Allende’s legacy strong 40 years after Chile coup. LUIS ANDRES HENAO/AP

Allende’s legacy strong 40 years after Chile coup

  • Sept. 11 marks the anniversary for Chile coup by Pinochet

Soldiers and firefighters carry the body of President Salvador Allende out of the destroyed La Moneda presidential palace after Chile coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. it’s been 40 years since Chile coup. (AP Photo/El Mercurio, File)

As bombs fell and rebelling troops closed in on the national palace, socialist President Salvador Allende avoided surrender by shooting himself with an assault rifle, ending Chile’s experiment in nonviolent revolution and beginning 17 years of dictatorship.

But as the nation marks Wednesday’s 40th anniversary of the Chile coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Allende’s legacy is thriving. A socialist is poised to reclaim the presidency and a new generation, born after the return to democracy in 1990 has taken to the streets in vast numbers to demand the sort of social goals Allende promoted.

“Forty years after, he is mentioned more than ever by the young people who flood the streets asking for free, quality education,” said his daughter, Sen. Isabel Allende.

“Allende’s profile keeps on growing while Pinochet is discredited.”

Chileans have focused their anger on the costly university system installed under Pinochet, and on the vast gap between rich and poor that resulted from his free-market economic policies.

“Most of the problems affecting us today have an origin in this terrible period of our history,” said Camila Vallejo, a former student protest leader now running for Congress for the Communist Party.

Salvador Allende became the first elected Marxist leader in the Americas when he took office in 1970, though he won just 36 percent of the vote and faced a hostile Congress.

He embarked on what he called “the Chilean path to socialism,” nationalizing the copper industry that had been dominated by U.S. companies and using the money to fund land redistribution while improving health care, education and literacy.

Allende was a nightmare for President Nixon

The embrace of socialism, which included a three-week visit by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was a Cold War nightmare for U.S. President Richard Nixon, who approved a covert campaign to aggravate the country’s economic chaos and helped provoke the military takeover.

The Sept. 11 coup initially was supported by many Chileans fed up with inflation that topped 500 percent, chronic shortages and factory takeovers. But it destroyed what they had proudly described as South America’s strongest democracy.

Pinochet shut down Congress, outlawed political parties and sent security forces to round up and kill suspected dissidents.

The list of people killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons during Pinochet’s regime totaled 40,018. The government estimates 3,095 of those were killed, including about 1,200 of whom no trace has ever been found.

Pinochet cut short Allende’s reforms. Chile’s schools largely had been free before Pinochet encouraged privatization and cut funding. He privatized pension and water systems, returned land to old owners, trimmed wages, slashed trade barriers and encouraged exports, building a free-market model credited for Chile’s fast growth and institutional stability.

It is his most widely praised achievement. A string of mostly left-leaning governments that followed Pinochet have left the core of that system, and even his constitution intact.

Chile Coup: Views of the new generation of Chileans

Sept. 11 marks the anniversary for Chile coup by Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet and Salvador Allende during ceremony naming Pinochet as commander in chief, weeks before Chile Coup. (AP Photo/Enrique Aracena)

“His human rights legacy remains a complex and divisive issue for Chileans,” noted Patricio Navia, a Chilean political scientist at New York University. “But the economic model implemented under the dictatorship has been legitimized by five consecutive democratic governments led by presidents who personally opposed the Pinochet dictatorship.”

Now, however, many Chileans are starting to demand more: free education, better health care and pensions.

“This new generation is remembering that there are things that are far more important than the economy,” said Patricio Fernandez, editor of The Clinic, Chile’s most widely read weekly magazine. “It’s a return to the energy lived during Allende’s time.”

Meanwhile, the complex structures Pinochet created to protect human rights violators have corroded. About 700 military officials face trial for the forced disappearance of dissidents and about 70 have been jailed for crimes against humanity.

And even people who remained silent on previous anniversaries, including military officials, Supreme Court magistrates and right-wing lawmakers, are now apologizing for their roles during the dictatorship.

“Nothing justifies the serious, repeated and unacceptable human rights violations” committed by the dictatorship, said President Sebastian Pinera, whose center-right coalition includes many figures who worked for Pinochet.

