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South American Revolution (History Essay Sample)


Militaries are frequently stimulated to interfere with politics because of the things perceived by them as threats. Thus, generals who seized power in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina appeared to be preoccupied with different societal, political, and ideological hazards and threats. All of the analyzed countries encountered authoritarian regimes, which were military by nature. Regardless of the fact that the actual connection between the military institution and the regime constituent appears to differ from country to county, it is obvious that the military itself constitutes the focal element of such military governmental support. The current paper will demonstrate, compare, and analyze three 20th century dictatorships, which existed in Brazil (1964-1985), Chile (1973-1990), and Argentina (1976-1983). The analysis of the Latin American history reveals that the analyzed countries shifted from one extreme to another in an attempt to resolve existing issues. Despite the fact that the political pendulum of these countries still oscillates, the previous negative practice showed them how to restrain these oscillations to more reasonable alternatives.

Despite the fact that dictatorships of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile are deeply rooted in history, they do not belong to easily forgotten memory, particularly by those who suffered from them. They resulted in widespread and systematical violations of human rights, destruction of numerous lives, and solid alteration of societies and policies. Thus, it is obvious that authoritarian regimes left very deep imprint on the democratic systems, which replaced them. The current paper will demonstrate, compare, and analyze three 20th century dictatorships, which existed in Brazil (1964-1985), Chile (1973-1990), and Argentina (1976-1983).

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Dictatorships in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina

The Brazilian authoritarian dictatorship is also known as a military government, and it lasted for almost 21 year, starting from 1964 and ending in 1985 (Davila, 2013). This authoritarian dictatorship started with the takeover of the country’s military forces in 1964 directed against the country’s president administration (Atencio, 2014). This coup stands for the serious political crisis, which originated in 1930s-1940s, a period of dictatorship change to populism that has made the country shift from export-oriented state into import substitutions, bringing moderate structuralism to an end (Davila, 2013). All these structural alterations simulated society realignments and resulted in political detriment. The history demonstrates that the Brazilian military forces were capable of overthrowing the country’s president João Goulart during a revolt, which lasted 3 days (from March 30 to April 2).

The facts demonstrate that before the actual coup d’état the country encountered three particularly instable years, experiencing an aggravating economic crisis that resulted in the military intervention in 1964 (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). This was the time when the country’s president, João Goulart, attempted to bolster his popular sustainment by turning radical regulations and policies directly against the people (Davila, 2013). He actually announced an innovative decree of oil nationalization and agrarian reform. Because senior officers convinced themselves in the fact that a communist dictatorship might come in the nearest future, they decided to stage a felicitous coup d’état, which forced Goulart to flee into exile (Atencio, 2014).

The first phase of this armed dictatorship is featured by the contexture and organization of the armed dictatorship in the form of a specific political regime (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).

The second stage stands for the consolidation regime (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). The third stage can be viewed as a form of a transformational regime (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).

The last stage stands for the dissolution period. After the coup, the junta unexpectedly ratified a decree, which suspended political rights of specific suspended subversives. This led to arrests of thousands of people for no actual reason except the political ones (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).

However, the country did not reveal death squads, intrinsic for other Latin American republics under military governance. This means that Brazilian generals were capable of sustaining a reasonable show in an attempt to return to democracy when the appropriate time comes. Some barren dissembling at democracy appeared in 1966 when two official parties were created in order to compete in elections (Veigel, 2009). The Brazilian dictatorship attained the highest point of its fame in 1970s, with the pretended Brazilian Miracle, even despite the fact that the regime censored the fourth estate (meaning media), abused and deported nonconformists (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).

João Figueiredo became a president in 1979, and while struggling against the ‘hard-line’ and sustaining a re-democratization policy, he was unable to control the chronical inflation and coincident downfall of other military dictatorships in the South America (Pereira, 2005). Finally, an opposition presented by civilian candidate won Brazilian presidential elections of 1984. Moreover, the country was capable of ratifying the Amnesty Law for political crimes committed against and in favor of the regime (Atencio, 2014). Starting from 1988, when Brazil passed the constitution, the country started to return to democracy, when the military were supposed to remain under control of civilian politicians having no functions and roles regarding the domestic politics (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).

