SANTIAGO – Tuesday marks 46 years since the start of the military dictatorship in Chile and 29 years since the return of democracy, but it turns out that many Chileans are still divided over the issue.
On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet carried out a military coup d’état, known in Chile as “El Golpe”, changing the course of history in this South American country. It is believed that about 3,000 people were killed and 40,000 were detained under Pinochet’s rule.
Erwin Asenjo Díaz is lawyer who knows a lot about the military dictatorship and he tells Chile Today that “El Golpe” is still a controversial topic. Asenjo Díaz went on to say that reconciliation is difficult, but that it is important to remember this historic day in Chilean history. “It is a day of reflection, reconciliation and also peace and a lot of conversation,” said Asenjo Díaz.
During the coup, Pinochet had La Moneda, which is the presidential palace, bombed while democratically elected, socialist president Salvador Allende was inside addressing the nation by radio of what was happening, vowing not to step down as president.
For many Chileans, “El Golpe” was a transitional point in the country from one nightmare to another. Under Allende, Chile faced massive shortages of essential necessities like food and gas. While under the military dictatorship, many Chileans had to endure years of human right’s abuses.
Many of those abuses took place in Estadio Nacional. It is Chile’s biggest stadium and many of the most important football games take place there, but during the dictatorship, it was a detention camp where many political dissidents and people who simply disagreed were tortured and killed. “My grandfather was a socialist and he received an invitation to Estadio Nacional in the Pinochet period and he didn’t go,” says Diego de la Vega. De la Vega went on to tell Chile Today that the others who did go were tortured and killed.
Though it’s been nearly three decades since the fall of the military dictatorship, the conversation about that period is still very contentious in Chile even among millennials. “I know a few who think that it was a good period,” said Natalia Alvarez, a Chilean millennial. She went on to say that sometimes you have to remind people about the thousands of murders that took place under the military regime.
Today, some Chileans make the argument that Chile has one of the best and most stable economies in Latin America thanks to economic policies that came from the dictatorship. While others highlight the human rights violations and growing inequality that existed here for nearly two decades.
Anthony Hill is a multimedia journalist for Chile Today. He was born in the Bronx, New York and is currently living in Santiago, Chile. He double majored in journalism and political science at the State University of New York at Oswego. Before coming to Chile Today, he was a reporter for the NBC station in western Massachusetts.