I remember you Allende
“The atmosphere is electric, it is charged; I don't know if you feel it, but I feel that if I touch someone I'm going to give them electricity at any moment." With humor and trying to reduce the tension, the Chilean president, the progressive Gabriel Boric, summarized on Thursday in an event the heated political climate that Chile is experiencing in the days prior to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the coup d'état of General Augusto Pinochet who overthrew and ended the life of the socialist leader Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.
If a country has dedicated efforts to remembering and not forgetting the bloody dictatorship that left more than 3,000 dead and a total of 40,000 tortured, detained or retaliated against, that country is Chile. The fact that for almost two decades after the recovery of democracy in 1990, Chile was governed by opponents of Pinochetism contributed to recovering historical memory.
Pinochet's death in 2006, after it was discovered that he had secret accounts in the United States, seemed to put an end to sociological Pinochetism. Years later, the social outbreak of 2019 also seemed destined to end economic Pinochetism, the ultraliberal system bequeathed by the dictator and protected by the Constitution promulgated in 1980.
But the reaction would not take long to arrive and in 2021 the far-right José Antonio Kast sneaked into the second round of the elections, claiming the supposed achievements of the military government. Although Kast did not manage to defeat Boric, his formation, the Republican Party, won with 35% in the May elections to elect the Constitutional Council, which is currently drafting the future Magna Carta.
While the Government tries to impose a memory agenda, the right-wing opposition tries to boycott it
"In this scenario, the electorate moves like a ship adrift, with great fear of insecurity and crime, thanks to the dangerous and unprecedented advance of drug trafficking, and votes for a right that promises to take charge, but, at the same time "At the same time, he wants to praise Pinochetism and minimize the human rights violations of the dictatorship, and go backwards in social achievements," he explains from Santiago to The vanguard the journalist and professor at the Catholic University Gonzalo Saavedra. “In the next election, people back off and vote left, but increasingly skeptical of reaching any solution to their most pressing problems,” he adds.
Polarization increases as 9/11 approaches. While the Government finalizes a program of remembrance events and tries to impose its memory agenda, the right-wing opposition and especially the Kast party tries to boycott and dismantle it with gestures and statements that make the static electricity grow.
Boric plans to present a human rights legislative agenda on Monday. The president already announced this week a plan to search for the thousand people missing under the dictatorship whose bodies have not yet been located. The so-called National Search Plan aims to clarify the circumstances of each disappearance, guarantee access to information about these crimes and establish reparation measures.
“Chile reaches 50 years of the civil-military coup d'état still with open wounds, among other things, because there are members of the armed forces who know where the bodies of 1,469 people are, of which 1,092 are detained, disappeared and 377 executed without handing over bodies, and they have not wanted, nor have they been judicially forced, to hand over that information. The families' mourning continues,” says Saavedra.
In this sense, Boric is thinking about a formula to lift the secrecy of the 36,000 testimonies of victims of the dictatorship that the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture collected in 2003, from which the so-called Valech report was prepared. an inventory of the atrocities of the dictatorship. The president's proposal has raised eyebrows even among the ruling party and has been criticized by former socialist president Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006) – who commissioned the report – since those who declared were then guaranteed that their testimony would remain secret for fifty years.
At the other pole, the right-wing opposition does not miss the opportunity to warm things up. The most serious and at the same time representative episode took place on August 22 in the Chamber of Deputies. That day marked the 50th anniversary of the parliamentary declaration in which the conservative opposition of the time denounced that Allende's government was failing to comply with the Constitution and that many historians consider that it served Pinochet to legitimize his coup. Half a century later, the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) – a party of Pinochet origin – proposed to read and vote on that same declaration again, and it was approved with the majority vote of the right and the extreme right, causing a brawl among the deputies.
One of the clearest reactions occurred shortly after in the upper house, where the historic socialist militant, former secretary general of the OAS and current senator, José Miguel Insulza, described the reading of that statement as a “miserable and provocative attitude” that “ It shows us a deeply divided country.” "It is perfectly possible, and I accept it, that some of the deputies who on that occasion approved that project did not foresee what was going to happen in the country in the following weeks, they did not imagine that with that project they were giving legitimacy to a coup Criminal state,” stated Insulza, before denouncing that “those who did it today know what happened and yet they did it the same.”
In the midst of this climate, during August several Supreme Court rulings related to the dictatorship have also been known. Although the highest court rejected that President Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964-1970) was poisoned by the military regime and acquitted the intelligence agents convicted in the first instance, it also confirmed the convictions against the soldiers who murdered the Spanish diplomat Carmelo Soria and the singer Víctor Jara, author of the song dedicated to his daughter, I remember you Amanda .
In May, a survey revealed that 36% of Chileans believe that Pinochet did well by carrying out the coup d'état. In August, another poll indicated that 56% of citizens were against the commemoration of the end of the Allende government because it divides Chileans.
“We are just a few days away from commemorating the 50th anniversary of the breakdown of democracy and there are some who invite us to turn the page, to forget the past and project ourselves only to a future splendor. But there is no future splendor possible without memory and without truth,” Boric said the same day, trying not to be electrocuted .
Catalonia also commemorates
The overthrow of Allende generated a special wave of solidarity in Catalonia and that sensitivity has been maintained over the years. The Government of the Generalitat, the Government of Chile and the Barcelona City Council will organize on September 24 – within the framework of La Mercè – a concert focused on the figure of the murdered musician Víctor Jara, which could become one of the commemorative events of the biggest coup that takes place outside of Chile. In addition, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Meritxell Serret, will attend the tribute that Barcelona City Council celebrates every year to Salvador Allende in the Plaza del Carmel that bears his name. Other entities organize activities on the anniversary during this month of September, such as Casa Amèrica Catalunya or the Filmoteca, which has programmed a film series.
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