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Human Rights Review

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 249–276 | Cite as

Treating Poorly Healed Wounds: Partisan Choices and Human Rights Policies in Latin America

  • Rebecca Evans
Article

Abstract

Despite the common trauma of systematic human rights violations under military rule, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay have responded in markedly different ways to their troubling pasts. This paper explains differences in human rights policies over time and across countries by looking at varying domestic conditions, including the ideological orientation of the governing party and the structure of party competition, as well as constraints and opportunities presented by external events. Government support for human rights derives in part from ideological proclivity but even more from the ability to build popular support for such a policy. Conservative and center-right politicians lack credibility among voters on human rights and therefore have little political incentive to adopt an activist stance on this issue. Leftist politicians are ideologically predisposed toward championing human rights but may be hamstrung by concerns about alienating centrist voters. Leftist politicians will only come out strongly in favor of human rights when they enjoy a clear political majority; leftist leaders who rely upon centrist allies will adopt a low-profile approach to human rights. Conversely, centrist political leaders who rely upon leftist allies have a strong political incentive to emphasize human rights. Once political momentum begins to shift to the right, however, centrist politicians will downplay human rights. Finally, external events may significantly alter national discourse on human rights, allowing cautious governments to gain political cover for more progressive human rights policy. By drawing attention to the important role of ideology and the structure of party competition, this paper offers a more complete explanation of the sources of human rights policy. It also provides a novel perspective on the ways in which external and international influences are filtered through national political systems.

Keywords

Military Regime Truth Commission Military Officer Military Rule Ideological Commitment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsUrsinus CollegeCollegevilleUSA

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