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Civil Society

Unrest as Chile remembers coup

A night of protest in Santiago on the 40th anniversary of Chile's deadly 1973 coup has resulted in police arresting 264 demonstrators. Police also say 42 officers were injured, including several splattered by acid.

Chile's conservative President Sebastian Pinera has called for reconciliation 40 years to the day after the military overthrew democratically-elected leftist president Salvador Allende and began a 17-year dictatorship.

Pinera urged Chileans to "overcome the traumas of the past" as several thousand Allende sympathizers laid flowers at his monument in Santiago. Allende committed suicide during the 1973 coup rather than surrender to the plotters, writing in his final note that he had "faith in Chile and its destiny."

During Wednesday evening's tribute, his daughter, Isabel Allende, said she did not believe in "forced" reconciliations.

Murdered and tortured

From 1973, the regime headed by General Augusto Pinochet reversed Allende's reforms with free-market privatizations and shut down Chile's congress. The regime left more than 3,200 people dead and some 38,000 tortured. Thousands of dissidents went into exile.

Pinochet died in 2006 under house arrest but without ever being tried on charges of human rights violations and illegal enrichment.

Unrest in Santiago

By Thursday morning, Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick said 264 protestors had been arrested overnight in Santiago suburbs. The policemen injured included six with serious wounds from gunshots and some kind of acid.

Among those wounded was Santiago's chief of police General Rodolfo Pacheco, who was concussed after being struck on the head by an unlit petrol bomb.

Three public buses used as barricades and seven smaller vehicles had been set ablaze, Chadwick said.

Chileans still split

Since the South American nation's return to democracy in 1990, Chileans remained split on Allende's legacy.

He had nationalized Chile's US-dominated copper industry and redistributed money toward social services. Many Chileans then facing hyperinflation initially backed the coup.

But a poll earlier this month found that only 18 percent of Chileans still see the coup favorably. A majority - 63 percent - think the coup destroyed democracy.

Last Monday the rightist government and leftist opposition held separate ceremonies to remember the coup.

Two months ahead of Chile's next presidential election, former socialist president Michelle Bachelet has pledged broad political reform to do away with the vestiges of the Pinochet era.

ipj/dr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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