Chile and Mexico presidents mark 50th anniversary of 1973 Chilean coup following demonstrations marred by violence

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The presidents of Chile and Mexico held a joint press conference Sunday marking the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Chilean coup where General Augusto Pinochet ousted democratically-elected President Salvador Allende. The appearance of the presidents followed a peaceful march that later turned violent with clashes between police and civilians. In the 17 years of military dictatorship that followed, Pinochet’s regime resulted to more than 3,000 deaths and 40,000 disappearances. In Latin America, the 1973 coup is regarded as the “first 9-11,” when Western forces allegedly intervened to destroy the nation’s democracy, armed Pinochet’s death squads, and implemented harsh neoliberal policies that plunged the country into a severe economic crisis.

Ahead of the 50th anniversary, the Chilean government announced a new initiative to find the remains of more than a thousand people who were disappeared during Pinochet’s dictatorship.

During the joint address, Chilean President Gabriel Boric underscored the longstanding connections between Chile and Mexico. He said that the alliance between Chile and Mexico is based on a commitment to people-centered democratic values, including putting “The Poor First” and promoting human rights. The joint address was given after a march in Santiago, Chile’s capital. Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador reiterated Boric’s words. He praised Allende and his commitment as a revolutionary peacemaker. The march turned violent, leading to confrontations between civilians and law enforcement,

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An Al Jazeera correspondent reported that members of the Communist Party and Socialist Party participated peacefully, but Pinochet supporters were armed with “rocks and Molotov cocktails.” Despite the turn of events, most participants in the march, bearing Chilean flags and shouting slogans demanding “truth and justice now” or proclaiming “Allende lives” continued to march peacefully. The march was a reminder about the impact the 1973 coup had on Chilean democracy.