Chilean March to Remember Pinochet Victims Turns Violent
SANTIAGO, Chile – Rock-throwing protesters clashed with police backed by water cannons and tear gas Sunday during a march paying tribute to victims of the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
The government said 147 people were detained and a police officer was injured, in the annual march marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 1973 putsch that brought Pinochet to power. Smaller and less violent than in previous years, it was the first coup-anniversary protest since the former strongman died in December at age 91.
Police blocked marchers — estimated at 5,000 by police and local media — from passing by the presidential palace, where freely elected Marxist President Salvador Allende committed suicide during the coup rather than surrender to the military.
At least 3,197 dissidents were killed or disappeared during the 1973-90 dictatorship, according to an official report. More than 1,000 of them remain unaccounted for.
Among those detained Sunday was Mireya Garcia, a member of an organization of relatives of the disappeared. She called the police action to keep protesters from the palace "a provocation against people who helped restore democracy."
The government said it was trying to prevent a repeat of last year, when masked demonstrators attacked the building with a fire bomb that started a small blaze.
As in previous years, the worst violence took place when the march ended at a cemetery containing a memorial to the victims of the dictatorship. Police entered with water trucks and chased demonstrators through the tombs amid clouds of tear gas.
Pinochet died under indictment on human rights charges and facing scores of lawsuits, but many in this South American nation are bitter that he never was sentenced to prison time — unlike many of his subordinates, whom he blamed for abuses.
More than 500 former officers and security agents have been tried and many jailed, including 50 generals, and scores of trials are still pending.
The Pinochet family plans a private ceremony Tuesday at the former dictator's country home to inaugurate a crypt that will house his ashes.