Human rights principles have long resonated in Latin America. Policy makers, legal scholars, and activists throughout the region have historically advocated regional and international human rights norms. Latin American states lobbied for human rights language in the United Nations Charter, adopted the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in 1948, and unanimously supported, later that same year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But Latin Americans have also been firm advocates of principles of sovereignty and nonintervention, and when norms of sovereignty and human rights came into conflict, sovereignty usually won. By the 1980s, however, regional and international human rights regimes and networks began to have more acceptance and impact in Latin America (Sikkink 1997).
In this chapter, we examine this process through an exploration of the human rights situations in Chile and Guatemala during the period 1973 to 1998. Few countries in Latin America are as different as Chile and Guatemala. Yet despite these differences, in the 1970s and 1980s harsh authoritarian regimes in both countries unleashed more intense state terror against the population than at any previous time in their history (Medina Quiroga 1988, Figueroa Ibarra 1991). Of the two cases, repression was far more severe in Guatemala than in Chile, though the Chilean case received more international attention. By the 1990s, both countries were governed by democratic regimes, although “authoritarian enclaves” and structures remained (Garretón 1991). The transition to rule-consistent human rights behavior has been more complete in the Chilean case, while in Guatemala the process is more uncertain and still in flux.