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The ‘Dirty War’, which was also outlined as the National Reorganization Process stands for the term utilized by the Argentine military government during the state of terrorism and dictatorship in Argentina (Pereira, 2005). This was the period when security and military forces as well as the right-wing death squadrons captured and murdered left-wing partisans, political nonconformists, and everyone who was related to socialism. The worst repressions appeared when partisans were defeated in 1977, at the time when even labor unions, church members, artists, academics, students, and professors were targeted (Pereira, 2005). The facts demonstrate that junta exculpated this massive terror by overstating the partisan threat, and even staging assaults to be accused of utilized frozen dead bodies of partisan combatants, which were specifically stored for this objective.

When the country became capable of restoring democratic government, Argentine’s Congress ratified legislation to provide compensation to families of victims. The facts demonstrate that this was the darkest period in the history of Latin America. The junta stayed in office and had authority until Argentina’s hollow economy and terrible oppressive tentative embraced the Falklands from the UK, while supplementary disrupted all remaining credibility fractions (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). Thus, the military and service leaders, with slight conviction from the U.S. and other countries, left the office and passed on the authority. Thus, the general election in 1983 demonstrated the unexpected collapse of the Peronist party (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). This helped to mark the return of constitutional regulations.

The history demonstrates that the military dictatorship of Chile was in favor of an authoritarian military government, which directed and controlled Chile in the period between 1973 and 1990. This dictatorship was formulated when the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overturned by a CIA-grounded takeover in 1973 (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). This regime was governed by a military and service junta under the leadership of the prominent general Augusto Pinochet. The appreciated devastation of democracy and the economic calamity that occurred during the presidency of Allende appeared to be the major event (Veigel, 2009). These were the main acquittals and excuses utilized by the service and military forces in order to invade the country. The dictatorship displayed the mission in the form of a highly required ‘national reformulation’. This regime was also featured by the systematical suppressions of different political representatives and parties combined with the pursuit of nonconformists (Pereira, 2005). This regime resulted in the death and loss of more than 3,000 people (Veigel, 2009). It also inflicted thousands of prisoners and induced huge quantity (approximately 200,000) of Chileans to choose the exile. This authoritative regime shaped the main part of the current economic and political life of the country. It resulted in radical neoliberal economical reforms solidly opposing the previous leftist regulations (Pereira, 2005).

The reforms were advised by a team of free-market economists educated in the U.S. universities. In addition, the regime changed the country’s constitution in 1980 (Pereira, 2005). The facts demonstrate that the regime acknowledged its defeat during a 1988 referendum, which created possibilities for the reestablishment of the democratic governance in the country (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). Nevertheless, the political and economic systems created by the authoritarian regime were preserved completely unchanged, while the service and military forces did not have the right of civilian control when the dictatorship ended.

Repressions and Absence of Democracy

The Brazilian dictatorship was initiated in 1964 by military forces through a self-proclaimed revolution, which deposed the elected president (Atencio, 2014). In later years, the new government issued an ‘institutional act’, which overrode the constitution, purged the state apparatus of supporters of the previous government, organized a witch hunt of alleged communists in society, and initiated a dictatorship, which turned into increasingly repressive affair over the next five years (Atencio, 2014). The facts demonstrate that the Brazilian military regime, which ended in 1985, appeared to be a prototype of a new kind of authoritarianism in Latin America (Pereira, 2005). Thus, similar regimes appeared in nearby countries. In 1966, the Argentinean military engaged in its own revolution ousting the civilian president Arturo Illia, closing Congress and ushering in a period of military rule, which was to last until 1973 (Atencio, 2014). On the other hand, in Chile in 1973, the military intervened in a bloody coup. It incorporated bombing the presidential palace of socialist president Salvador Allende, executing thousands of his suspected supporters, shutting down Congress, and inaugurating a repressive regime directed by general Augusto Pinochet, which lasted until 1990 (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).

