New Dilemmas for Human Rights Activists in Argentina and Chile

August 2, 2004 - 5:00 pm

Human rights activists in Latin America and elsewhere face a new set of dilemmas once democracies have been reestablished. They do not only have to bring justice and truth for past human rights violations but also have to deal with violations of basic citizens’ rights by state security forces in current times. How have human rights organizations adapted to these new challenges? Contesting Iron Fist government’s policies is difficult because a new set of incentives comes to play: as politicians in any society tend to view the protection of citizens’ rights in
zero-sum terms, they believe that what is earned in freedom and the protection of individual rights is lost in public safety. Given this, we should expect a structure of political and social incentives that favors those who want to increase police powers as a mechanism to reduce crime
and delinquency. This presentation traces the story of two historically strong human rights movements in Argentina and Chile and suggests the new dilemmas such organizations have faced as a new political context is defining the governments and politicians’ priorities.

Claudio Fuentes is the Academic Coordinator at the Latin American Faculty of Social Science (FLACSO-Chile). He obtained his Ph.D. in political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003. He has a bachelor degree in History at the Pontificia Universidad Católica of Chile. He is currently the academic coordinator at FLACSO-Chile. He received the 2003 Best Dissertation Award by Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA). He has focused on comparative institutions, observing issues of political and social accountability over the political process. Among his most recent publications are the edited volume Promesas de Cambio: Izquierda y derecha en el Chile contemporáneo (2003) and “After Pinochet: Civilian Policies Toward the Military in the 1990s Chilean Democracy” (Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs. Vol. 42, No 3, Fall 2000). He has published more than twenty articles in academic journals in Latin America, the United States, and Britain.