The Struggle for Memory in Latin America: Recent History and Political Violence

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A scholar of Latin American politics, particularly the dictatorial regimes that re-democratized in the late 20th century, Hite is passionately interested in political struggles and progressive social movements. But her professors at Columbia convinced her to continue on for her doctorate. Hite says that when she first came to Vassar 15 years ago, she had no idea how hard it was to be a good teacher.

So the hardest thing about the first few years for me was finding my teaching voice, my pedagogical voice. I think, for me, these two elements are keys to being a good teacher—and being passionate about my work. In addition to courses on Latin American politics, Hite teaches introductory political science, a course on modern social movements, and a senior seminar on political violence.

Salazar did not, however, only have a financial solution for the country, which assigned balance to the its economy and kept him in the same position through several different governments Mattoso He also had a political programme in mind — the foundation of a new political, economic and social order, based on an authoritarian state Oliveira Among those, three were central to trigger the activity of armed organisations in Portugal: 1 the absence of political freedom, represented by the existence of a single party — the National Union; 2 the absence of freedom of expression, represented by the censorship; and 3 the existence of a political police, responsible for the institutionalization of violence and for the forced labour camp Penal Colony of Cape Verde.

It is also important to highlight that in the popular discourse Estado Novo is often referred to as fascism. This label does not always receive support in academic circles because although it is considered to have been an authoritarian regime, Estado Novo did not portray all the characteristics of an ideal type of fascism. However, the Portuguese opposition during Estado Novo was always permeated with various difficulties, especially before the s.

These were years in which the regime was being consolidated, the repression strengthened and organised, the opposition dispersed and fascism expanded in Europe Raby However, during World War II and its aftermath, the increasing international challenge to authoritarian regimes had consequences for the opposition in Portugal. In , the Portuguese Communist Party PCP was able to set up a clandestine structure and a strategy of infiltration in the official trade unions.

Among these were the assault on the Portuguese ocean liner Santa Maria in , the assault on the military quarter of Beja in and, in the same year, the diversion of the TAP aircraft responsible for the connection Casablanca-Lisbon, which flew at low altitude over Portugal, dropping leaflets denouncing the atrocities of the regime Santos At that time, the perception of armed struggle as a way out of an entrenched situation began to emerge as a possibility, gaining supporters and replacing the traditional reformist discourse 8 Bebiano a.

The revolution of 25 April was the last leftist revolution in Europe, bringing an end to one of the lengthiest dictatorships of the twentieth century Rezola However, a macro analysis indicates many signs of a regime marked by deep crisis, particularly in its last decade, such as:. The young urban students and workers were increasingly politicized and influenced by extreme-left ideologies, in a context of industrialization, war and forced exile in foreign countries, and were targeted by a violent repression 10 Cruzeiro and Bebiano ; Loff ;.

The Colonial War on three different fronts, which started in , in Angola, and spread to Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, was draining the armed forces Rezola ;. The Portuguese in the colonies started protesting both against the regime and the armed forces which were not able to protect them from the violent attacks perpetrated by the liberation movements Rezola ;. The pressure of the international community on the regime was renewed, due to the denunciation of the Wiriyamu massacre in Mozambique by Adrian Hastings, a Roman Catholic priest Hastings ;.

The armed forces attempted coup in March Rezola ; and. The economic difficulties Portugal was facing, particularly due to the war and to the oil crisis of Rezola Help that indeed came, but from an unexpected player. The player on which the regime had relied the most — the armed forces. Thus, in the Movement of Captains was created.

The Struggle for Memory in Latin America : Recent History and Political Violence

This stance, taken by such an important figure, triggered an implosion in the regime. This was a military coup that quickly became a social revolution amongst the Portuguese people, who flooded the streets of the country supporting the armed forces and claiming the end of the regime. This revolution prompted deep structural transformations in Portugal, particularly at economic, social and cultural levels Rezola These are the three last organisations under analysis in the present study.

The waves of violence which occurred after the April Revolution were caused by the reaction of two different factions — the extreme right and the extreme left — to the changes introduced by the democratic process. This was, thus, the context of the eruption of popular anti-communist violence in the so-called Hot Summer of , particularly in the north and central regions of Portugal, which were rural areas mainly composed of Roman Catholic small landowners.