The facts demonstrate that all of these regimes emerged in partly industrialized societies that, if taken together, constituted the most economically evolved region in Latin America. They appeared to have comparatively huge and capable state bureaucracies and utilized the state’s technical capabilities in order to intervene in society in a more innovative and comprehensive manner (Atencio, 2014). Moreover, all of them pledged allegiance to the defense of ‘national security’, which stands for a Cold War conception of political conflict (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). This means that it conflated the state with the nation and blurred the distinction between internal and external aggression, war and peace, communist and non-communist political activity, and armed attacks on the state on the one hand, and peaceful dissent and opposition on the other (Atencio, 2014). All of these regimes, at one time or another, engaged in state terror, systematic control, as well as monitoring, detaining, torturing, killing, and sometimes making their own citizens disappear.

The leaders of the military regimes in Brazil and the southern cone were concerned with the legality of their rule. Regardless of the fact that they had all come to power via force, these leaders struggled exceedingly to border their operations with a framework of regulations, a blend of the new and the old ones (Pereira, 2005). Therefore, during the Argentinean dirty war, citizens could take the federal government to court in civil cases and win. At the same time, fellow citizens were being plucked from streets and executed by clandestine groups of state-sanctioned murderers (Pereira, 2005). There was another method of legalizing the government’s repressions, meaning the decree issuing, constitution’s rewriting, judiciaries’ manipulation, reorganization, and purging, together with new legislations’ promulgations. Another tactic in the struggle to make repression in courts lawful refers to ‘political justice’ or the prosecution of regime’s opponents in courts of law for offenses against national security (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). Political justice was a constituent of the tentatives of these regions that made lawful some portion of the repressions that were enacted (Veigel, 2009).

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Political justice also stood for a tentative to reshape society to fit the leader’s vision of what citizenship is by prosecuting citizens for such crimes as the distribution of subversive propaganda, membership in forbidden organization, offenses against authority, and sociopolitical non-conformism (Veigel, 2009). In the cases of Brazilian and Chilean political trials, the regimes’ legality failed to protect detainees’ basic human rights and to check the violent excess of the security forces, over-valorizing the claims of the state at the expense of the citizens (Pereira, 2005). Thus, political justice under the military regimes of Brazil, Chile and Argentina was a constituent of larger patterns of repression in each country. Repressions varied from case to case depending on its intensity, scope, timing, geographic reach, and change over time. Authoritarian legality was a constituent of these larger patterns of repression, and repression shaped the role that could be played by various actors in political justice including political prisoners, defense lawyers, police and military personnel, prosecutors, judges, legal establishments, the military high command, and civil society organizations (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).

Despite the fact that the level of lethal violence was low, a huge quantity of people were subjected to political trials in Brazil. The major part of these trials took place in military courts. These courts lacked independence and imparity but were not purely military, as they consisted of one civilian judge and four active-duty military officers who were not trained in the law and who were rotated in and out of the courts for three-month stints (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). The sentences in these trials could be appealed to a higher military court, and from there could be transferred to the civilian Supreme Court (Pereira, 2005). Investigations and trials were drawn-out affairs, frequently lasting for two years or more from the date when the lower court trial began to the sentence by the military appeals court. Defendants sometimes (but not always) could sustain liberty during this period (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). This legal process guaranteed the liberty of those who served time in prison, so that most of them were eventually given clearly delineated sentences. Nevertheless, the story of repression and authorization legality is quite different in Chile from that of Brazil. Chilean repression, triggered by the 1973 coup and directed by the army, was much more massive and intense than Brazil’s one (Pereira, 2005).

The junta declared a state of siege throughout Chile and divided the country into zones directly controlled by the military commanders, with the army in control of the major part of the territory. The military targeted suspected supporters of the Allende government and in particular, members of the Socialist and Communist parties (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). This early repression was fairly uncoordinated and unselective, with military commanders in each region having a high degree of autonomy. Chilean military regime operated with far less concern for legal restraints than its Brazilian predecessor did for the first five years of his rule (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). Trials were rapid, and sentences sometimes were harsh. Furthermore, the offenders had no right of appeal for defendants, because the civilian Supreme Court refused to review the verdicts in military court trials. When Chilean military courts imposed the death penalty, the sentence was carried out, unlike the situation in Brazil (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). In some instances, judicial procedures were nullified by extrajudicial violence. Overall, the Chilean military regime in the first five years of its rule was more radical regarding traditional legality than the Brazilian one and resorted to unmediated force more often and on a wider scale.

