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Chile’s 9/11

A woman lights a candle in a sculpture of acrylic shoes and a person representing the victims of 1973 military coup.   | Photo Credit: Luis Hidalgo

Santiago, September 12, 2014: Fourteen people were wounded and 179 arrested during unrest that broke out on the 41st anniversary of the coup that brought Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile on September 11, 1973.

In recent memory, while 9/11 strikes a chord with our generation as the day when terrorist attacks were carried out in the U.S, the day, long before 2001, was a grim reminder for another nation. The South American nation Chile witnessed a military coup on September 11, 1973 that brought military rule in the country under General Augusto Pinochet for the next 17 years.

Today considered one the most stable countries in South America, Chile comprises a thin sliver of land in the continent and is a geographically diverse country and one of the world’s largest producers of copper.

What happened in 1973?

  In the 1970 Presidential elections, Salvador Allende (left) of the Socialist party was democratically elected to rule the country. However, his policies on economic reform, especially geoeconomic sovereignty, where Chileans would make more profit than foreign interests from the natural resources such as copper produced in their land, were considered a major blow to countries like the U.S. whose business interests were severely hurt.

Opposed to Allende’s socialist policies, a military coup was on the lines and on September 11, 1973 amid growing political tension and instability, the military took over the streets of the capital Santiago. Allende was stuck in his Presidential palace La Moneda and the army led by General Augusto Pinochet (below), later in the day announced its complete control over the country. Salvador Allende refused to bow to the army’s order to surrender and later, is said to have taken his own life.

  Following this, Chile for 17 years was under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet who during his regime killed and tortured several of his dissidents. A truth commission called ‘Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation’ estimates that within the first three months of his rule, around 1500 people were reported missing or dead. Millions were forced to flee the country while hundreds of thousands of others were imprisoned or tortured by Pinochet’s secret police.

In 1990, Pinochet stepped down from his role of dictator after a referendum conducted in 1988 voted against him continuing as President. He, however, continued to remain as the head of the Army. In 1998, he was charged with crimes against humanity and in 2004 for financial fraud when it came to light that he had stashed away nearly $27 bn in foreign bank accounts.

He died on December 10, 2006 due to a heart ailment and his death was received with mixed feelings by the Chilean population. While his supporters believed that he prevented the country from falling under the grip of Communism, his detractors rejoiced his death as the end to a gory chapter in the country’s history. Yet, many believe that he never paid for his actions as at the time of his death, the crimes he was charged against had not been resolved through a proper trial.


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 4:22:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/in-school/signpost/chiles-911/article6423059.ece

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