Speaker: Annalisa Albanesi
Chair: Dr Tanya Harmer
Thursday 8 December 2011, 5:00-6:30 pm (COL. 2.01)
Why did the Catholic Church, which subsequently became one of the fiercest opponents of Pinochet's dictatorship, more or loss ambiguously, support the 1973 military coup? The Chilean Catholic Church's opposition to Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship (1973-1989) and the role of Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez are well known. However we still know relatively little about how and why the national Catholic institution switched from a conciliatory stance towards the military coup to an opposition role to the dictatorship.
The seminar investigates the first reaction of the Chilean Catholic Church to the violent overthrow of Allende's government and the paradoxical relationship between the Chilean bishops' conciliatory stance towards the military intervention and their establishment of the Peace Cooperation's Committee (COPACHI), which sought to protect individuals persecuted by the military regime.
Until now, scholars have addressed the issue of the Chilean Catholic Church's conciliatory stance towards the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende's government following two main perspectives. Some authors have perceived it in terms of a strategy aimed at tackling human rights violations. Others have linked this neutrality to the apolitical tradition of the Chilean Catholic Church and to an initial misperception of the actual display of violence by the military forces.
This seminar presents a different explanation. It argues that, in the immediate aftermath of the coup, Chilean bishops and the Vatican itself agreed with the military's conception of a conservative military coup. In fact, shortly after the overthrow of Allende's Government the main issue for the Chilean bishops and the Vatican was not the violation of human rights but rather international criticism against their country. They, as well as the commander in chief of the Junta Militar, were concerned about what they considered a successful international left-wing campaign that misconstrued the actual Chilean situation and was an overreaction against any Catholic efforts to reach a modus vivendi with the new government.
In this context, the foundation of the Peace Cooperation's Committee (COPACHI) by the Chilean Catholic Church was the response to international critics accusing the Catholic hierarchy of having been too conciliatory following the military coup.
Annalisa Albanesi is a Visiting Research Student at LSE IDEAS and PhD Candidate at the Ortega y Gasset Research Institute, University Complutense of Madrid (Spain).
Tanya Harmer is a lecturer in the Department of International History and a former head of the Latin American International Affairs Programme at LSE IDEAS.