With one month left until Chile commemorates the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état, political sectors there are more divided than ever over the facts surrounding that day. Some coalition parties have asked for a minute of silence to commemorate President Salvador Allende in Congress. Conservative parties, however, demand more attention to the events that led up to the golpe.
It was supposed to be a year of dialogue and unity and turned out to be one of division and polarization. In Chile, many coalition parties seek an emphasis on human rights violations and a loud and clear nunca más (“never again”) when it comes to commemorating the 1973 coup d’état and the bloody dictatorship that followed.
They are facing an opposition that, radicalized by the rise of the Republican Party, emphasizes wrongdoings by the democratically elected President Salvador Allende, pointing to “stability and order” brought by dictator Augusto Pinochet.
The latest chapter is an official request by parliamentarians from the Broad Front, Communist Party, Socialist Party, Party for Democracy and Radical Party, who want to commemorate the death of Salvador Allende – who is said to have committed suicide when the presidential palace was stormed – by holding a minute of silence in Congress.
Luis Cuello, parliamentarian for the Communist Party, said “it would be the first time, after more than 30 years of post-dictatorship, in which homage is paid to a democratic president who gave his life for Chileans.” Socialist Party member Jaime Naranjo, not mincing words, said, “we hope that the right-wing sectors, who have been accomplices in silence with the military coup, understand this time that this situation was a crime against humanity.”
Ongoing controversies surrounding the commemoration
The request is likely to generate resistance from the rightwing parties, especially the Republican Party, the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), and National Renewal (RN), who have outspoken conservative, pro-Pinochet politicians in their ranks. It adds up to a growing list of controversies that surround the 50th anniversary of the event.
Earlier, Patricio Fernández, mentor to President Gabriel Boric and in charge of organizing the commemoration, was forced to resign after a television interview, in which he downplayed the coup d’état, drew outcry from human rights organizations.
A medal was given to Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who launched a broad human rights investigation against Pinochet in the nineties, setting a precedent for the prosecution of former heads of states who committed human rights violations. The action generated severe critics from the Chilean right.
With some 40 days until September 11, finding a univocal truth is unlikely in Chile’s political landscape, where self-proclaimed neopinochetistas and sons of torturers share Congress with those who suffered from torture, with people who lost loved ones during the dictatorship, and with others still seeking justice.
As both sectors have different views on the facts, the commemoration in September is heading towards a fitting illustration of where Chilean politics stand today: a polarized, fragmented landscape with subjective memory.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.