By Laura Cossette
Political (In)Justice: Authoritarianism and the Rule of Law in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina by Anthony W. Pereira offers a very detailed look into the world of dictatorships in Brazil and the Southern cone and the way they dealt with the legality of their actions. Pereira begins with an overall description of the general differences between the regimes that took control in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, describing how Brazil was the least severe in brutality of the dictatorships (he states how there was still rule of law and the death penalty was not used), Chile was in the middle (judicial proceedings during the regime were not completely just, and few were sentenced to death), and Argentina was the most severe (there was virtually no rule of law and approximately 30,000 people are believed to have been murdered). He then makes the connection that the legitimacy and fairness of the judicial systems within these countries during their regimes went in a similar order: Brazil’s was the most legitimate, Chile’s was in the middle, and Argentina’s was the worst.
Although the reading was a bit dry and the diction that Pereira used was very difficult to understand, the reading was, overall, very interesting. Pereira seemed very well informed, but because of this it went into extreme detail at some points and as a result of this I became very confused, since I am only just now being introduced to this topic. However, his analysis of the relationship between the brutality of the regime and the legitimacy, or as he calls it “judicial-military consensus and integration”, of the judicial system is very interesting. One of my favorite quotes from the reading was from the beginning when he is first trying to explain the importance of his argument and he states, “in fact, authoritarian regimes use the law and courts to bolster their rule all the time” (6). This quote struck me as odd because people do not usually think that brutal dictatorial regimes would use the courts to legitimize their attack. In fact, as Pereira describes “the Chilean military regime’s legal weapon of choice were old laws”, which they would then utilize to legitimize their regimes (92). I also found it fascinating, and disturbing, that the Brazilian military regime “selectively overrode the previous constitution with institutional acts, then produced another constitution more to [their] liking” (90). It is frightening to think that regimes that come into power had so much power that they could rewrite the Constitution so that their actions would no longer go against it.
Overall, the Pereira reading was a very interesting and informative look into the relationship between regimes and legality. It assists the reader in better understanding the legal situations in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina at the time when the military regimes came to power but also offers insight into what the situations were like before, and what they are like now.