Week Twelve: “Speaking Truth to Power”

This week’s reading was centered on the idea that Latin American States are seeing as not strong enough to maintain social order, collect taxes, or even maintain the normal level or political stability which is expected of them. In contrast, strong states are considered robust because they rely relatively little on violence and more on explicit deal-making to maintain order and to get things done. It was because of such weak leadership and the lack of political stability that many Latin American countries advanced towards militarized regimes. Governments such as the Argentine, Chilean, Guatemalan, and Salvadorian, were able to inflict terror upon their citizens and incorporate dehumanizing techniques such as coercion, terror and kidnapping which came from the cold war period. On the other hand, their victims, powerless, found in international allies a much strong support than what they could ever get at home. They also found a language which superseded the one the moment was using and which in a sense gave them strength to keep fighting. Many people with conservative views also thought that, in order to achieve order and prosperity, they needed to allow the government to track down the ‘bad guys’ and put some order in the country. This presumption of vulnerability allowed many of these governments to act with such disregard for the law and the well-being of the citizen that they became some of the most violent regimens at the time.

We also learned about Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, mothers of individuals who were disappeared by the Juntas because of the dissonance with the dictatorships and their political views. These mothers saw to become the voice of desperation at first, but later they begun to politically organize publically on the main squares in Buenos Aires in order to protest for the many abuses that the Argentinian government had committed against their children. Their demand was: their return of their children. This valiant act, allowed to put a face of grieves out in the open, making a stand where many Argentinian people did not want to voice their opinions out in the open. At the same time that, it also helped bring down one of the bloodiest dictatorships that the region had seen in decades. I think that the fear of thinking that chaos and instability was going to reign the streets of the country, many Argentinians wanted to have stability and the middle class and upper class, blamed anyone who did not looked like the typical or average good citizen, so feminist, freedom-fighters, peace lovers, and especially youth were targeted at the main causes of the problem which plagued the country.

The government of Argentina started to track down the Madres because they saw the enemy in them and because, by the time they were politically present in the Buenos Aires, the government could not get rid of them. Just by being vocal about the brutality of the government, and by talking about the loss of their children, many people within the country and internationally, started to pay close attention to the Madres, giving them a political platform from where they could fight back and know about the circumstances in which their loves ones had disappeared. The Argentinian government were conducting civilian executions, torture, extortion, and kidnapping of many citizens whom opposed to what the Junta Militar wanted for the future of the country. In some respect, this week’s reading reminds me of that short story we read, “The slaughterhouse”, in which barbarism versus civilization practices were presented to us also in Argentina. Later on, during the regime, the Argentinian government were being pressured by exterior forces (President Regan, ONGs, France, etc.) to change its aggressive and horrifying coercive measures.


  1. I liked your observation on how madres de la plaza de mayo got bigger as the time passed by. By the end it was too late to crack them down because it simply led to gaining more attention, which the authority wanted to avoid.

  2. And they didn’t want this attention partly because it would scar their claims of support for family values. But it’s not clear to me how they could claim to be in support of families when they were tearing children away from their mothers.

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