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Chile's military coup anniversary exposes a divided country

Friday, September 12th 2014 - 06:40 UTC
Full article 29 comments
“In democracy, Chile has not lost its memory and has not forgotten its persecuted, executed and missing arrested children,” said Bachelet “In democracy, Chile has not lost its memory and has not forgotten its persecuted, executed and missing arrested children,” said Bachelet

“In Chile there's no room, and there can be no room, for violence or fear,” President Michelle Bachelet said Thursday at a ceremony commemorating the 41st anniversary of the 1973 military coup and several days after a bomb blast injured 14 people in this capital. The 17-year military dictatorship remains controversial and a rift in Chilean society.

The ceremony, held in the La Moneda presidential palace, was attended by representatives of various social and political organizations, including Senate leader Isabel Allende, the daughter of then-President Salvador Allende, who took his own life during the putsch led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

“In democracy, Chile has not lost its memory and has not forgotten its persecuted, executed and missing arrested children,” said Bachelet, whose father, an air force general who opposed the coup, died under torture by the Pinochet regime.

”Neither has (Chile) forgotten the wounds that continue causing pain,“ said the socialist president.

”Forty-one years have passed and surviving witnesses, victims and victimizers and accomplices are elderly,“ said Bachelet alluding to the advanced age of the relatives of the victims of the 1973-1990 dictatorship that are still demanding truth and justice.

The Pinochet government killed more than 3,000 people and tortured upwards of 25,000 including Bachelet and her mother.

”Many have died keeping silent. Enough of painful hopes and unjustified silences. It's time to join forces in truth and it's fundamental for those who have relevant information to provide it,“ she added.

Bachelet said that Chile still has much to do to perfect its democracy, which ”is its most precious asset” and she reiterated her rejection of violence in the wake of not only the bomb attack that wounded 14 but also two other bomb blasts at grocery stores in Viña del Mar.

Outside the presidential palace protesters in the streets of Santiago built barricades, set buses on fire and clashed with police forces. A woman was killed by a stray bullet and a police officer was severely wounded.

Masked men began to build barricades and set public buses and private vehicles on fire a few minutes after midnight in some of the Santiago' workers' neighborhoods, Peñalolen, San Bernardo, Quilicura and Cerro Navia, official sources said. A police station was also attacked in San Bernardo.

Seven protesters were arrested in southern Santiago as they were setting a bus on fire, the police said.

“We have identified 97 conflict areas were police presence will be reinforced,” regional governor Claudio Orrego told reporters ahead of the riots. Likewise several schools and universities have cancelled classes and electric companies have set contingency plans in motion to prevent supply cuts.

At the other extreme a day before the anniversary, organizations of active and retired Chilean military personnel took out a newspaper advertisement proudly claiming the 1973 coup that launched dictator Pinochet’s 17-year rule.

“We salute all Chileans on the foundational date of 21st-century Chile,” said the ad in daily newspaper La Tercera, which was signed by 20 organizations of soldiers, police and “martyrs’ widows” whose military husbands were killed. The letter condemned the trials of military officers accused of crimes during Pinochet’s “dirty war” against leftist opponents.

“While delinquents, subversives, terrorists and soldiers’ murderers have been pardoned, amnestied or protected, the people who fought to create the conditions that have given us the security and order enabling the nation’s current progress have been convicted without due process,” it said.

“We will not cease publicizing this abnormal situation, which damages the concept of justice and Chileans’ solidarity.”

About 60 former military members are currently serving prison sentences for violating human rights during the dictatorship.

The Sept. 11, 1973, coup remains deeply divisive in Chile, where Pinochet still has fervent supporters 24 years after the return to democracy and eight years after his death at age 91.

Categories: Politics, Latin America, Chile.

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  • Chicureo

    Everyone has their own distinctive experience from 1973 and I have my own.

    Chile experienced a civil war. People died on both sides. Yes, almost everyone regrets the tragedy.

    Fidel Castro spent an entire month in Chile. Productive farms were being confiscated and broken up into tiny land holdings for the pheasants, which changed my country from an agricultural net exporter into a country dependent on donations from “our new socialist friends” in the Soviet block. We lived the nightmare of waiting hours in line for the grocery cooperative to open, not knowing what was being offered for that days sale. (Not very different from what's happening in Venezuela today) Toilet paper was really a luxury item, but worse was Russian frozen fish, Polish ham in bulging tins, rancid cooking oil and currency that was basically worthless as there was nothing worthwhile to purchase.

    Just like Hugo Chavez, Allende was a democratically elected Socialist/Marxist/Communist, who formed the UP coalition, looking to radically transform our country into what we currently see in Venezuela. In our case, key segments of our society revolted, including the truck drivers who effectively shut down the country.

    Military officers were constantly insulted on the streets of Santiago, including women throwing chicken feed at their boots. There were nights that these same women would bang their pots and pans in protest as their rice or flour rations were scarce to be bought at any price. The Junta was cheered by the rich, middle and many of the poor classes on the 11th of September 1973.

    Perhaps the grandest insult of all is that we have had since 1990 a strong democracy, dominated by the left during the majority of those years and yet the left continues to protest with Molotov cocktails, burning buses, destroying schools and harming innocent people in the name of social justice...

    I'm very proud of my nationality, but there are days that I feel really frustrated.

    ¡Viva Chile!

    Sep 12th, 2014 - 11:51 am 0
  • 313toBioBio

    In Panama and Venezuela there were presidents willing to call out Maduro for his crimes against humanity. Then there were changes of presidents and now it's silence and approval....A reestablishment of ties fom Varela and nothing much from Bachelet. Maybe if people here spent a little less time laughing and making fun of Argentines and Cristina, they could have saved Chile from the same fate. But no, now there's an administration that ideologically approves of what's going on next door. The violations of personal and monetary liberty....The genocide done on rural populations for the Kirchner's soy profit. Socialism. What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results.

    Sep 12th, 2014 - 02:26 pm 0
  • Chicureo

    #2 BioBio


    Sep 12th, 2014 - 02:37 pm 0
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