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Political (In)Justice

Political (In)Justice: Authoritarianism and the Rule of Law in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina

Anthony W. Pereira
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    Political (In)Justice
    Book Description:

    Why do attempts by authoritarian regimes to legalize their political repression differ so dramatically? Why do some dispense with the law altogether, while others scrupulously modify constitutions, pass new laws, and organize political trials? Political (In)Justice answers these questions by comparing the legal aspects of political repression in three recent military regimes: Brazil (1964-1985); Chile (1973-1990); and Argentina (1976-1983). By focusing on political trials as a reflection of each regime's overall approach to the law, Anthony Pereira argues that the practice of each regime can be explained by examining the long-term relationship between the judiciary and the military. Brazil was marked by a high degree of judicial-military integration and cooperation; Chile's military essentially usurped judicial authority; and in Argentina, the military negated the judiciary altogether. Pereira extends the judicial-military framework to other authoritarian regimes-Salazar's Portugal, Hitler's Germany, and Franco's Spain-and a democracy (the United States), to illuminate historical and contemporary aspects of state coercion and the rule of law.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7283-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 Repression, Legality, and Authoritarian Regimes
    (pp. 1-15)

    On April 5, 1971, Vinicius Oliveira Brandt sat in a military court in São Paulo to testify on his own behalf.¹ Oliveira Brandt, a young sociology student, was charged with membership in an illegal organization, the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Partido Revolucionário dos Trabalhadores, or PRT), and of organizing the armed robbery of a supermarket. Oliveira Brandt told the court that he had been arrested in São Paulo on September 30 of 1970 and immediately taken to a military-police intelligence facility (known as Departamento de Operações Internas, Department of Internal Operations or DOI). There he was stripped, placed naked on a...

  2. 2 National Security Legality in Brazil and the Southern Cone in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 16-36)

    On March 31, 1964, the Brazilian military initiated a self-proclaimed revolution that deposed the elected president João Goulart. In the following days, the new government issued an “institutional act” that overrode the constitution, purged the state apparatus of supporters of the prior government, organized a witch hunt of alleged Communists in society, and initiated a dictatorship that was to become increasingly repressive over the next five years. The Brazilian military regime, which ended in 1985, was a prototype for a new kind of authoritarianism in Latin America. Similar regimes soon appeared in nearby countries. In 1966 the Argentine military engaged...

  3. 3 The Evolution of National Security Legality in Brazil and the Southern Cone
    (pp. 37-62)

    Military regime leaders in the 1960s and 1970s in Brazil and the southern cone made choices about how to deal with opposition and dissent. Yet their dilemmas were not entirely new. Military leaders had faced similar challenges in the past, and their responses to those challenges were often decisive in shaping the trajectory of political change in Latin America. After World War I, the broad features of national security legality developed along similar lines in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, influenced by the common pressures of interwar ideological conflicts and economic collapse, the rise of U.S. hegemony after World War II,...

    (pp. 63-89)

    Authoritarian legality was closer to the legal system of the prior regime in Brazil than it was in Chile and Argentina. There was more gradualism and continuity in the Brazilian case, and this can be seen in the records of political trials. Analysis of the history of judicial and military institutions bests accounts for this distinctive outcome.

    The 1961 compromise that allowed João Goulart to become president papered over but did not end the conflicts in Brazilian politics. On one side were the landowning and industrial elites of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro, the internationalists within the...

  5. 5 “Wartime” Legality and Radical Adaptation in Chile
    (pp. 90-116)

    The Brazilian military regime used peacetime military courts to prosecute political dissidents and opponents. It selectively overrode the previous constitution with institutional acts, then produced another constitution more to its liking. Torture was widespread, but disappearances were rare and political trials in military courts left some room for the defense of the accused, involved civilian participation on the bench and at the bar, and included the right to appeal. The death sentence, handed down by regional courts four times and asked for by prosecutors on several other occasions, was never formally carried out. The courts moved slowly—trials typically dragged...

  6. 6 Antilegalism in Argentina
    (pp. 117-139)

    The attempts of an unconstitutional dictatorship to cloak itself with legality and to prosecute opponents and dissidents for violations of national security may seem to be simply a façade for the exercise of uncontrolled power and violence. It might seem better to pass over this disturbing practice of dictatorships, assigning it to either the historical dustbin or to the specialized categorizations of comparative politics. However, an examination of the Argentine case helps us to realize that far from being ephiphenomenal and irrelevant to the real dynamics of power under authoritarianism, national security legality and political trials are one of the...

  7. 7 Defense Lawyers in Brazil’s Military Courts: REDEFINING FREE SPEECH, SUBVERSION, TERRORISM, AND CRIME
    (pp. 140-158)

    Brazil’s relatively conservative authoritarian legality led to a series of political trials that preserved more elements of traditional legal procedures and doctrine than did the repressive tactics of the later Chilean and Argentine military regimes. It was only in Brazilian political trials that defense lawyers were able to gradually roll back some of the most draconian interpretations of national security law. Brazilian defense lawyers successfully won the recognition of certain individual rights from the military court judges, including the right to express certain political beliefs, to criticize government officials, to possess (if not distribute) “subversive” materials, and the right to...

  8. 8 Transitional Justice and the Legacies of Authoritarian Legality
    (pp. 159-172)

    If the different modes of political justice analyzed in this book had simply been abolished after the end of military rule in each country, their significance would be relatively minor. They would then be of interest to historians and almost no one else. However, the democratic transitions that occurred in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile in the 1980s preserved, to varying degrees, elements of the legal systems under which opponents of military rule had been prosecuted. Furthermore, the military and judicial elites responsible for the repression retained considerable corporate cohesion and autonomy and perpetuated their own interpretations of the recent past....

    (pp. 173-190)

    This book has dwelt almost exclusively, up to now, on the Brazilian and southern cone military regimes. Much of the context and characteristics of these regimes are specific to a particular place and time. Latin America has long been correctly seen as a distinctive part of the developing world, with states that are generally older than those in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The region has been subject to U.S. hegemony and interventions to a greater degree than elsewhere, its populist movements of the mid-twentieth century are rightly seen as unlike those of other regions, and its militaries and...

  10. 10 The Puzzle of Authoritarian Legality
    (pp. 191-200)

    Why do authoritarian regimes bother with legal maneuvers, changes to the law, complicated and time-consuming formal procedures, and trials? If they come to power by force, why don’t they continue to rule by force and force alone, dropping all pretenses to legality? Given that most of them do not, and instead attempt to judicialize their repression, why do some regimes achieve this judicialization more extensively and effectively than others? Similarly, why are some more radical in their approach to previous legality than others? Finally, what difference does variation in authoritarian legality make for the scope and intensity of repression?


  11. Appendix 1: A NOTE ON SOURCES AND DATA
    (pp. 201-203)