Polls indicate that when Chileans vote for president on Nov. 17, they are overwhelmingly likely to bring back Michelle Bachelet, a Socialist Party member who left the presidency four years ago because Chilean law bans consecutive re-election. She promises to push for the most wide-ranging reforms in four decades, overhauling the dictatorship-era constitution.

Bachelet’s opponent, Evelyn Matthei, is a childhood friend whose father ran the military school where Bachelet’s own father, a general, was tortured to death for opposing the Chile coup.

Pinochet, who died in 2006, repeatedly insisted he had saved the country from Marxism, but a poll this month found that only 18 percent of Chileans now agree. Sixty-three percent think the Chile coup destroyed democracy, the CERC polling firm said. The survey of 1,200 people had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

“The right has tried to put the focus on economic reforms, the modernization of the state and the economy as Pinochet’s greatest legacy,” said Ricardo Brodsky, director of the Museum of Memory, where TV screens endlessly show the bombing of the presidential palace. “But to Chilean society today, the greatest legacy of Pinochet remains the human rights violations, the disappeared and the dead. I think this is a battle that they lost.”

Chile coup in images


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El 11 de septiembre Chileno: 40 años después del golpe militar.Memorias de Una Generación que creció en Dictadura

El 11 de septiembre Chileno: 40 años después del golpe militar
Óscar Contardo  

Yo he seleccionado el extracto siguiente de mi ensayo “Me Acuerdo,” que abre la colección Volver a los 17, para los lectores del Los Angeles Review of Books.


Chile’s September 11: Marking the 40th Anniversary of Pinochet


Volver A Los 17

Chile’s September 11: Marking the 40th Anniversary of Pinochet by Óscar Contardo


September 11th, 2013

This article was translated from Spanish by LARB Contributing Editor Magdalena Edwards. The original Spanish edition is included 


WE THE PEOPLE OF CHILE have also had our history marked by September 11. On that date 40 years ago, a military junta brought Salvador Allende’s socialist government to an end and with it broke a democratic tradition that was part of my small country’s cultural identity. The image of La Moneda Palace, the seat of our government, in flames after being bombed by the Chilean Air Force served as the opening credits to a new history under the shadow of a military regime that would gain worldwide fame for the ruthless persecution of its opponents.

Tuesday, September 11, 1973, was the beginning of 17 years of dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet. A generation of Chileans came of age during his rule while listening to their elders tell stories about the democracy that had been lost and was now so difficult to recover. This is my generation, which in contrast to our parents’ and grandparents’, was raised in a country in the midst of dictatorship.

I am the editor of an essay collection that both marks the 40th anniversary of our September 11 and invites us to remember. 17 Again is a book that brings together personal stories and private memories of a handful of Chilean writers who offer their intimate testimony of the many things the coup d’état suddenly unleashed. The title is a subtle, perhaps ironic, reference to a song of the same name written by the composer, singer, and folklorist Violeta Parra, an icon of Chilean culture known around the world for “Gracias a la vida,” popularized by Mercedes Sosa and later by Joan Baez. Parra’s song “17 Again” describes the feeling of nostalgia provoked by remembering the years of our youth. In the essays I have collected on this anniversary, the exercise in nostalgia takes on a tone of strange melancholy tinged with fear, at times diffuse and barely perceptible and, on occasion, brutally violent. 

We who grew up during the Pinochet years were children and adolescents who only knew democracy by name, like a distant memory told almost always with a bittersweet yearning that was difficult to swallow; like an old piece of candy with a poisonous center called coup d’état, which creates an overpowering aftertaste of fear that will never go away entirely. 17 Again is a record of those years, the memories of a generation shaped by dictatorship.

The authors represent a varied landscape, diverse in style and arc: writers of fiction and nonfiction, distinct narrators and screenwriters and playwrights, journalists exercising their vocation, one translator of Ginsberg and one film director. Some of them come from families persecuted by the dictatorship — such as the novelist Rafael Gumucio, or Andrea Insunza, nonfiction writer and author of President Michelle Bachelet’s biography — and others went about uncovering our political reality as social tensions became unsustainable, such as the internationally acclaimed Alejandro Zambra, author of Formas de volver a casa (translated into English as Ways of Going Home and published by FSG in 2013). 17 Again should also have the texture reflective of a semi-feudal society, where class standing is fundamental: the essays bear witness, from the elegant districts of Santiago to the working class neighborhoods, from the farmers’ grandson to the provincial policeman’s son.

