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​Above: Rev. Edward L. Cleary, O.P.
Below: Ricardo Lagos, former president
of Chile

Former Chile President to Speak on April 18

Lecture Named in Memory of Fr. Cleary, a Latin American Scholar

The Department of Political Science and Latin American Studies at Providence College have established a lasting tribute to a beloved Dominican priest and a Latin American scholar: Rev. Edward L. Cleary, O.P., professor emeritus of political science who died in November 2011.

The Father Ed Cleary, O.P. Memorial Lecture honors the research and contributions of this longtime social scientist, particularly as they pertain to Latin America, religion, and human rights, according to Dr. Jeffrey D. Pugh, assistant professor of political science.

The first Father Cleary Memorial Lecture will be held on Thursday, April 18, at 4:30 p.m. in Slavin Center ’64 Hall. Ricardo Lagos, the president of Chile from 2000 to 2006, will speak on “Human Rights, Transitional Justice, and Democratization in Chile.” The lecture is free and open to the public.

Father Cleary joined the political science faculty in 1993 and taught at the College for 18 years. He served as the director of the Latin American Studies Program for approximately 12 years. Several of the courses he taught, including Human Rights in Latin America, reflected his lifelong scholarly and personal passion for Latin America.

He regularly studied, lectured, and wrote about the status of the Catholic Church, religion, politics, and human rights throughout Latin America. At the time of his death, he had been appointed editor of the Oxford Handbook of Latin American Christianity. He wrote or co-authored 14 books, including The Rise of Catholic Charismatics in Latin America (University Press of Florida, 2011).

“Ed was such an empirically-grounded scholar; it seemed like he was writing a book every year,” remarked Pugh.

As a newly-ordained Dominican priest, Father Cleary served in Bolivia. He made numerous research trips to Latin American nations throughout his lifetime.

Father Cleary’s impact on the College, the political science department, and Latin American studies prompted faculty colleagues in and beyond the department to reflect and devise a way to memorialize his significant contributions, said Pugh.

“Because he was such a humble scholar, his influence was not as widely acknowledged as it should have been. This lecture can be an ongoing tribute,” added Pugh, who is coordinating arrangements for the lecture with Rev. David T. Orique, O.P., assistant professor of history and Latin American scholar who worked closely with and was mentored by Father Cleary for nearly 20 years.

Pugh said the political science department hopes to make the Father Cleary Memorial Lecture an annual event. Lectures will be interdisciplinary in nature and based on themes “that resonate with Ed’s life,” including human rights, religion, and politics.

Lecture to spotlight human rights activist

“The first such lecture on April 18th couldn’t be more appropriate,” said Pugh. Lagos’ talk will focus on transitional justice and democratization after the Augusto Pinochet regime in Chile.

Pinochet was an army general and dictator who ended civilian control of the government and ruled Chile from 1973-1990. During his regime, an estimated 1,200 to 3,200 people were killed, 80,000 were interned, and 30,000 were tortured, according to various reports and investigations.

Lagos was a key figure in the movement that opposed the Pinochet dictatorship. He later became the first socialist president to be elected since Salvador Allende, whom Pinochet overthrew.

During Lagos’ presidency, he established an independent investigation of the Pinochet-era killings, torture, and human rights violations that resulted in the 2004 Valech Report, which led to a much more meaningful process of transitional justice and accountability in Chile.

Lagos’ talk at PC was arranged in part by Pugh, who noted his department has a close association with the Brown University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Lagos serves as a professor at large at Brown.

In addition to the political science department, the first Father Ed Cleary, O.P. Memorial Lecture is being sponsored by the Latin American Studies, Public Administration, Global Studies, and American Studies programs, as well as the Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminar on Justice, the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honor society, the departments of History and Foreign Language Studies, and the Organization for Latin American Students.


— Charles C. Joyce


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