Chile remembers its 9/11
Thousands of Chileans have marched in the capital Santiago to remember the more than 3,000 people killed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet that was launched 38 years ago with a military coup on September 11, 1973.
Organised by a group of relatives of those killed, the march on Sunday led to a memorial erected at a cemetery to commemorate the victims of Pinochet’s 17-year long regime.
They marched peacefully through the streets, unable to approach the presidential palace La Moneda because of the tight police cordon.
Salvador Allende, the first and only Marxist to come to power in Chile through a popular vote, died at the palace when military forces surrounded it during the coup. He is believed to have committed suicide.
The march in his memory and those of the dictatorship’s victims ended, however, with clashes near the cemetery, where a group of men began to confront the police guarding La Moneda.
Chilean student leader Camila Vallejo sits among a peace sign created from empty teargas canisters used by police against protesters. Photograph: Roberto Candia/AP
Not since the days of Zapatistas’ Subcomandante Marcos has Latin America been so charmed by a rebel leader. This time, there is no ski mask, no pipe and no gun, just a silver nose ring.
Meet Commander Camila, a student leader in Chile who has become the face of a populist uprising that some analysts are calling the Chilean winter. Her press conferences can lead to the sacking of a minister. The street marches she leads shut down sections of the Chilean capital. She has the government on the run, and now even has police protection after receiving death threats.
Wednesday saw the start of a two-day nationwide shutdown, as transport workers and other public-sector employees joined the burgeoning student movement in protest.
“There are huge levels of discontent,” said Vallejo in a recent interview. “It is always the youth that make the first move … we don’t have family commitments, this allows us to be freer. We took the first step, but we are no longer alone, the older generations are now joining this fight.”
“We do not want to improve the actual system; we want a profound change – to stop seeing education as a consumer good, to see education as a right where the state provides a guarantee.
“Why do we need education? To make profits. To make a business? Or to develop the country and have social integration and development? Those are the issues in dispute.”