- International Human Rights and Authoritarian Rule in Chile
Darren G. Hawkins addresses one of the most controversial issues and cases during the Cold War: the impact of international human-rights pressures on the authoritarian regime in Chile. The Cold War helped bring to power and justify the anti-Marxist dictator General Augusto Pinochet in 1973, and the denouement of that global conflict helped bring him down in 1990. During his reign, an unprecedented human-rights campaign pushed his seemingly impregnable government toward gradual liberalization. To what extent that “soft” campaign managed to open up Pinochet’s “hard” regime is the question addressed in this book. The answers have profound implications for policies toward similar tyrants around the world.
Hawkins spans international relations and comparative politics. Following the lead of Kathryn Sikkink and other political scientists interested in the recent internationalization of human-rights standards, he challenges some international relations theories that underestimate the influence of ideas as opposed to military and economic might. He stresses the clout of state and non-state actors advocating universal codes of conduct for government behavior. He also argues that these global norms played a bigger role than some domestic factors in pressing Pinochet to accept some human-rights considerations. Although Hawkins may understate the importance of national forces, he lends credence to scholars who highlight the international causes of the tidal wave of democratization—and indeed the thawing of the Cold War—from the 1980s through the 1990s. He qualifies that interpretation by showing under what international and domestic conditions those currents from overseas might succeed in reducing human-rights violations.
Hawkins’s persuasive central contention is that some autocracies are susceptible to human-rights demands, even when unaccompanied by significant military or economic sanctions, because those criticisms undermine their international legitimacy. In the same way that even the most brutal dictators find it easier to govern with some domestic consent to their right to rule, so, too, they find it easier to manage international relations with some foreign acceptance of their propriety in office. To produce alterations in repressive strategies in the Chilean case, transnational assaults on human-rights [End Page 147] abuses had to be tenacious. They also had to coincide with national democratic traditions and a rule-oriented dictatorship in pursuit of legitimacy.
Hawkins casts his study in the framework of international relations theories. He notes that the power differential between the countries promoting human rights and those transgressing them is not the crucial variable. He hypothesizes that the leverage of human-rights initiatives from abroad will increase when the pressure is massive and sustained. Such initiatives are also more likely to succeed when they interact with a domestic regime that is receptive to society and its critics, is dominated by rule makers rather than by arbitrary enforcers, is faced with no grave economic or security crisis, and is entrenched in a country with a democratic tradition. In his view, the last three domestic factors accounted for the Chilean tyranny’s concern about the threat to its legitimacy from relentless human-rights advocates.
Chile makes an excellent test case because of the ferocity and durability of Pinochet’s regime and because of the extraordinary international condemnation of its atrocities. The breadth and intensity of international revulsion at the overthrow of Socialist President Salvador Allende (1970–1973) and at Pinochet’s subsequent atrocities are partly attributable to Chile’s long democratic history. Hawkins provides a concise and cogent narrative of the evolution of the military government. He convincingly shows how its cosmetic or limited liberalization over time responded to external denunciations of the murder, disappearance, torture, imprisonment, exile, and general repression of its opponents. Hawkins’s main examples of Pinochet’s reactions to international excoriation are the junta’s consternation over human-rights charges in 1973–1975, the dissolution of the original secret police apparatus in 1977, the installation of a constitution in 1980, and the convening and losing of a plebiscite on the continuation of the dictatorship in 1988, which resulted in the restoration of democracy.