Finally, Argentinean repression was the harshest of the three cases examined here and represents the most radical and extrajudicial approach to the law of all three military regimes. Argentine political violence grew out of a society polarized between supporters and opponents of former president Juan Domingo Peron, and increased gradually after the 1955 military coup that out-stepped Peron (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). An armed left emerged in the country in the early 1960s, and the 1966 coup brought another military regime to power (Pereira, 2005). By the late 1960s, armed actions against military personnel by guerrilla forces such as the Montoneros and the ERP (Revolutionary People’s Army) had become a major concern of the government. Repression increased markedly in 1973, when the military regime withdrew from power and permitted the restoration of the Peronist government (Pereira, 2005). In fact, a paramilitary group reportedly coordinated by the president’s advisor initiated a dirty war against the armed left. This escalated into a serious military operation by the army because of the military’s desire to expand the dirty war nationally (Veigel, 2009). Unlike Brazil and Chile, Argentinean repression started before rather than after the creation of the military regime. In terms of its approach to the law, the Argentinean regime stands out for its almost complete disregard for legal conventions.

The United States Influence

The facts demonstrate that the U.S.-Brazilian connections became tighter during the analyzed period more than even, because of the fact that the U.S. operated in order to turn Brazil into a ‘felicitous story’ in the combat against communism (McPherson, 2013). Nevertheless, the analysis of the human rights violations provoked by the dictatorship demonstrates that CIA agents arduously educated and trained hundreds of Brazilian service and military officers on how to inflict prisoners, outlined as “scientific methods to withdraw repentance and attain the veracity” (McPherson, 2013, p. 87). The U.S. sponsored Plan Condor, because Brazil neighbors also entered into military dictatorships. The U.S. hoped that the region would choose the proposed direction. As the military dictatorship discontinued connections with the Soviet block and Cuba, it directed the country back to the sphere of influence of the U.S. (McPherson, 2013). It resulted in the ideological confluence with the U.S. not merely in the apprehended succession and Cold War hazards, but in the recognition of the North American leadership and the shared understanding that this direction appears to be indivisible being a determinative constituent in the inner combats against communist corruption (McPherson, 2013). As Brazil was domestically stimulated by the U.S., it helped in liberalizing the country’s economy, stimulated the elevation of exports, and opened the country for foreign investment, but this economic framework did not last long (Veigel, 2009). In fact, country’s military president Costa e Silva directed the country back towards the import replacement framework, which lasted for the whole dictatorship period (McPherson, 2013).

The analysis of the U.S. influence on Chile demonstrates that the U.S. equipped material sustainment to the military regime after the coup, even despite the fact that the country criticized it publicly. The facts demonstrate that CIA aggressively supported the military junta after Allende was overturned (McPherson, 2013). In addition, the country stimulated Pinochet’s officers to enter into paid-up contacts with CIA or U.S. military, even despite the fact that some of them appeared to be involved in human rights abuses (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).
The U.S. appeared to be much friendlier with Pinochet than with Allende, and proceeded with supplying junta with solid economic sustenance at the same time when the country voiced direct opposition regarding the junta’s repression during a variety of international forums. In fact, the U.S. surpassed verbal damnation in 1976, because of Orlando Letelier’s murder (McPherson, 2013). Thus, the U.S. placed an embargo on arms marketed to Chile, which lasted until the democracy reconstruction. The international concern over Chilean inner repression, Allende government intervention together with former U.S. hostility demonstrated that the U.S. did not want the world to perceive it as a partner in the so-called security operations of junta (Veigel, 2009). On the other hand, famous U.S. confederates did not obstruct arms marketing to Pinochet, gaining profit from the shortage of the U.S. competition.

Regardless of the fact that a minimum of six U.S. citizens disappeared because of the Argentine military operations before 1976, the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires pushed Argentina’s government to esteem human rights, while high-ranking state department officials secretly provided their ratification to Argentina’s innovative military governors (Veigel, 2009). The facts demonstrate that Robert C. Hill operated hard behind-the-scenes in order to preserve the Argentinean military junta, which engaged in solid human rights infringement (McPherson, 2013). Thus, Kissinger provided Argentinean generals with a “green light” for the dirty war, while at the same time Hill silently attempted to cancel the Kissinger’s decision during the Organization of American States meeting (Veigel, 2009).

