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Chile marks 40th anniversary of Pinochet coup

Chilean human rights activists take part in a demonstration in Santiago, on September 8, 2013
Chilean human rights activists take part in a demonstration in Santiago, on September 8, 2013. Chile's president has called for national reconciliation as the country marked the 40th anniversary of a coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power.

Chile's president called for national reconciliation Wednesday as the country, amid violent protests, marked the 40th anniversary of a coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power.

"The time has come not to forget, but to overcome the traumas of the past," Sebastian Pinera said in an address from the La Moneda presidential palace.

"The best legacy we can leave our children is a country reconciled and at peace," he said as he led a ceremony honoring the victims of the September 11, 1973 overthrow of then-president Salvador Allende.

Chilean troops positioned on a rooftop fire on the La Moneda Palace in Santiago, on September 11, 1973
Chilean troops positioned on a rooftop fire on the La Moneda Palace in Santiago, on September 11, 1973.

In a sign of the persistent divisions in the South American country, disturbances broke out overnight in the capital Santiago.

At least 68 demonstrators -- who torched cars and barricades -- were arrested, police said.

In one neighborhood, attempts to set fire to a public bus filled with passengers was thwarted by the driver.

Authorities played down the unrest, saying it was not unexpected. Clashes between protesters and police occur every year.

Police chief Gustavo Gonzalez Jure described the incidents as "relatively minor."

Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 - 1990
A photo taken on September 7, 1996 shows Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet attending a ceremony in Santiago.

Pinera, Chile's first right-wing head of state since democracy was restored in 1990, stressed that reconciliation will require Chileans "to continue on the path of truth and justice."

He condemned those responsible for human rights violations during the 17-year Pinochet regime while singling out those of influence "who could have done more" at the time to stop the abuse.

There is increasing pressure in Chile to unmask the whole truth about a dictatorship that left more than 3,200 dead and some 38,000 people tortured.

Pinochet died in 2006 without ever having gone on trial and the Chilean court system has some 1,300 cases open involving crimes committed during his rule.

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