer provides the first systematic account of why the DINA was created in the first place, how it became the most powerful repressive institution in the country, and why it was suddenly replaced with a different organization, one that carried out repression in a markedly more restrained manner. Policzer shows how the dictatorship's reorganization of its security forces intersected in surprising ways with efforts by human rights watchdogs to monitor and resist the regime's coercive practices. He concludes by comparing these struggles with how dictatorships in Argentina, East Germany, and South Africa organized coercion.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. vii-viii

Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiii

Note on Translations

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pp. xiv

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xviii

I did not know it at the time, but this book began with the military coup in Chile on September 11, 1973. I was eight years old, and the coup marked me, as it did every Chilean. My parents had supported the Allende government, my father spent eighteen months as a political prisoner after the coup, and in 1975 he and my mother fled to Canada as refugees with my two sisters and...


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ONE: The Dark Spaces of Politics

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pp. 3-15

Coercion—the threat to employ brute physical force and the actual employment of such force—is central to politics. In a foundation that stretches from Hobbes to Weber, it defines our basic political institutions. But despite its importance, analyzing how various types of coercive institutions operate—and why they differ across time and space—remains...

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TWO: The Coercion Problem

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pp. 16-37

A clarification about what this book is not. It is not a book about why the military or the police take power. Political interventions by the armed forces in many parts of the world during the 1960s and 1970s spurred scholarly interest on this problem (Stepan 1971; O’Donnell 1973; D. Collier 1979; Lowenthal and Fitch 1986). In some cases I refer to these works...


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THREE: The Overthrow and Turmoil

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pp. 41-67

The Chilean Armed Forces overthrew the Allende government on the morning of September 11, 1973, with swift and overwhelming force.1 They launched a massive assault on La Moneda, the presidential palace, through a combination of air and ground attacks. They disbanded Congress and banned all other independent political organizations, including the country’s main...

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FOUR: The Rise of the DINA (1973–74)

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pp. 68-84

At the beginning of 1974, observers noticed a new coercive organization whose agents, in civilian clothing and unmarked cars, would round up people and detain them in a variety of new locations. The DINA would not receive official status until June 1974, but its detentions had become apparent several months before. As the DINA became increasingly active, it took over the bulk...

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FIVE: The DINA in Action (1974–77)

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pp. 85-99

The DINA aimed to resolve a set of political and organizational problems that the dictatorship faced during the first few months after the coup. During this early period—the bloodiest of the dictatorship—detentions, torture, and summary executions were carried out in relatively public view, a practice that became increasingly costly in political terms for the regime. Compounding this problem...

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SIX: The Fall of the DINA (1977–78)

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pp. 100-111

A second shift in how the dictatorship organized its repressive agencies took place from 1977 to 1978. In August 1977, the regime replaced the DINA with a different institution, the Central Nacional de Informaciones (CNI). At first, the DINA team also led the CNI, with Contreras and his men still at the helm, but this team fell from power in April 1978, and their departure coincided with...

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SEVEN: Options and Shifts

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pp. 112-129

As shown in previous chapters, the regime created the DINA to resolve specific organizational problems, but the DINA did not completely take over and redirect coercion, and conflicts remained between the DINA and other coercive agencies (in particular the air force’s intelligence agency [SIFA] and the Comando Conjunto), which undermined regime cohesion. Moreover, as the DINA ran...


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EIGHT: The Politics of Organizing Coercion

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pp. 133-149

A common justification for authoritarian rule is the promise to “get rid of politics” by replacing corrupt, ineffective, or quarrelsome politicians with a more disciplined military, party, or bureaucratic cadre. This book throws such a notion into doubt by showing that even in authoritarian regimes, organizing coercion is a distinctly and unavoidably political problem of governance. Rulers have to...

Appendix A

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pp. 150-159

Appendix B

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pp. 160-168

Appendix C

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pp. 169-175

Appendix D

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pp. 176-183


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pp. 184-216


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pp. 217-232


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pp. 233-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780268089733
E-ISBN-10: 0268089736
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268038359
Print-ISBN-10: 026803835X

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2009