Date: Wed, 16 Sep 98 16:00:25 CDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: HUMAN RIGHTS: Chile Still Divided 25 Years After Coup
/** ips.english: 514.0 **/
** Topic: HUMAN RIGHTS: Chile Still Divided 25 Years After Coup /RELATE/ **
** Written 4:19 PM Sep 14, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Chile Still Divided 25 Years After Coup
By Gustavo Gonzalez, IPS
11 September 1998
SANTIAGO, Sep 11 (IPS) - The 25th anniversary of the 1973 coup in
Chile, commemorated by a public holiday for the last time,
highlighted on Friday the two faces of a Chile split by an event
that radically changed national history and left wounds that have
not yet healed.
Violent incidents once more marked Sep. 11, while critics
upbraided the government for ordering a police cordon around the
presidential palace of La Moneda to keep people from paying homage
to socialist president Salvador Allende, who died there during the
Clashes between demonstrators and special Carabineros military
police troops near La Moneda and in other parts of Santiago left
46 arrested and at least three injured, according to initial
reports from authorities.
The supporters of the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet
(1973-90) toned down their celebrations this year, while the armed
forces refrained from holding parades, and simply attended mass
and several internal military events.
Leftist parties and human rights groups marched once more to
the General Cemetery to render homage to Allende and the 2,500
victims of the dictatorship.
And once more, communist militants tried to file past La
Moneda, with police blocking the way on government orders, which
gave rise to the day's first violent incidents.
Further incidents took place later in the environs of the
Mapocho Station, where a shop was looted, and outside the General
In accordance with a deal negotiated in Congress last month by
the former dictator and current senator-for-life, as of 1999 Sep.
11, declared a holiday in 1974, will be replaced by the Day of
National Unity, to be held the first Monday of September.
The symbolism surrounding the 25th anniversary, linked to the
fact that the coup will never again be commemorated by a public
holiday, nurtured hopes that demonstrators would be allowed to
march past La Moneda in homage to Allende, which they have not
been allowed to do since democracy was restored in 1990.
The four party centre-left governing Coalition for Democracy
asked the Eduardo Frei administration to lift the ban. But the
government only allowed small delegations of socialists and a
group of survivors of Allende's personal bodyguard to place floral
arrangements in La Moneda this morning.
Leftist groups said the incidents were triggered by
authorities' refusal to allow people to file past La Moneda, while
police and the government blamed the violence on "subversives"
they said had infiltrated the protesters.
The secretary-general of the Communist Party, Gladys Marin,
said police provoked the roughly 100 demonstrators who marched up
to La Moneda, and accused the government of "authoritarianism and
Senator Ricardo Nunez, president of the co-governing Socialist
Party, said the government's refusal to allow marchers to approach
La Moneda projected the image of a "besieged democracy."
Socialist Senator Jaime Gazmuri termed the government's
decision a big mistake, and said the troops staked out around the
demonstrators made Santiago look like "a militarised city."
Deputy Minister of the Interior Belisario Velasco responded
that the incidents around La Moneda justified the police action,
although he described the incidents as "minor."
President Frei stayed home rather than attending Friday morning
mass in La Moneda, in order "not to divide the country,"
according to government sources.
Pinochet, on the other hand, attended mass in the Military
School. But he stayed away from a public act of homage in front of
his old residence in Santiago organised by a foundation that
carries his name, excusing himself on grounds of ill health.
"They can't talk to us about reconciliation when the man
chiefly responsible for the human rights violations is in the
Senate," said psychiatrist Paz Rojas, president of the Committee
for Defence of the Rights of the People.
Chile's problem, 25 years after the coup, is not
reconciliation, but the impunity enjoyed by those who committed
human rights abuses during the dictatorship, she told IPS, adding
that reconciliation and national unity were impossible without
truth and justice.
In Italy, Chilean Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza admitted
that Pinochet's presence in the Senate affected his country's
But he told IPS in Rome that that was the price which had to be
paid for a peaceful transition to democracy.
The agreement was reached in 1990, he pointed out, and while
Chile's peaceful transition was praised and many outside the
country would have understood if Pinochet had been sworn in to the
Senate at that time, few approved of the Frei administration's
abidance by the accord years later.
Insulza was in Rome to sign the treaty for the creation of an
International Criminal Court which will try crimes against
humanity, war crimes and genocide.
The minister said Chile was signing the treaty on the 25th
anniversary of the coup to symbolise his country's respect for
human rights, and the government's desire to prevent a repeat of
He added that although his government was promoting a process
of national reconciliation, one fundamental step for that to occur
was for those who knew the whereabouts of the remains of the
'disappeared' to express their own willingness for reconciliation.
"It is very difficult to talk about reconciliation, if we do
not know the whereabouts of some of the victims of that period,"
he concluded. (END/IPS/tra-so/ggr/sw/98)
Origin: Montevideo/HUMAN RIGHTS/
[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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