Political instability has plagued the continent throughout its history.
Ever since achieving independence, the nations of South America have been famous for their frequent revolutions and coups.
Constitutions and elected presidents give way to dictators and juntas and new constitutions and presidents. The 1960s and 1970s were a particularly stormy time.
The military took power in Ecuador in 1972, Uruguay in 1973, Argentina in 1976, and in Peru in 1962, 1968, and 1975. Leftist guerrillas fought the government of Bolivia in the 1960s and of Colombia in the 1970s.
In Chile in 1973, the elected government of left-wing president Salvador Allende was overthrown, reportedly with covert U.S. help, by right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet. In Chile and Argentina, right-wing governments ruled by terror, killing and kidnapping anyone even suspected of dissent.
In what was called the Dirty War, a military junta that took power in Argentina in 1976 fought its suspected opponents by kidnapping and murdering them.
More than nine thousand people are believed to have disappeared In this way.