These landowners did not receive well the socialist proposals of the Revolution Council in power and, in some cases, responded to the call of reactionary individuals and organisations to show their dissatisfaction by attacking Communist Party headquarters Cerezales However, this date also laid the foundations for a new wave of political violence, this time conducted by the extreme-left Costa Thus, the FP emerged in with two main purposes. First, to stop the actions of the extreme right once again in power due to the counter-revolution of 25 November , which re-established the capitalist order, repressing the proliferous social movements and even some rights obtained by the workers after the April Revolution Sousa Second, to attain a real socialist revolution Costa In the Portuguese context, themes such as political violence and armed struggle have been very little explored, and the few existent studies have been mainly conducted through historiographic lenses and based on document analysis.

This leaves a gap in the field of social and human sciences research, which takes into account, for instance, personal stories of involvement in politically motivated violence, as well as attempts to produce in-depth accounts of this social phenomenon.


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In this section, we will map the relevant literature about the Portuguese armed struggle which took place in the three different periods of time considered in this article. In order to collect the sources mentioned, we performed an online literature search using a series of keywords. We decided to not focus on media coverage of the phenomena under study since this has been already done see Soutelo a. The doctoral research conducted by Miguel Cardina on the Portuguese Marxist-Leninist organisations, which resulted in a book Cardina , filled the knowledge gap about this type of organisations.

However, it did not give a primordial place to politically motivated violence committed by such organisations. In the s, there were two important scholarly contributions regarding the rise of the Portuguese radical left and armed organisations made by Martins and Loureiro a , b. Rui Bebiano wrote about the social context lived in Portugal in the s. This context was marked by accounts of international armed violence e. There is also one article published by Tereza Viegas dedicated to the BR, listing the actions carried out by this organisation, as well as its ideological influences and aims Viegas A few former pre-revolution militants have also been prolific regarding the publication of their memoirs.

Some pre-revolution militants have opted for a semi-academic route, combining some research mainly document analysis, but also interviews and their own personal experience. However, it is interesting to note that in some of the books e. Literature concerning the right-wing armed organisations which fought in the couple of years that followed the April Revolution is even scarcer. The first two books on the subject were authored by journalists, one Portuguese and the other German, and published in In the same vein, the journalist Miguel Carvalho has recently published a book on the armed violence carried out by the ELP and the MDLP after the April Revolution, trying to demonstrate that this period was characterized by enormous violence Carvalho Riccardo Marchi has also produced a great amount of literature on the Portuguese right-wing, however, he only deals superficially with the political violence committed by organisations such as the ELP or the MDLP Marchi There are also two books of memoirs produced by MDLP militants.

One of them — The Ashes of a Lost Time — was published in by one of the repentants i. The book is, in some way, an attempt to justify his militancy in the FP, as well as its choice of denouncing the organisation to the police Macedo The FP was also the focus of two other books. The debates surrounding the Portuguese armed struggle have been historically undervalued by the social and human sciences in this country. Such research projects tend to be limited to a generic and superficial approach.

This scenario leads to the question: why is this so? We argue that the answer to such a question starts in the late s with the rise of post-dictatorship memory politics, which encompassed a historical revisionism that sought to whitewash the memory of the dictatorship and deny the revolutionary genesis of democracy in Portugal. However, rewinding a few years, it is possible to see that it was not always so. Although at this point, the anti-fascist memory gained a clear hegemony in the political narratives, it did not last long.

Actually, such organisations, as well as their armed activity, started to be perceived as marginal and, to some extent, eccentric, a sort of exception in the history of resistance, which did not deserve to be framed academically.


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  4. To this contributed the circumstances that started in the morning of the 25 April Their objective was the seizure of power by the workers and the creation of a socialist society. In addition, the most reactionary sectors of the Portuguese right-wing also decided, in the Summer of , to take part in armed violence. These organisations were based in Spain and in the north of Portugal and had the support of sectors of the Catholic hierarchy and right-wing parties Dugos In this period, extreme-right organisations were also part of larger operations, such as the murder of Father Max in a bomb attack, and the bomb explosion at the Cuban Embassy in Lisbon, which killed two embassy employees.

    The military movements or counter-revolution, as it is called by some, of 25 November closed the revolutionary phase of the process of transition to democracy, which meant the defeat of radical leftist organisations and movements in Portugal Cerqueira Such a defeat was further legitimised by the loss of the left in the constitutional elections of , as well as in the presidential elections of From then on, a new stage began with the institutionalization of a representative democracy. In this context, the triumphant political sectors sought to halt and defuse the revolutionary transformations that had occurred in the previous two years, even though they were constitutionally consecrated e.

