Hidden Conflicts Term Paper

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Latin America

In Ariel Dorman's play Death and the Maiden, Paulina has obviously been deeply traumatized by her experience of being tortured by former military regime of this Latin American country, and is definitely not prepared to peacefully coexist with those who committed atrocities against their own people. Although the country is never named specifically, anyone familiar with the history would recognize it as Chile, which had been ruled by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973-90. Nowhere does the play mentioned that Pinochet was installed in a coup by the Central Intelligence Agency and supported by the United States government, or that the U.S. has continued to lie about these events up to the present. As part of the transition to democracy, also brokered by the U.S. government, the members of the former regime received an amnesty so that they could never be prosecuted. Paulina is one of the victims of its secret police dungeons and torturers, and has no desire to reconcile with these criminals and let bygones be bygones. This outcome seems far more acceptable to Geraldo, and not only for idealistic reasons but also because he is a young man very concerned with his own career advancement. At the other extreme, Paulina's first reaction to hearing a car pulling up in the middle of the night is to get a gun and hide behind the curtains. As Geraldo explains, this is not simply a question of her simply being paranoid but the danger everyone felt from strangers appearing unannounced at night and knocking on the door. Paulina does not intend to be taken alive again, nor does she trust the stranger Roberto Miranda when he appears again later that night. Instead, she listens to him talking to Geraldo, and decides that he was the same doctor who was present years before when she was being tortured. She is hostile to the idea of letting these criminals off without even being named, and is prepared to kill Miranda despite all of Roberto's protests.

Geraldo's Investigating Commission, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in El Salvador, South Africa and other dictatorships supported by the U.S. during the Cold War, is going to be a very toothless organization. It will not even be allowed to publish the names of those accused or torture and murder, nor will any of the military people be required to give evidence. Some will only agree to do so confidentially, but in the end any evidence collected will be turned over to the courts, which are notoriously corrupt and venal. Geraldo has a vague idea that "if we can throw light on the worst crimes, other abuses will come to light," by which he means actual murders that were committed as opposed to victims like Paulina who were tortured but permitted to survive (Dorfman 2). They will only go as far as they are "allowed," and the investigation will be very "limited," which means that none of the torturers will ever really be brought to justice (Dorfman 7). Not once under the old military dictatorship did the courts ever intervene to save anyone from unlawful detention, torture and execution. Paulina knows this perfectly well and so does Geraldo, so she intends to extract her own form of justice -- or revenge.

Paulina is certain that Roberto Miranda is the doctor who was present when she was tortured, mainly because she had vivid memories of his voice even though she was blindfolded. He also liked to listen to Schubert while his victims were being tortured, and she found some cassettes in his car of the same music. On the surface, Roberto appears to be outraged by the crimes of the dictatorship even to the point of saying that the ones who committed murder and torture should be executed. "I'm for killing the whole bunch of them," he tells Geraldo, who does not favor the death penalty at all (Dorfman 11). Roberto seems quite casual about executing people, in fact, as if he has had some experience in these matters before. Perhaps he protests also too much and may well be hiding his real motives and intentions if he is truly the criminal Paulina believes him to be. Then his words and actions take on a completely different meaning, since his real purpose would be to obtain more information from Geraldo about the Investigating Commission and…

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