The history of this book and my idea of bringing together some of the best Chilean writers born between 1969 and 1979 came from my own connection to my memories from that time — a connection that, once I read all the essays, I confirmed was not only mine. My invitation was straightforward: an email to each of the writers where I explained the project in three lines. The responses were immediate and the outcome, honest and generous. 17 Again is the literature of a generation that looks at Roberto Bolaño’s work the way the prior generation read Donoso or Neruda: seeking itself in his reflection as a universal kind of Chilean. This is a generation that, at the same time, carries in its blood a shared past dominated by the memory of dictatorship, by a childhood with Pinochet as its lullaby.

I’ve selected the following excerpt of my essay “Me Acuerdo,” or “I Remember,” which opens 17 Again, for the readers of the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Some time ago a friend gave me a book. That book was neither a novel, nor an essay, but rather a biography that at first glance was something like a list of prayers. As I read the pages a mantra emerged with varied endings for each repeated beginning. Every phrase described small, subtle, and stark scenes from the childhood and adolescence of Joe Brainard, the North American visual artist who gained celebrity with that book, which would soon be imitated by the writer Georges Perec.

Brainard had decided to write — with fragments glimmering like broken glass under the sun — a strange autobiography that used language like a collage of memories. Brainard’s book is called I Remember and every sentence begins in the same way:

I remember the chicken noodle soup when I was sick.
I remember wondering why, if Jesus could cure sick people, why He didn’t cure all sick people.
I remember trying to realize how big the world really is.

The friend who gave me that book probably did it because I like memories. I use them like talismans, like a stock of provisions, like my own museum that I try to visit in the way one visits a sanctuary or a church. I use memories much more than imagination. I enjoy them the way I enjoyed Brainard’s I Remember: contemplating them carefully, lingering over the details, connecting them, polishing their edges, tying them together in strands that could be pearls.

The Uruguayan writer Mario Levrero once said, “People think, almost unanimously, that what interests me is writing. What interests me is remembering.” This phrase explains me in full measure.

My first memories are in Talca, a city 250 kilometers south of Santiago, in 1978. I was four years old. My memories are connected to a dim image of an Argentine military man on the television, surely it was Videla, and a thought went through my head: the military are in charge of governing countries. This is how things are. Then, no more images, only sounds, loose words that mix together soccer and the murmurs of another possible war with Argentina over a land dispute in Magallanes, where the continent ends. The Argentines, the adults said, were going to bomb a dam along the Andes mountain range, which would flood the city, which, according to my father, would make things easier for enemy combat.

“Talca is a hole,” my father said, daring to give over as a fact a geographical detail that I never confirmed. That phrase stayed in my head, and I tried to find the horizon in the edges of the hole where we lived. And those edges were the contours of the hills and mountains that surrounded the city, the outline of the headless volcanoes in the western horizon and the curved wall of brown and parched coastal hills in the east.

There was no sense in trying to escape the eventual Argentine invasion because there was nowhere to go: they would arrive from the south and through the mountains and so to flee to the coast was useless because there in the sea was the navy, which, though Chilean was not completely trustworthy, for reasons that my father summarized by snorting in a manner that meant something between slight annoyance and the rictus of bitterness that frequently crossed his face.

In the essay by Álvaro Bisama, author of an unsettling account of the Virgin Mary’s miraculous appearances as told in his novel Ruido, my father’s unease with the Chilean Navy takes on an intimate and sadly familiar feeling. Bisama’s father, a university professor, was expelled from teaching and detained on the navy’s infamous ship Esmeralda, which served as a political jail. Some of the people detained there were never freed and their bodies were never recovered. Bisama’s father was freed, but he was not able to return to teaching for years.

Without the navy at our side, all signs pointed to the obvious — from the bombing of the dam, to the massive flooding, to the trans-Andean tanks and troops — we would all become Argentine, which did not seem to be the worst idea when I looked at the world map: Argentina looked big and was a rosy pink, while Chile was a greenish sliver that lacked the surface area to carry its own name, which dragged out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean like a buoy marking a shipwreck.

