Psychosocial After-Effects of Political Conflicts: Some Reflections

Access full-text files




Lira, Elizabeth

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



During the 20th century in various countries of Latin America, clamor for dignified working conditions, fair salaries, and other basic rights often was regarded by government officials as illegitimate and illegal, considering them against law and order. During the cold war, community and political organizations that advocated proposals beyond economic demands, signaling the need for societal structural change, were discredited as subversives. Frequently, governments proscribed such organizations and ordered them to disband on account of alleged ties to international Communism, even though they might not have any connection whatsoever to international political movements. The intensification of social demands and the growth of political movements that advocated change were viewed as political threats. In the latter half of the 20th century, coup d’etats throughout Latin America installed military regimes and dictatorships that broke up these movements, redefining political models as well as social, political and economic relations within the countries. On the short and medium terms, social differences and inequality exacerbated while local conflicts arose from the particular diversity of each country. Violence, aimed at the countries’ own citizens, was utilized in an effort to limit and control such movements, regardless of whether or not they were actually armed conflicts. Dictatorships and regimes founded under the guise of protecting national security had cataclysmic effect, altering social and political projection to give preeminence to a drastic economic-social model, with no regard for the violence required to institute such changes.1 Declassified State Department and CIA secret documents about Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, and other countries leave no doubt that the United States clearly had involvement in military coups and anti-subversive interventions. Revolutionary Latin American movements were deemed a threat to U.S interests and national security. In this context, military regimes implanted to put things back in order “… had underlying ideological inspiration. The repressive policies that steered State terrorism must be understood as the perverse expression, the dark side of the total recasting of the political, social and economic order.”2 This essay describes psychosocial consequences that have been studied and documented primarily in research drawn from clinical work conducted with individuals, families and groups. It has been observed the erosion of trust in institutions and human beings; erosion of the sense of belonging to society itself in their own country, and fear as an element that is always latent in social relationships, in addition to devaluation of life by some defined as “enemies” in a political context.


LCSH Subject Headings