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Chile President Defends Democracy 50 Years After Coup Ushered in Brutal Military Dictatorship

SANTIAGO, CHILE — The president of Chile issued a fervent defense of democracy on Monday, the 50th anniversary of the coup led by General Augusto Pinochet that ushered in a brutal military dictatorship for almost two decades.

The problems of democracy must be addressed through more democracy, President Gabriel Boric said at the La Moneda presidential palace, which was bombed by warplanes at the start of the coup half a century ago.

“A coup d’état or the violation of the human rights of those who think differently is never justifiable,” Boric said in his address to a nation where a significant number of people, according to numerous polls, believe the 1973 coup was justified, and that Pinochet, who died in 2006, was a good leader who helped to modernize the country.

The military regime led by Pinochet violated human rights and brutally persecuted opponents, imprisoning and torturing thousands who were opposed to the regime. It Ieft a toll of 3,200 killed, including 1,469 disappeared. A half-century later, 297 have been convicted of crimes against humanity, and 1,300 cases are ongoing.

“It is crucial to clearly state that the coup d’état cannot be separated from what came afterward. Human rights violations of Chilean men and women began right from the moment of the coup,” Boric said, adding later that, “It was a dictatorship until the end.”

Christopher J. Dodd, U.S. special presidential adviser for the Americas, was leading the U.S. government delegation to Chile, according to the State Department. The U.S. government backed the 1973 coup, and the Chilean government is pushing Washington to declassify documents that could shed light on the era.

The date is marked by political polarization between the ruling party and the right-wing opposition, due to their disagreements about the roles they played in the coup.

Boric described the atmosphere as “charged,” and former President Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010 and 2014-2018) called it “toxic.” In Congress, lawmakers shouted at each other over the issue.

Those divisions spilled into the streets over the weekend, when a peaceful protest by thousands of Chileans to remember those disappeared and killed by the dictatorship was marred by violence. A small group of masked individuals threw rocks at windows.

The violent individuals “tried to break up the protest,” Boric, who had joined the protest, wrote on social media.

“They broke windows and indiscriminately attacked groups and members of political parties.” Boric went on to write that “as president of the Republic, I categorically condemn these acts,” adding that their “intolerance and violence shouldn’t have a place in democracy.”

In his speech Monday, Boric emphasized the need to stand up with the victims of the dictatorship and not seek a false equivalence in order to appease those who defend Pinochet’s government.

“Reconciliation is not achieved through neutrality or distance but by unequivocally standing with those who were victims of the horror.

Reconciliation, dear compatriots, does not involve attempting to equate the responsibilities between victims and perpetrators,” Boric said.

Source : VOA News