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Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff cries during a speech at the launching ceremony of the National Truth Commission Report in Brasilia, Dec. 10, 2014 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

From Amnesty to Accountability: Transitional Justice in South America

Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014

In a Buenos Aires courtroom, three judges listen to Chileans, Uruguayans and Paraguayans testify about how their friends and family were kidnapped and disappeared as part of an international military conspiracy. The case, known as Operation Condor, accuses 25 Argentine military officers, along with one Uruguayan extradited from Brazil, of forced disappearances, kidnappings, torture and murder spanning half a dozen countries during the 1970s and early 1980s. Over 200 witnesses will testify, and the trial is entering its second year.

It’s just one of dozens of trials taking place in national courts in Chile and Argentina, which are finally confronting the past after decades of official stonewalling and amnesties. Nor is the reckoning confined to criminal prosecutions: Argentina and Chile have been pioneers in the use of both investigatory “truth” commissions and reparations programs for the survivors and their families, and Brazil is now following the same path. Latin America is seen as a template for similar efforts around the world. While this article focuses on Argentina, Chile and Brazil, some combination of similar efforts have been undertaken in Peru, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador and Ecuador. ...

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