A ceremony to honor Chile’s deceased dictator August Pinochet in Santiago yesterday triggered riots and running battles between supporters of the former military regime and people protesting its legacy.
Former ministers of the regime and members of the armed forces filled a theater in downtown Santiago to see a documentary celebrating Pinochet, who ousted President Salvador Allende in a coup in 1973. He left power 17 years later.
Protesters staged mock torture scenes to protest the dictatorship’s human rights record. The regime killed about 3,000 opponents and tortured thousands more, according to state panels established after Chile’s return to democracy in 1990. Government spokesman Andres Chadwick told state television before the clashes that he regretted his support for the military regime, saying it had trampled on human rights.
“I have profound regret for being part of a government where those things happened,” said Chadwick, who was a legislative adviser to the dictatorship. “We shouldn’t continue paying homage to figures from the past. It generates division.”
At least 64 people were arrested during the disturbances, which intensified when people attempted to leave the theater. Protesters blocked streets with burning barricades and ransacked a car showroom.
A Santiago appeals court last week rejected a request made by a human rights group to block the ceremony.
To contact the reporter on this story: Randall Woods in Santiago at email@example.com.