This is a pathbreaking study of institutional and personal relations between military and judicial elites in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, and how they laid the foundation for divergent patterns of state repression. Pereira effectively mines the institutional legacies of the past to offer a nuanced account of why some authoritarian states relied more on coercive violence than legal measures to fight their internal enemies. He also underscores the importance of turning greater disciplinary attention to the rule of law and the ways that military priorities and institutions affected the administration of the justice system in its entirety.
Why do attempts by authoritarian regimes to legalize their political repression differ so dramatically? Why do some dispense with the law altogether, while others scrupulously modify constitutions, pass new laws, and organize political trials? Political (In)Justice answers these questions by comparing the legal aspects of political repression in three recent military regimes: Brazil (1964–1985); Chile (1973–1990); and Argentina (1976–1983). By focusing on political trials as a reflection of each regime’s overall approach to the law, Anthony Pereira argues that the practice of each regime can be explained by examining the long-term relationship between the judiciary and the military. Brazil was marked by a high degree of judicial-military integration and cooperation; Chile’s military essentially usurped judicial authority; and in Argentina, the military negated the judiciary altogether. Pereira extends the judicial-military framework to other authoritarian regimes—Salazar’s Portugal, Hitler’s Germany, and Franco’s Spain—and a democracy (the United States), to illuminate historical and contemporary aspects of state coercion and the rule of law.
Pereira has researched the important topic of Brazil's legal system under authoritarian rule using the excellent, but underutilized, source material from the Nunca Mais archives. He makes the provocative argument that prior legal traditions shape the use of laws and courts under authoritarian rule. The book is written well, making it accessible and interesting to both specialists and a general reading public.
Provocative and innovative. Important theoretical and empirical work.
A fascinating comparison of the legal systems of the military dictatorships in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. . . . Perhaps the most useful contribution is the basic information it provides about the largely overlooked institutions of authoritiarian judiciaries.
A new and insightful lens through which to explore regime consolidation through the judiciary, going beyond the traditional focus on societal threat, military cohesion, or economic stewardship. Will be a welcome and informative resource for students and scholars of dictatorship and democratization in Latin America and beyond.
A compelling and accessible comparative account of political justice during the last wave of military rule in South America. This readable book is useful for students and researchers trying to understand how governments can and do limit liberties in the name of security and freedom.
Anthony W. Pereira is associate professor of political science at Tulane University. He is the author of The End of Peasantry: The Emergence of the Rural Trade Union Movement in Northeast Brazil, 1961Ð1988, and coeditor of Irregular Armed Forces and Their Role in Politics and State Formation.