e-book Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Terror and Hope (Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights)

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The book starts with a short but useful explanation of the different types of human rights violations. Cardenas emphasizes that she is particularly interested in abuses against civil and political rights. While the author notes the unique contributions of Latin America in the evolution of international human rights norms--at the philosophical, political, and institutional levels--she nonetheless focuses on the abuses that have made the region infamous.

This chapter also describes differences in abuses over time; examines cross-national differences; and--again, perhaps too briefly--provides a comparison of human rights violations in Latin America and the rest of the world. The chapter ends with summaries of the most prominent human rights abuses in Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Haiti--some of which are accompanied by short first-person accounts of human rights victims.

This first chapter, like all the others in the book, contains a list of questions to stimulate class discussions; suggestions for additional readings, including memoirs and testimonials; a rich filmography; and a list of useful Web sites. In her second chapter, Cardenas answers one of the most frequent questions anyone teaching human rights faces from shocked and puzzled undergraduate students: why do human beings torture and inflict pain on other human beings? But Cardenas goes beyond this to address the topic from another perspective by including insights from social science.

In this regard, she points to decision-making factors--rational actors decide whether or not to violate rights, based on cost-benefit calculations--and a wide array of ideological factors, spanning from anticommunism to racism, sexism, and patriarchy.

Due to the significance of anticommunism and the national security doctrine in the ideological justification of human rights violations, it is not surprising that Cardenas devotes considerable space to the role played by the United States, with specific mention of Operation Condor and the School of the Americas. Finally, the author provides a framework for explaining state terror that takes into account the prevalence of exclusionary ideologies, domestic instability as the trigger for cost-benefit calculations, and the support for state terrorism facilitated by a weak democracy.

Both chapters 3 and 4 offer an institutional analysis of the global system of human rights governance--a dense network of international and regional organizations, human rights treaties, commissions, courts, and transnational advocacy networks. Indeed, the author shows how the hard work of international nongovernmental organizations NGOs and local activists, such as the relatives of the detained-disappeared and religious groups, put pressure on governments abusing human rights.

Chapter 5 addresses how and why pressures from those networks translate, or fail to translate, into institutional reforms. Cardenas here analyzes several subregional cases--the southern cone, Central America, the Andean region, and the Caribbean--to show the interactions among human rights activism, political legitimacy, and internal conflict. Finally, Cardenas closes her book with a lively review of the most important moral and ethical dilemmas faced by post-dictatorial governments in Latin America. She first explains why accountability has been needed to construct solid democracies, yet has proven elusive and destabilizing at the same time.

Once again, she brings to light the leading role played by these countries in pushing forward the struggle for human rights. Indeed, as the author notes, Latin America is the region of the world that has the largest concentration of truth commissions--a testament to past human rights abuses, but also of a resilient democratic culture.


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Moreover, as the Cold War ended and these Latin American regimes began to transition to democracy, they developed the first modern tools of transitional justice e. Because of this, there is a highly developed human rights culture in most of Latin America. There are a limited number of texts that provide an overview of human rights in the region.

Donnelly is the fourth edition of the most thorough introductory textbook on human rights available. Donnelly writes as political realist, and he provides a thorough historical background as well as an excellent introduction to the relevant theoretical questions that define the paradigm.


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The text is updated frequently, and does reference Latin America. The edited volume Dunne and Wheeler provides a more sophisticated theoretical and contextual analysis of the human rights regime. Goodhart is a somewhat more comprehensive and up-to-date politics textbook that covers background, theory, and a thematic study of human rights. Political theorist Micheline Ishay puts the development of the idea of human rights into a long historical frame Ishay She considers both the origins of the cosmopolitan idea and the relationship between human rights and the course of modern history up to and including the 21st-century globalized world.

The book also includes many primary documents.

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Cardenas is the best general textbook on human rights in Latin America. It includes a regional survey along with a good introductory discussion of how the human rights regime works in Latin America, including an overview of the human rights movement and transitional justice issues.

Authors and Affiliations

Cleary provides an interesting account of the growth of the human rights movement in Latin America. Although many Latin American countries e. Cleary provides an updated and more basic introductory text that explains the human rights movement through a series of identity categories e. It also includes chapters on more contemporary human rights issues of police brutality, torture, and corruption.

Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Terror and Hope (Pennsylvania Stud | eBay

An anthology of essays, fiction, and poetry about human rights in Latin America. Cardenas, Sonia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, A social science interdisciplinary textbook. Provides an excellent overview for students. Also includes extensive bibliographies, filmographies, and ideas for classroom assignments. Cleary, Edward L. Westport, CT: Praeger, An overview of the human rights movement in Latin America that seeks to give a historical account of human rights activism in the region from the overthrow of Pinochet in through the early s.

Heavily focused on Chile, but does include references to other Latin American countries. Mobilizing for Human Rights in Latin America.

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Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian, A brief introductory text about the human rights movement in Latin America. This text is organized around various themes women, street children, indigenous rights, the landless, policing, torture, and corruption and does not provide a broad overview. Donnelly, Jack. International Human Rights. Boulder, CO: Westview, The best introductory textbook on international human rights.


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Informed by political theory and international relations. New and updated editions appear every few years.

Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Terror and Hope

Dunne, Tim, and Nicholas J. Wheeler, eds. Human Rights in Global Politics. DOI: Edited volume by leading scholars of human rights law and political theory. Covers a broad range of theoretical and political topics.