The U.S. also appeared to be the principal provider of military and economic assistance to the Videla regime during the earliest and most intense repression phase (McPherson, 2013). The facts demonstrate that the U.S. Congress confirmed and ratified a request to grant $50 ml supported by Kissinger as security aid to junta. Moreover, the Congress granted another $30 ml as a form of the military aid (McPherson, 2013). The U.S. aid, trainings, and military marketing to the Videla regime proceeded under the subsequent Carter Administration up until 1978 as this was the year when military assistance was formally ceased (Veigel, 2009).

Protests against Dictatorships

Protests against the Brazilian dictatorship in the late 1960s were among the first instances of nascent human rights advocacy in Latin America, if not the world (Atencio, 2014). Despite the fact that 1964 coup was indeed violent, the institutionalization of a set of draconian acts in 1968 resulted in a sharp increase of state repression (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). Notably, major part of opposition to the Brazilian dictatorship did not at first take the form of an activism expressed in human rights but rather focused almost uniquely on the state practice of torture. The Brazilian case shows how a rise over torture could at times take place outside of a broader human rights vision (Atencio, 2014). The idea of human rights was largely absent among the Brazilian left due to the permanence of a belief in armed struggle and Marxist revolution (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). When it was put into practice among the left, primarily through the influence of exiles and the church, it was appropriated and transformed by Brazilian activists, who grafted it on top of Marxist theory (Atencio, 2014).

If the Brazilian case set these processes in motion, the Chilean military coup of 1973 served as the critical fulcrum in the shift to an allowed activism couched in terms of human rights (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). Chilean military leader Augusto Pinochet swiftly reorganized Chilean society, turning to torture, summary executions, and exile to silence dissenters and inculcating widespread fear. Since criticism of the junta was largely stifled in Chile, activist groups were first organized in the international arena. Fuelled by waves of Chilean exiles, activists formed a series of solidarity groups throughout the world, adopting names like the Chile Committee for Human Rights (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013). Although they organized groups for unique political reasons, solidarity groups collaborated with NGOs like Amnesty International to shed light on the international publicity on right violations in Chile (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). As the key hub in a larger transnational advocacy network, Amnesty developed coalitions with solidarity groups, which in turn opened up a space for the growth of domestic human rights organizations in Chile (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).


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These alliances while not without tensions over the role of politics in the moral appeal to human rights often cooperated with the Organization of American States and the UN to denounce violations of human rights. The 1973 coup and Chilean oppositional politics augured a future f transnational human rights activism (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). Activists throughout the world latched onto the rhetoric of human rights to make the governments ashamed, as they did during the argentine dictatorship. Although more than ten organizations would form in Argentina, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights and Center for Legal and Social Studies appear to be the two most important oppositional voices to the dictatorship (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). The APDH has a vast list of victims of unwarranted detentions that added to the documentary evidence regarding the opposition against the junta (Azevedo & Sanjurjo, 2013).

In response to a perception that the APDH was too cautious in its work, a group of activists crated CELS to more aggressively confront the dictatorship (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). Strains in the relationships emerged between these two dueling visions over the proper place of politics in the field of human rights. If not always on the same tactical page, these groups enabled transnational NGOs like Amnesty International to make its appeals on the international arena (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). While many of the same international bodies organized groups directed against the Argentinean junta, Amnesty International stood out for its local investigation and subsequent report (Eckel & Moyn, 2014). These counties demonstrate that different agents can differently approach the idea of human rights, falling somewhere on a sliding scale between outright rejection and forthright embrace.


The systematical infringement of human rights by military dictatorships in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina has left serious traces. Nevertheless, the time helped these countries and societies to heal the wounds. A great number of lives were mindlessly ruined or lost because of ideological and exceptional reasons of economical and political nature. Even Brazil and Chile, which have pretended economical felicitousness stories, might have encouraged considerable increase and exploitation without seriously appealing to solid political repressions. These regimes were grounded on an excessive reaction to the historical crises. Latin American history shows that countries shifted from one extreme to another in an attempt to resolve issues. In fact, the political pendulum still oscillates in certain parts of the world, but these oscillations have restrained to alternatives that are more reasonable. Currently, the problems are solved through the ballot box and not at the barracks.

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