South American Military Dictatorships


By Shahvaiz Fawad

Writer is a UK based Pakistani student of Essex University UK

Augusto Pinochet(1973-90): Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile on September 11 1973,in a United States backed military coup that overthrew left-wing president Salvador Allende.The Pinochet regime was one of the most horrific in 20th Century Latin America as basic human rights were suppressed and the government engaged in state-sponsored terrorism against its own population.Approximately 1,200-1,300 people had been murdered,80,000 people were forcibly interned and 30,000 people had been tortured by state authorities.Many people had been rounded in football stadiums and were shot,whilst people who had links to leftist groups were thrown off helicopters.Pinochet’s thugs made people lie down on the road whilst tanks would roll over them,which subsequently killed or crippled them.The regime even car bombed the Chilean Ambassador to the US in an act of international terror.Pinochet’s free-market liberal economics also led Chile to the 1982 monetary crisis which caused a lot of economic inequality.After a plebiscite in 1988 56%of Chileans voted against Pinochets continuation as the Head of State,So he stepped down by 1990.By that time the damage done to Chilean Society was massive.

Jorge Rafael Videla(1976-1981):This man was an very important figure in the Military Junta that ruled Argentina from (1976-1983) that was also supported by the United States.Argentine society had suffered the devastating effects of the Dirty War in which the Military government engaged in State-Sponsored terrorism,in order to prevent left-wing terrorist groups from causing havoc in Argentina.During Videla’s rule 9,000 Argentine people had been murdered,many others had been arrested,tortured and thrown of helicopters into the Atlantic Ocean,just because they had links to leftist groups.The Human Rights situation was atrocious during this period and any sort of dissent was suppressed by the government.The economic policies of the Videla government were also disastrous as it created high unemployment and harmed many industries in the country.The military regime continued till 1983 after Videla left Office in 1981 and only came to an end when The British Army defeated the Argentine Army in the Falklands War.

Alfredo Stroessner(1954-1989): Stroessner was the military dictator of Paraguay for 35 years and his rule consisted of an uninterrupted period of repression and was The longest reign of any dictator in 20th Century South American history.He was strongly supported by the United States because of his staunch Anti-Communist stance and enforced a cult of personality rule as well.His supporters were mostly part of the legislature and ran the courts as well,and he kept the country in a constant state of siege which overruled The democratic institutions.Meanwhile torture was used to suppress any sort of opposition and large scale repression was carried out against the opposition party.The constitution was modified six times from 1967-77 in order to legitimise his six consecutive elections to the presidency,and in 1988 he won an eighth term for presidency.His regime had also given asylum to former Argentine president Juan Peron,Anastasio Samoza debayle(former Nicaragua leader) and many Nazi war criminals as well.This military regime was one of the most corrupt and repressive in the region.

So while we may complain about the military dictators that have caused a lot of harm to Pakistan,military dictatorships in other parts of the world such as South America are not great examples either.

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