Sweeper Response: Violence and Shame

In our brief class discussion (as well, I should admit for honesty’s sake, a post-class smaller discussion with some fellow classmates) several topics were touched upon concerning dictatorships in Latin America.

The readings for this week mainly focused around the Pinochet regime in Chile. This regime has become notable for the intense brutality and torture undertaken by the military dictatorship that overthrew the previous democratically elected Socialist president. Thousands of people were executed or ‘disappeared’ to hidden torture camps were set up around the country.

The targets of these disappearances were largely young men (and sometimes women) who were classified as ‘subversive’ and scapegoated as communist agitators that wished to overthrow the state. To right-wing/military supporters of the state, the dehumanization of these people was a large part of their thinking and the specter of Socialist Cuba could justify brutal treatment in their perspective.

Male and female prisoners were often tortured in ways that was expected to ensure silence if they were released. Sexual assault was incredibly common against both men and women. There were many cases described where brutal treatment against women was used to emasculate their male relatives due to their inability to prevent their torture. The shame that both men and women felt because of the sexual and feminizing nature of their torture was a large part in why few spoke about it publicly afterwards.

Our discussion group felt that Chile has not successfully confronted the past as well as other post-dictatorship societies. Many of the army that committed human rights abuses still is in service and when Pinochet died, many, many supporters showed up to his funeral. This lack of culpability given to perpetrators may have lasting consequences for many victims of this regime.

Overall, these readings and the discussion was very hard to do. Reading about descriptions of torture and mass executions was something that was sometimes hard to get through. However, examining the event may have lessons for the future.

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