4. Chile’s Human Rights Challenge: The Pinochet Years
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This chapter traces the outlines of human rights–related experiences and organizing in Chile during dictatorship and through the early transitional period. Dictatorship-­ era patterns of repression, organized response, and the legal strategies that lawyers and HROs evolved to combat HRVs are examined, since chapter 5 will demonstrate the importance of these early experiences in shaping Chile’s post-­ transitional justice trajectory. In particular, the early (1978) introduction of an amnesty law is discussed, as is the early establishment of a pattern of human rights claim-­ making blocked by negative judicial response. Further, the emblematic human rights incidents whose related legal cases provided key research data for this book are introduced. Finally, the major transitional truth and reconciliation measures implemented from 1990 are outlined. The Dictatorship (1973–1990) The military coup that took place in Chile on 11 September 1973 was an exceptional event for a country of almost unbroken democratic-­ constitutionalist tradition. Political alternation had, however, given way to polarization and confrontation during the “socialist experiment” of the Allende presidency of 1970–73. Thus, although the military had little proven predilection for direct intervention in the political process, the 1973 coup had been widely rumored and was initially welcomed by the political right, the judiciary, the Catholic Church, and some sectors of the civilian population.1 Most believed that the 1. See Arriagada (1998) or Vial (2002). 4 chile’s human rights challenge: the pinochet years 62   post-transitional justice authoritarian interregnum would be brief. In fact, the coup ushered in seventeen years of military rule, presided over by one man: General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Although apparently lacking an initial ideological project beyond anti-­ Marxism, the dictatorship soon adopted a radical neoliberal economic project. Pinochet made adept use of military hierarchy and discipline to construct a presidential regime with little room for the emergence of rivals. This was not, however, a personalistic regime dominated entirely by individual whim: the regime could also be strongly legalistic, and complemented the ready use of repression with the observance of certain institutional formalities . Indeed, the government chartered a new constitution in 1980 that set out a vision for a future under “protected” (authoritarian) democracy.2 Although intended primarily to prolong the regime and consolidate its project for enduring political and sociocultural transformation, the 1980 Constitution did, paradoxically, provide the framework for Pinochet’s replacement, and the regime’s eventual exit, at the end of the decade. The Rettig report3 identifies three distinct phases of human rights violations by the military regime. Well over half of officially recognized killings or disappearances occurred in the first, short phase between September and December 1973.4 Under the fictional state of “internal war” decreed by the regime, military tribunals handed out death sentences to civilians. Despite official insistence that the country had to be “pacified,” this initial violence was a one-­ sided drive to eliminate political enemies.5 Violence was also employed for exemplary purposes: to compromise and intimidate military ranks and terrorize the civilian population (Escalante 2000, 13). 2. See Garretón (1995, 216). Barros (2002) aptly describes this as “rule by law,” rather than “rule of law”; while Angell (2003b) points out that Chile’s oft-­ invoked “legalism” is a characteristic that both predates and has outlived the Pinochet years. 3. The 1992 report of Chile’s official truth commission, popularly known as the Comisión Rettig , or Rettig commission. The original text in Spanish is available at http://www.ddhh.gov.cl/ ddhh_rettig.html, last accessed 4 March 2009. The version cited here is the 1993 English translation published by Notre Dame University. Comprehensive data also exist in the archives of most Chilean HROs of the time, particularly those of the Vicaría de la Solidaridad at http://www.vicariadela solidaridad.cl/. See also Ahumada et al. (1989), Lira and Loveman (2000a), periodic international HRO country reports such as Americas Watch (1987), and the extensive bibliographic survey in Stern (2006). 4. Official figures consist of the Rettig commission’s 1992 findings as supplemented by its official follow-­ up body, the Corporación Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación (CNRR) in 1996. The CNRR’s final report attributes 1,823 of a total of 3,197 accredited deaths and disappearances to the period of September to December 1973. See CNRR (1996, 579). 5. There was virtually no credible armed resistance to the coup itself. Armed resistance to the regime, such as it was, peaked in the mid-­ 1980s. chile’s human rights challenge: the...