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E. IV.5.b. Resisting the Pinochet Dictatorship, 1973-90

After Allende was overthrown, General Pinochet headed a ruthless military regime which began with the murder of many leftists and drove many thousands more into exile. After 1973, there was no large-scale public protest, until 1983 when a series of protest days involving stay-at-homes and pot-banging attracted mass participation. In the face of repression and internal division, that wave of protest could not be sustained, but in 1986 opposition forces regrouped, and in 1988, when Pinochet announced a plebiscite designed to legitimize his presidency for a further eight years, they had enough backing to oblige Pinochet to permit parties to have TV spots in the campaign and to have their own monitors at the count in addition to international observers. Divisions in the military junta and the withdrawal of US support from the dictatorship constrained Pinochet to accept the result and ultimately to step down in March 1990.

The principal accounts focusing on the role of nonviolent action in the defeat of Pinochet (Ackerman & DuVall, Huneeus, and Nepstad) naturally make little mention of the variety of sub-cultural forms that nourished a spirit of resistance, such as women forming groups to sew arpilleras (tapestries out of scraps of material), or the relatively behind-the-scenes work of Serpaj-Chile, in particular with Movement against Torture Sebastian Acevedo. There is little in English on Serpaj-Chile or the Acevedo movement, but there is a valuable resource for readers of Spanish – Vidal, Hernán , El Movimiento Contra la Tortura ‘Sebastián Acevedo’ [1986] Minneapolis, Institute for the Study of Ideologies and Literature, , 2002, pp. 568 .

Adams, Jacqueline, Surviving Dictatorship: A Work of Visual Sociology, New York, Routledge, 2012, pp. 302

Combines extracts from interviews with photos to present varied phenomena of everyday resistance – ‘incidental’ (a by-product of being in a group), ‘reluctant’ (under group pressure) and ‘solidarity’ (helping others) – specifically of women who joined arpillera groups in Pinochet’s Chile. A web page with related resources for students and teachers is

Agosin, Marjorie, Notes on the Poetics of the Acevedo Movement against Torture, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 10, issue 3, 1988, pp. 338-343

Agosin, Marjorie, Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpillera Movement in Chile 1974-1994, [1996], Lanham MD, Rowman and Littlefield, 2007, pp. 240

Aman, Kenneth ; Parker, Christian, Popular Culture in Chile: Resistance and Survival, Boulder CO, Westview Press, 1991, pp. 225

Especially Isabel Donoso, ‘Human Rights and Popular Organizations’, pp. 189-200.

Arriagada, Genaro, Pinochet: The Politics of Power, Boston, Unwin Hyman, 1988, pp. 196

Opposition leader, active in the 1983 jornadas de protesta, and also in No campaign of 1988. Chapter 7 discusses the protests between 1983 and 1986.

Bacic, Roberta, Stitching together nonviolence and Movement Against Torture, Sebastian Acevedo, Nuremberg, Nürnberger Menschenrechtszentrum, 2012

See also: Rainer Huhle, ‘The dictatorship is a colossus on fragile feet”’: Remembering the movement against torture Sebastian Acevedo in Chile’; and Christopher Ney, ‘The solidarity of God’ – three presentations at the Nuremberg Menschenrechtszentum, July 2012.

Memoirs of the bold nonviolent actions taken from 1983 onwards by the Movement Against Torture Sebastian Acevedo. For other items by Bacic on this movement, see:, and’s-dictatorship-through-non-violence.

Bunster, Ximena, The mobilization and demobilization of women in militarized Chile, In Isaksson, Eva , Women and the Military System Brighton, Harvester Wheatsheaf, , 1988, pp. 210-222

Discusses how Pinochet regime mobilized women to support it, but also role of women in spearheading resistance in 1979 and their role in 1986.

See also Bunster, Ximena , Surviving beyond Fear: Women and Torture in Latin America In Agosin, Surviving Beyond Fear: Women, Children and Human Rights (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies)Fredonia NY, White Pine Press, 1993, pp. 98-125 .

Cavanaugh, William T., Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 1998, pp. 304

Takes Chile as case study of Christian response to torture. The Catholic Church’s Vicaria de la Solidaridad (pp. 264-7) was the major human rights monitoring body in the country, while the more ecumenical Sebastian Acevedo Movement against Torture (pp. 273-7) organized lightning protests to hightlight places or institutions implicated in torture.

Chavkin, Samuel, Storm Over Chile: The Junta Under Seige, Westport CT, Lawrence Hill, 1985, pp. 303

Chapter 9 focuses on protests of 1983-84.

Constable, Pamela ; Valenzuela, Arturo, A Nations of Enemies: Chile Under Pinochet, New York, W.W. Norton, 1991, pp. 368

Drake, Paul ; Jaksic, Ivan, The Struggle for Democracy in Chile, 1982-1990, Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1991, pp. 321

Ensalaco, Mark, Chile Under Pinochet: Recovering the Truth, Philadelphia PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999, pp. 296

Fleet, Michael ; Smith, Brian H., The Catholic Church and Democracy in Chile and Peru, [1997], Notre Dame IN, University of Notre Dame Press, 2000, pp. 379

Lowden, Pamela, Moral Opposition to Authoritarian Rule in Chile, 1973-1990, New York, St. Martins Press, 1996, pp. 216

Primarily a detailed history of the Vicaria de la Solidaridad and the changing context of its work.

Parissi, Rosa, Sebastian Acevedo Movement Against Torture: A Project for the Dignity of Life, In Tyndale, Wendy R., Visions of Development: Faith-based Initiatives Farnham, Ashgate, , 2006, pp. 137-144

References to the Sebastian Acevedo Movement also occur in Agger, Inger ; Jensen, Søren Buus, Trauma and Healing Under State Terrorism London, Zed Books, , 1996, pp. 246 , who see it as ‘an expression both of psychological counter-strategies at the private and political level and of healing strategies at the societal level’ (p. 184) but do not describe its methodology. Lloyd, Vincent W., The Problem with Grace: Reconfiguring Political Theology Stanford CA, Stanford University Press, , 2011, pp. 256 , pp. 109-11, discusses its liturgical aspects in comparison with contemporary Critical Mass bicycle rides.

Valenzuela, Samuel J. ; Valenzuela, Arturo, Military Rule in Chile: Dictatorship and Opposition, Baltimore MD, John Hopkins University Press, 1986, pp. 331

Yanes Berrios, Blanca ; Lopez, Omar Williams, Cultural action for liberation in Chile, In McManus; Schlabach, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies), Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, pp. 117-135

Discusses role of SERPAJ in struggle for survival by poor, including community organization and ingenious protests against hunger and unemployment, e.g. blocking supermarket checkouts with trolleys.

See also:

Juan E. Corradi; Patricia Weiss Fagen; Manuel Antonio Garreton, Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America, (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies), especially Hugo Fruhiling, ‘Resistance to Fear in Chile: the Experience of the Vicaria de la Solidaridad’, pp 121-141, and Javier Martinez, ‘Fear of the State, Fear of Society: On the Opposition Protests in Chile’, pp. 143-162, who stresses the importance of the ‘non-heroic’ character of the 1983 protests