Human Rights in Chile: A Historical Perspective

Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Human Rights in Chile: A Historical Perspective

  • Host University

    Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez

  • Location

    Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile

  • Area of Study

    History, Latin American Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    Human Rights are perhaps the greatest development of social life in the second half of the XX Century. Most western countries have faced tough situations and internal debates regarding the issue, and Chile in particular has not been an exception. This course will work its way through the complex process of political development that Chile faced after its Independence and how the society gradually became highly rigid, to the point of conflict. Through a critical Human Rights lenses, students will review the Unidad Popular, the Coup D?etat of September 1973, the development of the Military Government, and finally the ?Transition? into Chile?s first Democratic Government.


    In general, the main aim is to provide non Chilean students an English language course relative to the development of the Human Rights theory and practice in Chile since the late 1960s until the late 1990s.

    To provide the foreign students an operational history of the development of the theory of Human Rights.

    To show the evolution and application of the concept of Human Rights in the Chilean Governments of the late 1960s and later during the Unidad Popular Government.

    To provide the foreign students of the Human Right implications of the Military Coup of 1973 and their subsequent evolution during the Military Government.

    To provide a balanced approach and appraisal of the reconciliation programs after the military government and the evolution of the Human Rights theory and application during the renewed Chilean democracy.


    1. Unit 1, Human Rights Theory
    This Unit will provide a basic knowledge relative to the development and consolidation of the Human Rights Theory, with a particular emphasis on its development and context.

    Human Rights Theory, its origins

    Human Rights Theory, its historical development

    Human Rights Theory, Its relevance to Chilean history

    2. Unit 2, Chile and Human Rights, a History from Independence to the 1960s
    This unit will refer to the development of the Human Rights within the Chilean society from its Independence until the 1960s this period sees a transition from a French liberal position to a more evolved one based on the Human Rights Charter of the UNO, notwithstanding the wide disparities on its application and consideration. We will also analyze the influence of the Cold War in creating a relativistic approach to human rights be i ton the basis of supporting or containing revolution.

    Chile and its first approaches to Human Rights; from the declaration of Independence to the incorporation into UNO

    Chile and the Cold War. How Revolution and its perceptions generated a relativisation of the Human Rights be it in support or contradiction

    3. Unit 3, Chile, the Unidad Popular Government and the Military Coup
    The Unidad Popular won the 1970 elections with a Marxist program aimed at building a popular democracy. Its support of only the 32% of the vote didn?t reduce the expectations on with the supporters of the process engaged in the achievement of its project, but growing internal opposition as well as economic mismanagement and a radicalization of the ultra-left generated a collapse of the political system. The integration of the military in the cabinet of President Allende culminated in the collapse of democracy via the Coup of 1973. This unit will check the procedures and general process in relation to the perception of the dynamic.

    Chile and the Unidad Popular, the 1970 Victory

    The Unidad Popular program and its application, the Ultra left and its boycott

    The Cond War Scenario and its impact

    The Civil Military Cabinets of President Allende and the Coup of 1973

    4. Unit 4, The Military Government and Human Rights, violation and resistance
    The capture of political power by General Pinochet and the rest of the Commanders in Chief of the Armed forces generated a military Government which lasted 17 years and can be studied in three distinct phases. In all of them sever violations of Human Rights happened by organized sectors of the Chilean state which was opposed by diverse associations or groups which carried out violence against it. Their procedures, objectives and general activities will be studied in this unit, together with the opposition of a growing system which included the Catholic Church and diverse NGOs and individualities between 1973 and 1989.

    The Military Government itself and its development 1973-1989

    The repressive system created and developed by the military Government

    The Opposition Groups, Peaceful and violent

    The Human Rights defense organization and its development and activities

    5. Unit 5, Transition and Reconciliation, an Appraisal

    The political transition to a democratic and freely elected government took place between 1988 and 1990. Once the new President was in Office, several attempts were carried out to face the Human Rights violation problem on a wide approach. The first key issue was to determine the fate and number of disappeared people and to close down and try the culprits this process has been complex and has divided the Chilean society until the present. Several official reports have been handed out and a general policy to handle the human rights violations has been generated by the state and society, but its final results are still much in the works.

    The new Democracy and Human Rights; speeches and statements

    The New Democracy and Human Rights, the political process

    The heavy burden and legacy of the Human Rights violations and Chilean Society, awaiting a consensus


    Moyn, S., The Last Utopia, a History of Human Rights, The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2010.

    Sorensen, Kristin, Media Memory and Human Rights in Chile, Palgrave, New York, 2009.
    Complementary bibliography in Spanish (only recommended):

    Collier S. & Sater W., Historia de Chile 1808-1994, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

    Valenzuela, Arturo, El Quiebre de la Democracia en Chile, Ediciones Universitarias, Stgo, 1997.

    Cavallo, A et Al., La Historia Oculta del Régimen Militar, Uqbar, Santiago, 1989.

    Whelan, James, Desde las Cenizas, Ed. Zigzag, Santiago, 1998.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.


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