The primary reason for this dearth of research is that scholars of genocide often follow the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which excludes political groups as a category of victims protected by the Convention.4 In 1998, Spanish judge Baltasar garzón, however, interpreted the Convention in ways that allowed him to issue a warrant for the arrest of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet on charges of crimes against humanity, including genocide, widespread and systematic torture, and “disappearance.” While Garzón set an undeniable precedent for future indictments based on notions of universal jurisdiction,5 General Pinochet’s detention took the scholarly community by surprise since Chileans (and non-Chileans) killed during the dictatorship (1973-90) were considered to be political victims and thus lacked the features of a group protected by the Convention.6 Another reason for the relative silence over genocidal violence in Latin America is the fact that episodes of extreme violence continue to be measured against the organized destruction of European Jews during the Holocaust. This bias reinforces a standing notion of the uniqueness of the Final Solution. The current Eurocentric debates on genocide deter us from even questioning whether or not genocidal violence in Latin America did, in fact, take place. If we are to investigate the occurrence of genocide in Latin America, we must question the purpose of this violence, what left-wing groups represented ideologically, what the mechanisms of violence were, and how Cold War violence differed from prior forms of state violence. Until these questions are raised, we run the risk of falsely assuming that Latin America is somehow immune from genocidal processes – and that this was the case during the late twentieth century. This anthology suggests that without investigating the Latin American experience of extreme forms of political violence, the global study of genocide
remains incomplete.7 Thus, this book delves into the sociological and historical recurrence of state violence, of which the deliberate destruction of particular political groups is one modality, and aims to place it within a global context. Furthermore, as Henry R. Huttenbach has noted, until we include a broader range of case studies, it is premature to proclaim a theory of genocide.8 The case studies analyzed here, from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Guatemala, represent two significantly different areas, given the variations in their economic and political development.9 State violence in these regions has also differed significantly, with Colombia enduring the longest armed conflict in the hemisphere, and Central American nations continuing to wrestle with the lingering effects of internal armed conflicts.10 Regardless of their differences, the regions share a common history of an unequal economic and political relationship with the United States and a shared history of state-organized violence that can be traced back to colonial times (see Roniger in this volume). In the remainder of this introduction, and in light of the scarcity of scholarship dealing with extreme forms of destruction of particular groups in Latin America’s societies, I examine elements that together can serve as a platform for discussion when analyzing state violence and genocide in the region. Two of these elements, social polarization and the role of the United States in facilitating the mechanisms of violence, are thoroughly examined in this volume. The inclusion of a third element, el pueblo, seeks to provide an overarching concept that encompasses victimized groups and people based on their ideological views. This discussion is followed by a brief summary of each chapter.