Involuntary disappearance within the Latin American region has been a frightening phenomenon over the past decade. Here I will deal with the two salient cases of Chile and Argentina, with briefer reference to other countries.
Involuntary disappearances, in the sense I will use the term, involve the arrest or surreptitious kidnapping of persons thought to be out of sympathy with the regime in power, carried out by agents of the government or by semi-legal organizations abetted by, if not fully responsible to, the authorities; the disappeared person is not heard from again, and the fact of his or her arrest, incarceration, or assassination is, in the situations we are dealing with, routinely denied by the agencies of government. In numerous instances, especially in Chile, the person's very existence is officially denied until government documents attesting to the person's birth, identity card number, etc. are brought forth.