Human Rights, Transitional Justice, and Democratization in Chile; A Lecture by Ricardo Lagos, Former President of Chile

Ricardo Lagos was one of the key figures in the movement opposing the rule of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and he later became the first socialist since Salvador Allende to be elected president of the Republic of Chile. Under his administration, an independent investigation of Pinochet-era torture, killings, and human rights violations compiled in the Valech report led to a much more meaningful process of transitional justice and accountability than had occurred previously.

As the late PC emeritus professor Father Ed Cleary, O.P. wrote in his Mobilizing Human Rights in Latin America, the response to the traumatic shock of the 1973 bloody overthrow supported by the United States of a democratically elected president by Chile's Augusto Pinochet was far-reaching: "Latin America became a movement society, one in which movements concerned about various issues appeared, many of them focused on human rights. These movements, generally speaking, were aimed at improving the shape of the world in which Latin Americans lived. This was a major shift away from passivity and fatalism toward empowerment or agency. Previous attitudes of dependency were related to government and to ruling elites. They became transformed to a more self-reliant outlook. This transformation was a sea change.... Organizing in overseas countries in order to do something about the injustices in Chile soon extended itself to other Latin American countries, as these also fell under repressive rule. The human rights era of Latin America had begun....

"In 2004, twelve years after Aldunate founded the Movement Against Torture, many Chileans were fixed on their television sets as President Ricardo Lagos received the highly publicized Valech Report from a blue-ribbon commission headed by Catholic bishop Sergio Valech. To a considerable extent, Lagos shocked the nation by revealing that some 33,000 (of a population of then eleven million) Chileans testified before the commission that they had been tortured or severely ill-treated by Chilean police or military. Lagos went on to describe the horrific manner in which torture was conducted. He also emphasized that some of those tortured were children. After the Valech Report revelations, Chileans spent weeks psychologically processing what they had been told. Chileans torturing Chileans! This was barbarous. Chile is a democracy, and this should never have happened... Many viewers reported the strong effect the report had on them.... The human rights movement in Latin America contributed to a turn toward democracy while under military or authoritarian rule... Democracy was forthcoming, in part because attention to human rights created a strong impetus for citizen participation and the rule of law, major components of democracy."

(Excerpts compiled from Ed Cleary, Mobilizing Human Rights in Latin America (Kumarian Press, 2007), pp. ix, xi, 113-114)

Below please see links to Symposium content. You may also want to explore the Related Scholarship by PC faculty and students.


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Thursday, April 18th
4:00 PM

Lagos Poster

Ricardo Lagos

4:00 PM - 4:00 PM

4:30 PM

Human Rights, Transitional Justice, and Democratization in Chile; A Lecture by Richard Lagos, Former President of Chile

Ricardo Lagos

Slavin '64 Hall

4:30 PM - 6:00 PM

Thursday, April 25th
4:00 PM

The Cowl: Former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Visits PC

Andres Taborda, Providence College

4:00 PM