Some 5,000 people, according to police estimates, marched in Chile on Sept. 9 to mark the anniversary of the military coup in which Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte overthrew democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. The peaceful march—the first of the annual commemorations to take place since Pinochet’s death on Dec. 10, 2006—was met with a heavy police presence and street closures. The march ended with a rally at the Santiago General Cemetery, where a memorial honors the nearly 3,000 people who were killed or disappeared under Pinochet’s 17-year military regime. During the rally, several hooded individuals split off from the larger group and provoked incidents with the police, who then tried to break up the demonstration with tear gas and water cannons. Some demonstrators responded with rocks and sticks. More than 100 people were arrested. (AFP, Sept. 9 via La Jornada, Mexico)
Another 14 activists, members of the Group of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared (AFDD), were arrested in a separate incident on Sept. 10 after they broke through a fence and approached the La Moneda presidential palace to pay their respects to Allende at a memorial at the building’s entrance on 80 Morande street. This year the traditional homage there was banned, and La Moneda was sealed off and guarded by 1,500 police agents to prevent anyone from approaching it. AFDD leaders Mireya Garcia and Viviana Diaz were among those arrested; they were released after four hours. “We have returned to the worst days of the dictatorship, surrounded by Carabineros [militarized police agents],” said Diaz. “To have not allowed us this homage is the worst thing that could have happened.” (AFP, Sept. 9 via La Jornada; Equipo Nizkor, Sept. 13 from Radio Cooperativa)
In all, 147 people were arrested during the Sept. 9 actions, according to Santiago governor Adriana Delpiano. (AFP, Sept. 9) Another 72 people were arrested during commemorative actions in the center of Santiago during the day on Sept. 11.
On the night of Sept. 11 and early hours of Sept. 12, violence broke out in the greater Santiago metropolitan area—particularly the working-class municipalities of Peñalolén, San Bernardo, El Bosque, Pudahuel, Estacion Central and La Pintana—with unidentified groups erecting barricades and confronting police with molotov bombs and military weapons, including M-16 assault rifles and pistols with laser sights. Carabineros agent Cristian Vera Contreras was killed—hit with a bullet in the head in Pudahuel—and 42 other agents were wounded, nine of them seriously. Local businesses and schools were looted, traffic lights were destroyed and acts of vandalism caused blackouts that affected some 147,000 homes. Police arrested a total of 304 people, 208 of them in the Santiago area and 96 in other regions of the country. Sixty-two of those arrested were juveniles. (Equipo Nizkor from Clarin, Buenos Aires, Sept. 13)
Carabineros general director Jose Bernales confirmed in the early hours of Sept. 13 that 18-year-old Eduardo Espinoza Borquez had been arrested for the shooting of Vera Contreras, and that two weapons were confiscated from him. “He has confessed, there are witnesses, and we’re just waiting for the results of the criminal investigation,” said Bernales. Espinoza’s family insists he is innocent, and that he was at home at the time of the shooting. (Equipo Nizkor from La Nación, Sept. 13)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 16
See our last post on the struggle in Chile.