    This new framework, the herald of political stability, allowed Portugal to formally submit an application to the European Economic Community EEC in March This process of institutionalization of democracy in Portugal was also accompanied by an effort to reconcile Portuguese society, creating an environment that allowed the absence of condemnation and an amnesty for those, both from the political right and left wings, who had engaged in armed violence Camacho These aspects were, then, the foundation for the reconfiguration of memorialist discourses and of memory politics, creating political narratives which deliberately devalued the memory of the anti-fascist resistance and of the April Revolution, and which rewrote the more recent history in an objective process of historical revisionism Rosas Thus, in Portugal, from the late s to the early s, there was a clear devaluation of the memory of resistance to the dictatorship, both regarding its peaceful and violent components.

    This coincided with the country being governed by the right-wing from until These years were marked by a serious economic and social crisis, which was blamed, by the political and economic elites, on the revolutionary process. Moreover, the political project of Cavaco Silva, prime minister of Portugal between and , neoconservative and economically neoliberal, required the rejection of the Portuguese Revolution as a historical experience. At this point, such a process came to be seen as responsible for almost causing a civil war and tended to be described with adjectives in the semantic field of madness and disease Loff , p.

    However, it also served to underline the fact that it was a process that only the moderate forces which led the 25 November managed to stop. All these efforts, once again, implied a negative memory of the April Revolution and of the revolutionary process. In this vein, the rhetoric of the pacification of the Portuguese society and of the reconciliation with the past blocked and inhibited any debate on revolutionary violence, anti-fascist resistance, Estado Novo or April Revolution.

    Despite having taken on such specificities in Portugal, the historical revisionism phenomenon is in some way underpinned by its emergence in most Western European countries, accompanied by the political rise of right-wing parties, as well as neoliberal and neoconservative political, economic and social values throughout the s and s, in the context of the crisis of Marxism and of the Left. However, it became a social phenomenon in the s, coinciding with the deepest crisis of the left which followed the implosion of the Soviet bloc Soutelo b , p.

    In this context, Fernando Rosas considers that the legitimising ideological paradigm of most post-war Western societies undergoes an unprecedented subversive pressure with the advent of Thatcherism and of Reaganism and the overthrow of the Soviet world, designed to legitimize the establishment of a new neoconservative and capitalist course Rosas , p.

    Additionally, Pier Paolo Poggio argues that in the post world, anti-communism was the link among the various historical revisionisms and the liberal and conservative political forces it represents Poggio , p. Johnson, E. Joseph, G. Kalmanowiecki, L. Katz, F. Kellog, S. Malerba, J. Maringa, McCreery, D. O'Phelan, S. Parry, J. Pereir de Queiroz, M. Duas Cidades, Pereira Machado, M. Rago, M. Ruggiero, K. Ruibal, B. Salessi, J. Viterbo, Salvatore, R. Scardaville, M.

    The Struggle for Memory in Latin America : Eugenia Allier Montaño :

    Scheper-Hughes, N. Schroeder, M. Schwartz, S. Slatta, R. Stepan, N.

    The Struggle for Memory in Latin America: Recent History and Political Violence

    Stern, S. Taylor, D. Trazegnies, F. Trotman, D. Uribe, V. Valenzuela, J. Vanderwood, P. Zeitlin, J. Zimmerman, E.

    Not just a matter of minorities!

    Central to their research agendas is the investigation of the continuities and transformations to the colonial legal structure brought about by the independence of Latin America. Trying to underline the importance of liberal and Jacobin ideas in the making of the independence movements, Levene developed the concept of Derecho Patrio laws enacted by the national governments after independence , triggering a debate about the existence of true differences between these two systems of legislation. Among specialized journals, Delito y Sociedad, published in Buenos Aires, deserves credit for its attempt to circulate current debates concerning issues of crime, penal policy, and social control.

    On vigilantism, see Huggins On gender domestic violence, see Stern On the question of ritual violence, see Clendinnen Other important work related to the transformation of law and justice during this period is Flory Similar work for the national period are missing. See Stern For a contemporary discussion of this question, see Zeitlin and Thomas


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