Our neighborhood in Talca housed the city’s public employees. This set off my mother’s alarm bells; she saw an agent from the CNI (Centro National de Información), the regime’s secret police, behind every pair of dark sunglasses. We had to speak in low voices. All the parents of my little neighbor friends were potential snitches in her mind, though she lowered her guard in a few cases.  

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I learned how to read, but I do recall the anxiety I felt about the possibility of confusing the letter “E” with the number “3.” Nor do I remember the first book I read. Those milestones were diluted in my memory and were colonized by other epiphanic moments related to reading: the deep sadness brought on when reading more and more of Miguel Strogoff’s adventures (yes, in my translation of Verne’s classic the protagonist is Miguel) and knowing that inevitably the book would end and I would have to abandon that world of permanent travel; and the intoxicating process of falling in love with one of the characters in Jane Eyre. No doubt I learned to read with an installment from a collectible encyclopedia. My father would buy me a pair every week:Fauna, MonitorOnce Upon A Time There Was Man. Many years later I would see a piece by the Argentine visual artist Óscar Bony. It is the photographic archive of a performance where a worker couple shares reading time with their young son. I thought of my father and his books and the idea of education he had planned for my brothers and me.

I was 10 years old when my father gave me Earth and Its Resources, an illustrated volume with all kinds of statistics and lots of maps. Inside it said that a military junta governed Chile, which took power after a coup d’état. The same information was in the Visual de Salvat. The Sopena dictionary, on the other hand, had been published in the 1960s and highlighted the civility and democracy that marked the Chilean people. Years later I secretly looked up the definition of the word “degollar” (to slit someone’s throat) in the Sopena dictionary — that was right after the assassination of José Manuel Parada, Santiago Nattino, and Manuel Guerrero in 1985. The three leftist militants were kidnapped and had their throats slit by the Chilean police. I did not dare ask my parents the meaning of that verb, “degollar,” because I wanted to protect them from telling me something that I intuited as far too violent for a child to hear.

What I read sent me into a deep and dark gloom that I felt again years later when I saw a piece in a magazine about the kidnapping of the student Carmen Gloria Quintana and the Chilean-North American photographer Rodrigo Rojas DeNegri. The article was illustrated with drawings of the two young people tied up and at the mercy of the military officers. The officers insulted them, mocked them, and beat them until they were lifeless and then doused them in gasoline. Rodrigo Rojas died four days later and his case marked a change in Ronald Reagan’s Chile policy. Carmen Gloria survived. I felt like I was living in a wasteland strewn with bodies with their throats slit, burned bodies, bodies like bloody rag dolls tossed to death.


My father’s brother lived in New York and each time he visited us he made my father take note of the backwardness of the city, the people, the highways, and life in general in Chile. My father listened to him with resignation. What could he say? Living in backwardness is not something one can solve with willpower. My father was not too aware of technological advances and conceded greater value to older things: he could not imagine that a Japanese car might be better than a German one or that a Sanyo radio could compete with one by RCA. He believed the vacuum tube television set had greater nobility than a Trinitron ever would.

I, on the other hand, folded at the possibility of a personal computer and still remember the first time I heard “Victims” by Culture Club on headphones. The day I first saw an electronic scale at the Caltil supermarket on Calle 1 Sur was a Saturday and it was cloudy. An intoxicating smell of freshly baked bread infused the place, which helped to consecrate the moment as I watched the little green numbers appear automatically when a bag of bread fell on the tray. That scene was, for me, a gesture of sophistication and modernity similar to the inauguration of the downtown Caracol building (literally a shopping mall with a spiral ramp inside, called “caracol” as in “snail”) with its cramped little stores selling beige clothes. I think those were the first indications of the eruption of the market in my life, a spectrum that widened with time: Japanese cars, Lois jeans, Diadora sneakers, videocassette recorders. The merchandise was a colorful and dazzling consolation prize that was not enough to go around.


Today the past comes back to us in unexpected ways. We have two women vying for the presidency: Evelyn Matthei and Michelle Bachelet, the first woman elected as Chile’s president from 2006 to 2010. Matthei and Bachelet are both daughters of men deeply involved in our country’s history. Bachelet’s father served in Salvador Allende’s government, then was held and tortured by Pinochet’s secret police, only to die in military custody in 1974. Matthei’s father is a retired air force general and was a member of the military junta. They were friends until the coup d’état separated their destinies and their families. These events seem strange, a fictional tale composed by an astute screenwriter who reminds us at several turns that our past can make itself present in infinite ways.

