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Date: Mon, 14 Sep 98 16:59:28 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Weekly Americas News Update #450, 9/13/98
Article: 43169
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.9213.19980916121602@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** reg.nicaragua: 34.0 **/
** Topic: Weekly News Update #450, 9/13/98 **
** Written 10:25 PM Sep 13, 1998 by wnu in cdp:reg.nicaragua **
ISSUE #450, SEPTEMBER 13, 1998
339 LAFAYETTE ST., NEW YORK, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499

Coup Anniversary Brings Heavy Repression

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Issue #450
13 September 1998

On Sept. 11, Chileans commemorated the 25th anniversary of the bloody 1973 coup d'etat that overthrew democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende Gossens. The coup was led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile as dictator until 1990; he continued to serve as chief of the armed forces until Mar. 10 of this year and became a non-elected lifetime senator on Mar. 11. This was the last year in which Sept. 11 will be a state holiday [see Update #449].

Some 7,000 protesters gathered at different sites in Santiago and marched to the Santiago General Cemetery, where Allende is buried. (Allende committed suicide during the Sept. 11 military assault on La Moneda presidential palace.) One group of 1,000 marchers--headed by leaders of the Socialist Party, human rights advocates and relatives of the thousands of people killed and disappeared under the dictatorship--was attacked by Carabineros (militarized police) special forces with tear gas and anti-riot vehicles as the marchers started down the Alameda Bernardo O'Higgins at 18th Street. Police agents sprayed marchers with foul-smelling liquids and hurled tear gas directly at people, causing skin irritation, poisoning and burns. Protesters retaliated by throwing rocks and incendiary bombs at police.

A few blocks from the city center, around the Mapocho bridge, another group of some 5,000 people who had gathered peacefully to pay homage to Allende were attacked by dozens of Carabineros with what Peruvian daily La Republica special correspondent Jose Bravo called "a rain of tear gas bombs and indiscriminate shots into the air." The demonstrators responded again with rocks and homemade bombs. According to Bravo, the police grabbed and detained any demonstrator holding a socialist flag or a sign protesting the former Pinochet dictatorship. The groups of protesters then joined up on Independencia Avenue and marched 20 blocks to the General Cemetary, where hundreds of Carabineros blocked their entry with tear gas bombs and more violence ensued.

In the city of Valparaiso, where the National Congress has its headquarters, one person was seriously injured and 24 were arrested when some 300 protesters clashed with police in Italia Park at the end of a march past the Congress building. [La Republica (Lima) 9/12/98 from correspondent]

The violence continued through the morning of Sept. 12 in outlying neighborhoods of Santiago, where protesters set up barricades of burning objects and clashed with police. Three police stations--La Pincoya, La Granja and La Victoria--were attacked with firearms, incendiary bombs and rocks.

According to the Santiago daily El Mercurio, a total of two people died, 77 were injured and 327 were arrested in Santiago in violence related to the anniversary commemorations. Of those injured, 36 were Carabineros agents (four of whom were seriously hurt) and 41 were civilians (13 of whom were seriously hurt). Another 49 people were arrested in other cities. Of the 327 arrested in Santiago, 293 were released; the rest are to be charged with crimes. [Clarin (Buenos Aires) 9/13/98 from EFE; EM 9/13/98]

One of the dead was 25-year old Claudia Alejandra Lopez Beraiges, a dance student at a private university and Communist Party (PC) militant who died of a bullet wound in the chest. A Carabineros report claims the young woman had her face covered with a bandana and was carrying a bag of rocks, a bottle of ammonia, and Marxist literature. Tear gas on her clothing suggested that she had been exposed to police repression (or, according to the report, that she had taken part in violent incidents). After inspecting the firearms of all the agents who were guarding La Pincoya, police suggested that Lopez was shot by demonstrators who attacked the police station.

Cristian Osvaldo Varela Avalos, a PC leader from the working class neighborhood of Cerrillos, died at a clinic after suffering from heart failure during the protest at Mapocho. Doctors said Varela died of arterial hypertension, but Erika Labrana, his widow, denied that her husband had hypertension; she said the first doctor who treated him said he had suffered respiratory failure after breathing tear gas. [EM 9/13/98; Clarin 9/13/98 from EFE; La Tercera (Chile) 9/13/98]

On Sept. 12 PC General Secretary Gladys Marin blamed the government for Varela's death, and demanded that authorities reveal the chemical components of the tear gas used and of the liquid sprayed by police water cannons. Col. Sergio Apablaza, Carabineros operations chief for the Metropolitan Region, said the elements used did not constitute a risk to human health, and that they were not made up of chemical but rather organic ingredients, such as pepper and garlic extracts. [EM 9/13/98]

The National Assembly for Human Rights (ANDH) accused the police of "disproportionate" response and "brutal repression" against protesters. ANDH leader Julia Urquieta said the commemorations were marked "once more by the image of La Moneda besieged by police forces, and repression exercised against the right of people to express themselves freely in the streets. This is shameful for the country and shows that in Chile there is no democracy."

Representatives of the Group of Friends of the President (GAP)-- the former bodyguards who fought at Allende's side during the coup--attended a mass for Allende near La Moneda on Morande street. Hortensia Bussi, Allende's widow, did not participate because she had family matters to attend to in Spain, according to Gerardo Espinoza, who served as interior minister under Allende.

Despite rumors that he was ill, Pinochet made a surprise appearance at the Military School in the Las Condes residential neighborhood of eastern Santiago for a private mass commemorating the coup. The press was not invited. [LR 9/12/98 from correspondent]

On Sept. 10, Chile's Supreme Court voted five to one to reopen the investigation into the disappearance of Enrique Poblete Cordova, a worker detained by the Pinochet regime on June 19, 1974. The landmark decision was based on the Geneva Conventions; according to the Poblete family lawyer Sergio Concha, "For the first time the high court recognizes that after Sept. 11, 1973, a climate of war existed, and the government did not respect the international conventions signed on the matter." [El Diario-La Prensa (NY) 9/11/98 from AP]

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