Impunity in Latin America: The wounds left by dictatorships are still open

The dictatorships of the twentieth-century still leave open wounds in Latin America, the region with more impunity, according to the Global Impunity Index

Impunity in Latin America: The wounds left by dictatorships are still open

With the latest conviction of nine soldiers in Chile for the murder of the singer-songwriter Víctor Jara, days after the coup d'etat that established the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1973, the impunity debate is opened in the region. The Universidad de las Américas de Puebla (UDLAP) published a report entitled Global Index of Impunity 2017, which indicates that of the first 13 spaces, 9 are occupied by Latin American countries. The report ranks the countries according to transparency and justice. It should be noted that in the top 3 there is no Latin American country, but in the fourth position is Mexico; Philippines, India, and Cameroon occupy the first places.

Leer en español: Impunidad en Latinoamérica: las heridas que dejaron las dictaduras aún se encuentran abiertas

Mexico, the country with more impunity in the region

According to the Center for Studies on Impunity and Justice (CESIJ, by its acronym in Spanish) of the UDLAP, and taking as a starting point the study of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mexico ranks first in the region and fourth in the world in impunity, with a score of 69.21. Peru is the country that follows it, with an average of 69.21 points, as well as Venezuela with 67.24 points and Brazil that adds 66.72 points. In the case of Venezuela, it is believed that there is a bias in the information given by the Government of President Nicolás Maduro.

According to Infobae, "the rector of the UDLAP, Luis Ernesto Derbez, recalled that this index does not measure violence", in which countries like El Salvador, Brazil, and Guatemala could rank higher positions.

Considering that the report is based on the study of justice systems, security and respect for human rights, Mexico is lagging behind with regard to the region by offering only 4.2 judges per 100,000 inhabitants, where the regional average is located at 16.23. This factor influences that 43% of the population that is detained for committing a crime has not received a sentence, according to the report, and therefore influences the number of reported crimes: only 7 out of every one hundred crimes are reported in the country.

Latin American dictatorships still leave open wounds

In the second half of the 20th century, 18 Latin American countries were overshadowed by dictatorships, in which democratic values and human rights were not present. In most of the countries, the wounds for these periods are still open, due to the impunity that has existed regarding the disappearances, tortures, and deaths brought by the dictatorships.

Of the 31 dictators that have been in Latin America, explains The Prisma, only 10 have faced trials for their actions, some are still imprisoned, others are still being prosecuted and others have already died; some are even in captivity, such as Benito Bignone in Argentina and Manuel Antonio Noriega in Panama. The figures for the entire region exceed the 470,000 affected, including dead and tortured, is explained in the British newspaper's investigation.

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According to Abel Escribà Folch in an article of the Revista Mexicana de Sociología of the UNAM, only 31% of the dictators who governed between 1946 and 2000, all over the world, remained unpunished; but that figure does not favor Latin America.

The last two presidents of the dictatorship of El Salvador live far away from their country, it is believed that both live in the United States. Arturo Armando Molina and Carlos Humberto Romero were in the decade of 1970 in the power of the Central American country under a dictatorship. The Ecuadorian case with Guillermo Rodríguez Lara also presents impunity, since Rodríguez, although removed from political life, lives peacefully in the country without fear of being imprisoned. The Guatemalan Efraín Ríos Montt was accused and sentenced to 80 years in prison in 2013, but the Constitutional Court annulled the sentence and he died in 2018 in freedom, according to The Prisma.

Argentina, however, is a reference in the fight against impunity, since some of the presidents who were part of the military dictatorship died in prison. Among them are Jorge Rafael Videla, Roberto Eduardo Viola, and Leopoldo Galtieri. The abolition in 2003 of the Law of Final Point and the Law Due Obedience, which protected those responsible for the crimes during the dictatorship, allowed the participants of this period to be tried and condemned.

Bolivia is another of the countries that manage to join the small list of countries that imprisoned their dictators. Luis García Meza, who was in the power from 1980 to 1981, managed to be imprisoned in 1995 with a sentence of 30 years; he died in April 2018.

Recently, Chile has worked on repairing the victims of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. The most recent case is the sentence against the militaries responsible for the death of singer-songwriter Víctor Jara, who was tortured and murdered in September 1973, according to the court record. Chile in its reparation process has sought to heal the pain that has left the dictatorship through public apologies, imprisonment and economic reparations. By law, which was approved in 2004 under the name of Law 19.992, those affected by the dictatorship receive pensions from the state; in addition, the children of the victims are exempt from military service.


LatinAmerican Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Translated from "Impunidad en Latinoamérica: las heridas de las dictaduras aún se encuentran abiertas"