Exile during the “dirty wars”—and the years leading up to them—took many forms. Some people, fearing state persecution, sought diplomatic asylum or left the country unofficially. Others, though leaving voluntarily, did so not out of fear, but out of defiance. Still others were forced to leave—led to the border or put on a plane by security forces, sometimes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Not all forced exile, however, was external. In Chile some political prisoners were banished to remote villages—an internal exile called relegación. Relegación usually lasted up to three months, more than enough time to ruin lives—people lost their jobs or were expelled from school.
   It is difficult to know the true number of exiles. One source of statistics is the United Nations (UN), but many people never registered with the UN as refugees, having left their own countries unofficially. Still, by some estimates the number for Argentina ranges from 500,000 to two million; for Bolivia, about 650 during the seven-year rule of Hugo Banzer Suárez and 1,500 during the 11-month rule of Luis García Meza; for Brazil, about 5,000; for Chile, almost a million, which does not include those escaping economic recession from 1982 onward; for Paraguay, about half of its population; and for Uruguay, from 300,000 to 500,000 (between 20 and 30 percent of its population). Refuge in another country did not necessarily mean safety. Operation Condor, a network of Latin American military regimes, claimed victims not only throughout the region but also farther afield—the United States, for example, and Italy.

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.


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