Fifty years ago today, Chile’s presidential palace, La Moneda, was bombed as part of the military coup to overthrow the country’s democratically elected socialist president, Salvador Allende.
By the end of that fateful 11 September 1973, President Allende was dead and a military junta had seized power.
During the 17 years of military rule under General Augusto Pinochet that followed, 40,000 people were detained, tortured or forcibly disappeared. More than 3,200 were executed.
The years of dictatorship continue to haunt and divide Chile.
“These walls… have witnessed horrors, and a violent and oppressive past that we haven’t forgotten and won’t forget,” President Gabriel Boric said from the balcony of La Moneda in March 2022 after he was sworn in as the youngest Chilean president at the age of just 36.
His young, progressive cabinet promised to confront and address the violations of human rights committed under Gen Pinochet.
In the run-up to today’s anniversary, his left-wing government launched the National Search Plan, the first state-backed programme to determine the fate of 1,469 people who disappeared during military rule and who remain missing all these decades later.
They are presumed to have been murdered by the state, but their bodies were never found.
Government spokeswoman Camila Vallejo, who heads Chile’s Ministry General Secretariat, says the aim of the plan is to commit to helping the families of the disappeared so that they “do not have to carry the responsibility of finding their loved ones or knowing the truth solely on their shoulders”.
The project will have a dedicated budget and staff of investigators. Relatives of the disappeared may be entitled to reparations.
The National Search Plan is not only designed to find those who were forcibly disappeared, but also to establish the circumstances behind their disappearance and bring justice to the families who have spent decades desperate to know the truth.
Source : BBC