Chile: 50 years after the coup

Thousands of people took to the streets in Chile to commemorate the victims of Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship. September 11 marked the 50th anniversary of the coup d'état that ended Salvador Allende's democratically elected government. It was followed by 17 years of dictatorship marked by serious human rights violations, with thousands of dissidents being arrested or "disappearing". Commentators analyse the long shadows cast by the past.

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Pravda (SK) /

Still processing the crimes

There are still unanswered questions about the events of 50 years ago, Pravda writes:

“In Chile, where thousands of people still don't know where the bodies of their martyred relatives lie, it has taken half a century for the seven murderers of [singer] Víctor Jara, who was executed in 1973, to receive their sentence. ... At the same, The Guardian reports that it has been discovered that an old military helicopter which was being used as a prop in a paintball park in a forest in Sussex, England, was one of those from which Pinochet had Allende supporters thrown into the sea. In parallel, the CIA officially released archive documents confirming direct US involvement in the preparations to liquidate democracy in Chile and Latin America.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Chileans are weary of commemoration

More and more Chileans are fed up with this topic, Tygodnik Powszechny puts in:

“This round anniversary revives not only memories, but also unresolved disputes about the regime's legacy. And conflicts about how the commemoration should be handled. As is the case every year, although this time even more so, politicians of the right and far right are once again voicing criticism of the commemorative ceremonies. ... In their view, commemorating the events of 1973 unnecessarily tears open national wounds and further polarises society. ... But the circle of victims of the dictatorship also seems divided. ... The public is becoming disillusioned as a result of the recurring conflicts. As surveys show: Chileans' weariness with the subject has clearly grown stronger.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Testimony to the West's intolerable double standards

Le Temps points to the US's role in the suffering that Pinochet's dictatorship brought upon Chile:

“The US has never really made amends for the CIA's role in Chile. Nor did it learn any lessons from the devastation caused by the 'Chicago Boys' [Chicago-trained economists who determined Chile's economic policy under Pinochet], who, under the pretext of applying the rules of neoliberalism, only increased the inequalities that had brought Allende's Unidad Popular to power. ... The case of Chile remains an eternal stain on the US's record, and an intolerable testimony to the 'double standards' of which the West is always accused.” (ES) /

The beast is resting on the backs of the indifferent

Journalist Beatriz Silva seeks explanations in

“Since the return to democracy in 1990, many of us Chileans have wondered how so much horror was possible in a society that until 1973 was one of the most peaceful on the continent. ... President Gabriel Boric has tried to reach a minimum agreement with all political forces to condemn the events. This was not possible because the right wing refused. ... How could impunity be maintained for so long? The answer is that between the supporters and the indignant there is a third, much larger group - that of the indifferent. A mass of people on whose backs the unpunished beast rests. Chile must fight against this indifference.”

El País (ES) /

A warning to all democracies

Chilean cultural activist Ariel Dorfman appeals to the youth in El País:

“Half a century later, in a world where so many nations are flirting with authoritarian alternatives, it is more important than ever to remember this military uprising, which had drastic consequences in Chile and beyond its borders. ... The unknown quantity is the young, this huge mass that did not experience the coup, let alone the Allende years. What do they see when they think of the military coup? I have an idea it will be the symbolic photo of the burning [presidential palace] La Moneda. Hopefully, this image will be a warning to them: democracy is vulnerable and easily undermined. This is true even for countries with a long tradition of adherence to the rule of law.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

The population is divided

The dictatorship still hangs over Chilean society today, Helsingin Sanomat notes:

“Pinochet stepped down in 1990, but his shadow still hangs over Chile. ... Democracy gave Chile 20 years of economic growth and political stability, but now the country has experienced a difficult decade. This has fuelled discontent and driven the nation back towards political extremism. This is also reflected in attitudes towards the legacy of the military coup. According to a recent poll, 42 percent of Chileans believe the coup destroyed democracy, while 36 percent think it saved the country from communism. In Chile, it is difficult to agree on issues when 50-year-old questions are still so sensitive.”

Público (PT) /

The end of a pioneering experiment

In Chile the goal back them was to bring down a new kind of union, according to Público:

“Chile played a central role in the world at the beginning of the 1970s. It was a great experimental laboratory for the left. ... The goal was to articulate the link between socialism and democracy. ... The Unidad Popular bloc in in which all left-wing parties united was a pioneering experiment. This made its failure at the hands of Pinochet's military coup all the more painful. Allende was superficially criticised by some for being too radical and risking chaos, while others, supporters of the armed revolution and the 'Cuban way', accused him of not arming the workers. He became an example of political courage.”

The Guardian (GB) /

The US should finally come clean

The United States should take a good look at its behaviour towards Latin America, The Guardian advises:

“Washington should come clean, as the Chilean coup is seen as part of a decades-long attempt to destabilise leftwing governments in the region. Clearly US national security doctrine was indifferent to dictatorship and legitimated dirty wars. This was wrong. Washington should say so. The US remains self-interested, inspiring fear in the continent. Whether it is sanctions on Cuba, claims that aid is being used against the Mexican government or an IMF-forced depreciation in Argentina, the shadows cast by September 11 1973 are lengthening.”