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Date: Wed, 16 Sep 98 16:00:25 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: HUMAN RIGHTS: Chile Still Divided 25 Years After Coup
Article: 43359
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.27392.19980917181553@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** 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 coup.

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 Cemetery.

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 poor judgement."

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 foreign image.

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 the dictatorship.

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/

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