Small Wars Journal

SWJ El Book Review –  Mientras llega la alegría: transición inconclusa en las relaciones cívico-policiales (Chile, 1990-1994)

Sat, 09/30/2023 - 6:24pm

SWJ El Centro Book Review –  Mientras llega la alegría: transición inconclusa en las relaciones cívico-policiales (Chile, 1990-1994)

Diego Ramírez Sánchez

Esta reseña del libro está disponible en español aquí


Camilo Plaza Armijo, Luciano Sáez Fuentealba y Nicolás Acevedo Arriaza (compiladores), Mientras llega la alegría, transición inconclusa en las relaciones cívico-policiales (Chile, 1990-1994). Santiago: Tesis XII, 2023 [ISBN: 9789566095859, Paperback, 337 pages]

The beginning of the transition from the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and the first democratic government of Patricio Aylwin was not an easy period for Chile. But probably the sphere in which this process was most complex was the world of security, defense and intelligence. This book deals precisely with one part of this world: that of the police and state intelligence. Civil-police relations have traditionally been relegated, sometimes considered as a subset of civil-military relations, which monopolized the concern in the process of transition to democracy. As the title makes clear, this collective effort is also a step forward in an effort to give them a character of their own.

Unfortunately, Chile has not done much research in this type of analysis, which is precisely why this book is an invaluable contribution in this direction. The history of the Carabineros, the Investigative Police and the intelligence apparatus in democracy need new and professional perspectives. Thus, the articles in this book, written from a leftist perspective that does not affect the professionalism of the readings presented, not only help to illuminate issues that have not been studied in depth, but also force us to elaborate equally serious and professional responses in case we disagree with some of their conclusions.

This book is a compilation of eight articles organized into two sections, both of four papers each. The first section focuses on four different institutions, while the second section delves into case analyses. The editors are professionals in the social sciences and humanities, specializing in the study of social movements and security. In addition to extensive use of secondary sources, extensive use is made of the President Patricio Aylwin Azócar Archive (1989-1994), which includes classified government documents from the period.


The first section delves into the evolution and tensions experienced by four of the country's institutions between 1990 and 1994. The first article focuses on the case of Carabineros de Chile, the uniformed police. It discusses the tensions between the Carabineros, the government and society, the way in which it carried out its functions during this transition, and the reforms that were attempted. The notion of autonomy is discussed in depth. The second article analyzes the investigative police, specifically, how the dictatorship and the democratic transition affected its functions and the way in which attempts were made to shape new roles in police intelligence. Thirdly, we have an article focused on how, in practice, and in a permanent tension with the right-wing opposition, a conception of citizen security was generated. To close this first part, we present an analysis of the creation of the first post-dictatorship state intelligence agency, popularly known as "La Oficina". The context in which it emerged is presented, marked by the continuity of political violence by some leftist organizations, as well as by the permanence of the weight of human rights violations by the intelligence agencies of the outgoing military regime.

This first section provides a vision that serves as a basis for the second part, the case analyses.

The cases of the transition to democracy

This second part consists of four articles, beginning with the so-called "Apoquindo massacre", in which the Chilean Carabineros shot down a minibus with passengers in which members of an armed organization were fleeing after carrying out a bank robbery. The sixth article deals with the rescue of Ariel Antonioletti, a member of the Lautaro Youth Movement (MJL), the same organization involved in the robbery discussed above. In this particular case, the continuities in the armed actions of both the MJL and the Investigative Police in the process of adapting to the new democratic environment are investigated. In the seventh work, an approach is made to the relationship between the police and the LGBTQ+ community in Chile in a democratic context in which violence continued, but which allowed denunciation. Finally, the eighth chapter deals with the role that rumor and suspicion played as a tool to combat political violence. Emphasis is placed on their relationship with State intelligence in this new stage, as well as with the attempts to demobilize and reinsert left-wing armed militants. It is notorious the difference in the results of this tactic according to the target organization: much depended on its structure and militant culture.


To conclude, Mientras llega la alegría is a book that dares to investigate complex issues and that can be read by those interested in the political and recent history of the country, as well as by those interested in security issues, and by the general public. Beyond certain passages in which one can feel an excess of theory, the text is well written and easy to read. It touches on very little treated topics, such as security in Chile in itself, but also particular dimensions such as its relationship, not always easy, with sexual dissidence. Although its authors are leftists, and the introduction makes this position clear in their reading, this does not detract from the objectivity of their analysis. Thus, if there are differences in the evaluation of the facts, the only thing left to do is to respond with equally serious research. The invitation is made.

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Diego Ramírez Sánchez es Licenciado en Historia por la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile y en Seguridad y Defensa por la Academia Nacional de Estudios Políticos y Estratégicos (ANEPE). Diplomado en Estudios Estratégicos de la Academia de Guerra del Ejército de Chile y el Instituto de Estudios Internacionales de la Universidad de Chile (IEI-U. Chile); y en Métodos y Técnicas de Análisis en Seguridad Internacional del IEI – U. Chile. Actualmente cursa el programa de Magíster en Seguridad, Defensa y Relaciones Internacionales de la ANEPE y un diploma de Experto Universitario en Crimen Organizado Transnacional y Seguridad en la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia y el Instituto Universitario General Gutiérrez Mellado de España (UNED-IUGM).

Diego Ramírez Sánchez holds a degree in History from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and in Security and Defense from the National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies (ANEPE). He holds a Diploma in Strategic Studies from the Chilean Army War Academy and the Institute of International Studies of the University of Chile (IEI-U. Chile); and in Methods and Techniques of Analysis in International Security from the IEI - U. Chile. He is currently studying the Master's program in Security, Defense and International Relations of the ANEPE and a Diploma of University Expert in Transnational Organized Crime and Security at the National University of Distance Education and the University Institute General Gutiérrez Mellado of Spain (UNED-IUGM).