President Gabriel Boric has said that the atmosphere is “electric” in Chile and while his supporters find him right, the opposition wonders how much the ruling party itself has contributed to tense the public debate, in the countdown to the 50th anniversary commemoration. of the coup d’état. Boric – the first president that Chile has had since 1990 who was not born for the coup – lit up the prairie last week after the final ruling in the court case for the death of Víctor Jara on September 16, 1973, where the Supreme Court ratified the convictions for kidnapping and qualified homicide against seven former soldiers. It was an example of how long it has taken justice to provide answers: half a century.
Not even 24 hours had passed when one of the convicted men committed suicide, just when the police were going to look for him to arrest him. In another symbolic milestone a few days before the anniversary of the democratic breakdown, the president of the Communist Party, Guillermo Teillier, died at the age of 79, who as military commander of his party authorized the attack against Augusto Pinochet in 1986. Boric, at the events of tribute, he assured: “(Teillier) died as a dignified man, proud of the life he had lived. There are others who die in a cowardly way so as not to face justice. There are human differences there,” he said in reference to the suicide of Hernán Chacón Soto, 86, a retired Chilean Army brigadier.
This Sunday, after days of heated debate – the leader of the far-right Republican Party, whom he called a “coward” went to Boric -, the president tried to clarify his words, in an interview with the Mesa Central program on Channel 13. The president said that he was “not one to judge the decision of a suicide” and that he respects the decision of who makes it for whatever reasons. “What I wanted to say, and I reiterate, is that there were those who committed atrocious crimes, for a long time they boasted about them, they hid them, they lied, they hindered everything possible to avoid justice and when facing the consequences of their own actions , through different ways, responsibility is evaded. That trajectory – I am not referring only to the case of Brigadier Chacón, but to Augusto Pinochet himself – seems profoundly cowardly to me.”
Memory ´Camarín de Mujeres´ place used by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet as collective cells in the National Stadium of Santiago (Chile). Elvis González (EFE)
Boric recalled that two of the seven former soldiers convicted in the Jara case are fugitives. But when asked on Channel 13 about the lack of mercy, he assured: “The reference to cowardice was to the trajectory, not only to this case, but to many.” And regarding the allusion to Chacón’s own suicide, he said: “It was not my intention, I regret it, and it does not contribute to the debate.”
It is part of what is happening a week after September 11 in Chile, a country where there is no consensus regarding a condemnation of the coup, as one of the left-wing sociologists, Manuel Antonio Garretón, analyzed in EL PAÍS: “Unfortunately, in “There is no consensus in Chile to condemn Pinochet’s coup d’état,” he said at the beginning of July. And he explained it: “The problem is that there is an important sector of the population that continues to vindicate the coup d’état of 1973. It is the 44% that voted Yes to Augusto Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite and – exactly the same – the 44% who voted for José Antonio Kast in the 2021 presidential runoff, who says the coup was necessary or justified. But the condemnation of the coup is an ethical principle that must be upheld.”
Chile faces this historic milestone with a left-wing government weakened after two defeats at the polls that, although not direct, had a strong impact on the navigation chart of Boric and his generation. In the plebiscite a year ago, on September 4, 2022, 62% of Chileans rejected a text that proposed strongly transforming Chilean institutions. Last May, Kast’s extreme right had an overwhelming victory in the elections for the Constitutional Council, the body in charge of drafting a new Constitution proposal that will be put to a plebiscite in December. “Chileans today are willing to sacrifice freedoms in order to have order,” Chilean intellectual Arturo Fontaine analyzed in March in an interview with EL PAÍS, to try to explain the apparent pendulums of citizens from the outbreak of 2019 to date.
A few days before the commemorations – this week and until next Monday, countless events, seminars and conversations are being held throughout Chile to remember September 11, 1973 – the atmosphere is electric, as President Boric said. Analyst Max Colodro said a few days ago that “Chile is more divided and polarized today.” “The social outbreak opened a new fissure in Chilean society and reinstated political violence as a topic of confrontation. Added to this is the harsh defeat suffered by the left in the constituent process. I believe that this is an aspect that has exacerbated the atmosphere of this anniversary, making it very difficult to commemorate it with a historical perspective, with self-criticism from all sectors and looking for meeting points that can help heal the wounds. It is very unfortunate, but this anniversary will leave Chile more confronted not only about the past, but also about the present and the future,” the philosopher assured EL PAÍS a few weeks ago.
The political dialogue has a heated tone and is shown in Congress, where the right reveals how it has retreated with respect to the recognition of the coup and the dictatorship from its own sector in recent years, probably due to the tension that the Republicans place on the right. If in 2013 President Sebastián Piñera marked a milestone by speaking of the “passive accomplices” in the 40 years of the coup, in reference to civilians in the conservative world, today in Congress statements prior to the democratic breakdown are revived.
On August 23, the Chamber of Deputies of Chile reread the 1973 resolution that accused the Allende Government of being unconstitutional and which was interpreted as support for military intervention. These days, some far-right congresswomen have even doubted the sexual violence that was committed against the victims – especially women – who have been proven so many times in court.
Isabel Allende: “There can be no official truth, it makes no sense. It’s impossible, it’s absurd. The only thing there can be is this commitment… “democracy must never again be broken”
Carmen Hertz: “the State is obliged to make the historical truth collective” https://t.co/EwDcsMhUlh
— Patricio Fernández (@PatoFdez) August 27, 2023
The Government of President Boric has had serious problems in carrying out an agenda around 50 years. Amid pressure from the (official) Communist Party and human rights organizations, at the beginning of July the presidential advisor on these matters, the writer Patricio Fernández, had to resign. Then, in the last Cabinet change, the president removed the person responsible for coordinating the anniversary, the Minister of Culture, Jaime de Aguirre. He had to turn to an advertising agency to try a story like the one Boric was looking for: memory, democracy and the future.
Faced with a majority of citizens who were not born for the coup –close to 70% of Chileans–, the Government carries out an agenda consistent with the most left-wing Administration that Chile has had since 1973: the Search Plan for more than 1,000 missing people. of the dictatorship. It is Boric’s biggest bet 50 years after the military coup and one of the South American country’s main debts. But, in the process, the Government increases its bet and could close Punta Peuco, the prison reserved for human rights violators, which has been the subject of controversy since its foundation in 1995, in the midst of transition. The president neither denied nor confirmed it in the interview this Sunday.
Boric even evaluates formulas to lift the Valech secret within the framework of the 50 years of the coup, that is, the testimonies of the thousands of victims of political imprisonment and torture who recounted what happened during the dictatorship to a commission in the Government of Ricardo Lagos, in 2003. It was Lagos himself, a socialist, who explained the reasons for keeping the testimonies saved.
The political scientist Ricardo Israel, who gave the testimony in the early 2000s, explained a few days ago on the social network X: “I gave the testimony of what happened to me to the Valech Commission. I had confidence in the commitment to secrecy for 50 years and I would feel violated if the Government managed to break that rule.”
It is just a glimpse of the broken Chile that awaits the commemoration of another week, where former soldiers who have dared to take steps other than the institutional ones, such as the former commander in chief of the Army, Ricardo Martínez, are repudiated by some part of the uniformed world. “Neither an official truth nor a common story is possible, simply because in 1973 society split into two halves and we are heirs of that fracture,” said journalist Ascanio Cavallo a couple of days ago.
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