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Violent Protests Erupt at Chile's Pinochet Victims Commemoration March

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

The streets of Santiago, Chile, were filled with both solemn reflection and concerning violence on Sunday, as Chileans gathered to commemorate the victims of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship on the 50th anniversary of the coup that brought him to power. While the march maintained peaceful intent, sporadic violent clashes with police and acts of arson brought an unsettling backdrop to this vital moment of remembrance.

The procession travelled through Santiago's streets to reach the general cemetery – a landmark housing a memorial to the victims of Pinochet's savage regime. Protests paused at the presidential palace, La Moneda, the very location where then-president Salvador Allende was overthrown on September 11, 1973.

In a historical first, newly-elected leftist President Gabriel Boric joined the procession, reportedly made up of approximately 5,000 citizens according to governmental sources. His participation marked the first instance of a Chilean leader marching since the termination of the dictatorship in 1990.

However, a small fraction of the crowd, armed with stones and clad in hoodies, broke through security barriers and targeted the presidential palace and police. Their actions resulted in damage to the palace's cultural centre. Moreover, violent skirmishes occurred along the march, involving molotov cocktails and burning barricades.

Within the cemetery, notable damage was inflicted, including defacement of the tomb of a right-wing senator assassinated in 1991. Deputy Interior Secretary, Manuel Monsalve, laid responsibility for the violence at the feet of government adversaries, stating three police officers were injured and three arrests were made.

Yet, despite these events, a significant portion of the attendees marched peacefully, waving Chilean flags and voicing chants such as "Truth and justice now!" and "Allende lives".

"September 11 is a day brimming with memories, but one that also brings a level of anguish, as it appears we have regressed instead of advanced," shared Patricia Garzon, a 76-year-old former political prisoner interviewed during the march.

Throughout the Pinochet regime, more than 3,200 people were brutally killed or forcibly made 'disappeared', their fate unknown. Additionally, around 38,000 individuals were subjected to torture.

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