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Date: Wed, 11 Mar 98 00:53:56 CST
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: CHILE: Pinochet Dominates International Women's Day
Article: 29726
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.22989.19980312121725@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 520.0 **/
** Topic: RIGHTS-CHILE: Pinochet Dominates International Women's Day **
** Written 3:17 PM Mar 9, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

Pinochet Dominates International Women's Day

By Gustavo Gonzalez, IPS
6 March 1998

SANTIAGO, Mar 6 (IPS) - Protests against former dictator Augusto Pinochet's impending investiture as life senator will dominate the commemoration of International Women's Day in Chile this weekend.

The Great Women's March including 70 different organisations and numerous public figures, will be heldin Alameda Bernardo O'Higgins, the main street in Santiago, Saturdy under the banner "Women say no to Pinochet again, for the dignity of Chile."

As a precursor of the march, the Women of Memory network and the National Women's Social Organisations Network (Remos), held a demonstration in the centre of the capital "to protest against the installation of General Pinochet as senator for life," Friday.

One of the basic demands of the march this Saturday is for a constitutional plebiscite to do away with the designated and life senators, created by the Political Charter inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-90).

"The current Constitution legitimates aberrant political situations incompatible with the spirit of popular sovereignty and must be submitted to a free referendum," said the women.

The former dictator, who will be leaving his post as commander in chief of the army after 25 years to be replaced by Ricardo Izurieta next Tuesday, is the only person eligible to become senator for life under recently approved legislation favouring former presidents who held power for at least six years.

The institutional arrangement inherited from the dictatorship does not allow for plebiscites on constitutional ammendments and the current governing centre-left coalition does not have the Senate majority needed to approve reforms.

Eight years after the end of the dictatorship, demands for full democratisation have surged back up in Chile riding on the popular opposition to Pinochet entering the upper chamber.

Pinochet's democratic credentials are not all they could be, as he closed Congress himself following the coup on September 11, 1973.

The women's organisations, organisers of the first public demonstrations for the return to democracy and respect for human rights in 1980, have made these full democratisation the central feature of the weekend's celebrations.

March 8 is even more significant in Chile, as Pinochet forbade celebration of International Women's Day during his regime, dismissing it as a "Marxist festivity."

The demonstrations will continue in Santiago Sunday, with an event called by the Single Workers Centre (CUT) and the Frente Amplio por un Chile Democratico (Broad Front for a Democratic Chile).

The Frente, led by democratic christian senator, Jorge Lavanderos, is allied with the human rights groups in its efforct to encourage the rejection of Pinochet's senatorship.

However, President Eduardo Frei reiterated calls for the current institutional system to be respected and for Pinochet to be accepted into Parliament, even though he is personally opposed to the posts of designated and life senator.

Frei demanded the country "not remain a prisoner of history" but strengthen the democratic advances already made, stating his opposition to a possible constitutional accusation against the former dictator.

But Frei's appeals have done little to cool feeling against Pinochet, and this has in fact, as is the case of Lavanderos, been promoted by members of the Democratic Christian Party who supposedly share the President's ideas.

Meanwhile, the Circle of Friends of the Army and right-wing organisations are preparing events to support the former dictator, and the authorities are concerned there may be disturbances and even confrontations over the next few days.

Demonstrations both for and against Pinochet could coincide in Santiago Tuesday, when he leaves command of the army, and in Valparaiso, 120 kilometers west of the capital, Wednesday when the new legislature is opened.

The 81 year-old veteran general is unlikely to be sworn in along with the elected members of parliament Wednesday, and his investiture could be put off until Thursday, in order to avoid incidents in the Parliament headquarters.

The Women's march on Saturday will be the first mass demonstration against Pinochet on the eve of his leaving the army.

Thus, the controversial former dictator has pushed out other issues related to the International Women's Day, like the United Nations campaign against violence and reports of sexual abuse against girls.

However, the women's organisations have stressed that while circumstances have allowed Pinochet to dominate the day, their demands for full democratisation also include the defence of their rights and demands the government fulfil its international commitments on the issue. (END/IPS/tra-so/ggr/sm/98)

Origin: Montevideo/RIGHTS-CHILE/

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