Quarta-feira, 4 de Agosto de 2010

South America’s search for closure

By Pedro Seabra

 

Making amends with a country’s troublesome past is often excruciating for any political leadership, even more when having to deal with the long-lasting consequences of brutal military dictatorships. South America in particular, is prodigal in acknowledging, how past wounds take time to heal.

Frequently enough, a standard Truth and Reconciliation Commission is prescribed as an ideal model that can both grant access to undisclosed sensible records and allow for some sort of justice to the victims’ families. However, the implementation of such mechanisms is also usually dependent on – and tampered by – the country’s own chosen procedures at the time of the regime’s transition.

As an example, the Brazilian 1979 Amnesty Law for instances – although quintessential to the then nascent democracy – basically shielded those accused of human rights abuses during the dictatorship, from any kind of official prosecution. Therefore, it came as no surprise when President Lula’s last term efforts to finally settle a probing commission into past crimes, stumbled upon the Supreme Court’s refusal to retroactively change the law. The alternative found was to create the proposed “National Truth Commission”, without any indictment powers, thus losing its initial judicial relevance.

But even countries where the people responsible were already brought to justice, find it difficult to move forward. In Chile, right-wing President Sebastián Piñera was recently confronted with a Catholic Church request to pardon people jailed for dictatorship-era crimes which, although not followed through, dully reignited the national debate over General Augusto Pinochet’s regime – who, in a twist of fate, died in 2006 without ever being convicted on charges of human right abuses.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that the southern continent is still struggling to come to terms with its past. The recurring presidential pleas for help in identifying unclaimed remains only reinforce such view. But the truth is, whatever road taken, any country’s darkest hours are always bound to resurface one way or the other.

 

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