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Uruguay passed the Ley de Caducidad de la Pretensión Punitiva del Estado (Law on the Expiration of the Punitive Claims of the States or Law of Expiry) in December 1986, which provided amnesty for all members of the military and security personnel involved in crimes during the nation’s military rule (1973–1985). A referendum in 1989 democratically affirmed the law, producing a silencing about accountability efforts in Uruguay in subsequent years. As such, much of the literature that emerged in the 1990s about the field of transitional justice excluded Uruguay, considering it a failure to engage with justice initiatives. Since 2000, however, Uruguay has followed a winding path toward employing accountability measures. This has included a difficult process of overturning its amnesty law, some selected domestic court cases, as well as some truth-telling initiatives, reparations, and memorialization. Overall, Uruguay’s experience and evolution toward engaging transitional justice initiatives represent a nonlinear progress of accountability that depended on a combination of domestic political will, friendly courts or judges, international legal and norm shifts, and sustained civil society activism.1 Both Uruguay’s eventual engagement with justice initiatives and expanding ideas about what constitutes transitional justice have driven the country’s re-emergence in scholarship within the field of transitional justice. Uruguay’s thirty-five-year battle Offers an example of a non-teleological path of transitional justice. Additionally, the case of Uruguay urges consideration of understanding the longer timeframes that justice might take to achieve, even in stable democracies.

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Since its establishment in 1889, the history of the Brazilian republic was marked by the centrality of the armed forces, particularly the army, in political life. But between 1964 and 1985, the military was in direct command of the state, imposing indirectly elected generals as president. After overthrowing the reformist center-left government of João Goulart on March 31, 1964, the military installed a tutelary authoritarian regime to control civil society and the political system, serving as a political model for similar regimes in Latin America during the Cold War. The military passed arbitrary laws and severely repressed left-wing political groups and social movements while also seeking to accelerate capitalist development and the “national integration” of Brazil’s vast territory. They intended to modernize Brazilian industry and carry out bold infrastructure projects. On the other hand, they faced strong opposition from civil society, led by political groups, artists, intellectuals, and press outlets of diverse ideological backgrounds (Marxists, liberals, socialists, and progressive Catholics). These groups were divided between total refusal to negotiate with the military and critical adherence to the policies of the generals’ governments, composing a complex relationship between society and the state. Understanding the role of the military regime in Brazilian history requires a combination of historical research and historiographic criticism in light of the disputes over memory that continue to divide social and political actors.