Chile’s presidential elections will be held on November 17, 2013.



Óscar Contardo is a journalist and a writer. His books include: Pretension: Class Ambition, Snobbery and Society in Chile,(Ed Español Siútico) Weird: A Chilean Gay Story, andSantiago Capital.


Óscar Contardo


En 2008 Oscar Contardo publicó Siútico: arribismo, abajismo y vida social en Chile (Vergara) que se mantuvo un año entre los más vendidos del país y fue considerado por la crítica local entre los más importantes del año. El libro Siúticoes una biografía de una palabra -sinónimo de cursi, nuevo rico- muy chilena, usada por Contardo como hilo conductor para relatar la historia del clasismo y el racismo en la sociedad chilena actual.

PUBLISHED BY: Spanish worldwide VERGARA |

Otros libros de Óscar Contardo:


40 AÑOS DEL GOLPE. Memoria Colectiva y Teatro.


Ciclo de teatro contemporáneo que conmemora el Golpe de 1973 y lo sucedido durante la dictadura, en el teatro y la sociedad chilena. Las obras seleccionadas acuden a los acontecimientos políticos y humanos de la historia reciente de Chile, contribuyendo a la reflexión crítica desde varios puntos de vista, promoviendo voces diversas y provocando diferentes emociones.

Fundación Teatro a Mil ha tenido una permanente vinculación con los acontecimientos históricos y presentes que nutren la historia de nuestro país. Es por eso que organiza este ciclo compuesto por seis obras: El año en que nací1974: Población Tejas VerdesEscuelaLa muerte y la doncellaVilla y el estreno Teatronacional. Esta programación se reforzará con una serie de Eventos Especiales abiertos al público y una serie de giras internacionales de obras que también hablan de aquel periodo político chileno.

Un conversatorio con artistas y seis encuentros de trasnoche que acercarán al público y las compañías.

Texto y dirección Lola Arias
Miércoles 4 de septiembre, Teatro Nescafé de las Artes.

Dirección Pablo Barbatto Olave
Del 29 de agosto al 14 de septiembre, Teatro del Puente.

Dirección Alejandro Moreno
Del 4 al 14 de septiembre, Teatro Antonio Varas.

Dirección Moira Miller
Del 5 al 29 de septiembre, Teatro Mori Parque Arauco.

Dirección Guillermo Calderón
Del 7 al 15 de septiembre, Teatro de la Palabra.

Dirección Guillermo Calderón
11 de septiembre, Teatro de la Palabra.

Cómo recordamos nuestra historia. Entrevistas, videos y artículos sobre el teatro en el contexto del Golpe de 1973 y los años de la dictadura.


OCTOBER 22, 2013

Return to Chile, 40 Years After the Coup

Dónde Están? Where are the Disappeared?

Kathy Rentenbach


Dónde están? Where are they? They still don’t know. “Los desaparecidos”. “The disappeared.” They want to know.

Forty years is a long time.  The Moneda, the presidential palace, bombed on 9/11/73.  President Allende, the first socialist president of Chile, dead on 9/11/73.

Nixon and Kissinger danced a jig together and breathed a sigh of relief.  They couldn’t have another Cuba on their hands. January ’59 seemed like yesterday.  And, Che Guevara had  been dead only 6 years. How audacious of Chile: voting in a socialist president, nationalizing the copper mines, giving land to the poor, free milk to children.

Enter General Augusto Pinochet and the DINA (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional-secret police) with more than a little help from the CIA. “La dictadura” was 1973-1990. Congress dissolved, political parties and unions banned, constitution rewritten.

People started disappearing. Men, women and children.  Babies taken from murdered parents and given to the military families to raise.

Pinochet wasn’t just suppressing the Left but rather exterminating. A state of siege begun.

Decrees (“los bandos”), torture, DINA, silence, curfews, shootings, murder, disappearances, fear, violations, more torture, more decrees, more silence and finally obedience of the terrorized.

Dónde están?


Large banner of Allende.

