Military Regimes – Part 1

I’m too lazy to go looking for a link right now, but I recall that Uruguay, under the military dictatorship, was believed to be the country with the highest percentage of its population declared political prisoners in the world. I vaguely recall seeing statisics (and I’m too lazy to look ’em up right now so these numbers may not be right – don’t quote me!!!) that at one point, during the dictatorship, one out of 56 Uruguayan citizens had been locked up at one point in their lives for political reasons. In Argentina, tens of thousands of people disappeared during the “dirty war” – many of them simply pushed out (while alive) of helicopters manacled an hour’s flight or so from the shore. In Paraguay, Stroessner reputedly used former Gestapo thugs in his security apparatus. As to Chile, most people who know little else, know the name Pinochet.

Brazil’s military regime was considerably less thuggish than the above-mentioned countries. And yet, you can get on a city bus in Asuncion or Santiago or Buenos Aires or Montevideo with an armful of valuables, and you will have that same armful of valuables when you get off. You can’t do that in most major city in Brazil – not Sao Paulo or in Rio. (You can do it in some second tier cities like Belo Horizonte – a few years ago I actually took a bus back from a client’s office.) Why did Brazil have so much less violence from its dictatorship than the other big countries in the Southern half of South America, and why is it so much more prone to street violence now?