I was swept up in the  40th anniversary commemorative march on 9/8/13. I flew a total of 14 hours to this long splinter of a country tucked between the mighty Pacific and the mightier Andes. Land of volcanoes and earthquakes and Pablo Neruda. Land of deserts and icebergs and Manuel Rodríguez.

I was with 20 other activists mainly from the USA, one from Venezuela, two from Nicaragua.  We were there to  witness past and present Chilean history: the houses of torture, now houses of memory, the history of the dictadura.  There were 60,000 in the streets and at least one helicopter overhead to watch out for our welfare. We marched in solidarity with the “Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados Politicos-Chile”, an organization representing the families of Chile’s disappeared, detained and executed.

Dónde están?

Our coordinators said we would be able to avoid the inevitable tear gas, water cannons and police clash by veering off at the end of the march and not concluding at the General Cemetery.  They were right.

Although the press was full of breathtaking action photos of tanks, carabineros (uniformed police), flaming bottles, hurled rocks, the march was a peaceful slow walk with banners and signs, chanting and songs, from Los Héroes plaza in central Santiago past the Moneda, to the General Cemetery about 3 miles away. The many street dogs wove in and out of the marchers panting in the sun.


Patio 29, General Cemetery. dumping ground of the executed.


We had had a guided tour of the General Cemetery the day prior.  President Allende’s impressive tomb was bedecked with bouquets of flowers; Victor Jara, the Chilean musician who was tortured and murdered, lies in a crypt high in a wall. There is a ladder leading up to it so people can leave their offerings. We laid flowers at the grave of Orlando Letelier, one of Allende’s former ministers who was killed in a car bombing in Washington DC in l976 with his aide, Ronni Moffitt.

The tentacles of the DINA.

Patio 29 in the cemetery is a special place.  This is the area, a “potter’s field”, where bodies of the detained, tortured and assassinated were dumped. Sometimes 2-3 to a grave. Pinochet said that was an “economical” use of space.   Their iron crosses, now rusted, are inscribed “NN” for “no nombre.”  It is now a national monument. After the dictadura ended remains were removed and identified, as best as possible, with DNA analysis.  Some remains are still in question.


Dónde están?

José Ramón Ascencio Subiabre was mine. We made our acquaintance on 9/8/13, on that spring day with clear skies. He was mine and everyone’s.

I had marched and José Ramón Ascencio Subiabre had marched with me. In spirit. He is nowhere to be found.  He would have been 68 this year.

José was the face on my placard.  The human rights groups had all carried placards. A sea of faces and names of the disappeared.  Los desaparecidos.

I looked at José and José seemed to peer back at me.  Young, intense and handsome.  He had been 30 years old, married, an artisan.

And, a member of the Communist party.

He was doomed.

They came for him at his job in the waning of the day. In a white Fiat and a yellow Chevy truck, 6 members of the DINA, the fearsome secret police arrived.  It was just 4 days after Christmas ’75. A hot summer day, no doubt, in Santiago, Chile. Already two years into La Dictadura.

The infamous Villa Grimaldi on the outskirts of Santiago was his next stop.  Eye witness reports say he was “savagely tortured” and placed in “the tower” in a cell 70 cms wide by 2 meters tall with several others. Few survived the “Tower”. Jose was never seen again.  He became a desaparecido. (


Representation of bound and blindfolded torture victim stuffed in a small closet.

Dónde están?

He wasn’t forgotten. His case has been in the courts since then. Villa Grimaldi, once a major torture center of the DINA, is now a peace park and a memorial site.

If you are unfamiliar with torture you can find a 4 page alphabetized list of the wide variety of methods used here: on pages 10-14. Electric shock was easy, effective and cheap. The methods were taught at the “School of the Americas” through which passed the best of the latin american military. It is now called “WHINSEC” (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) and located at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA.  There are many people involved in trying to put an end to The School of the Americas.  See Chile still sends soldiers through the school.

Dónde están?

We toured 3 places which had been houses of torture (2 of which are now houses of memory):  Los Tres y Cuatro Alamos, Londres 38, Nido 20.  None had been military quarters. All were regular suburban houses. They say that people heard the screams of the tortured but were too afraid to intervene. Instead, they crossed over to the other side of the street.

It was difficult for our group to hear what had happened inside the houses. They showed us the tiny narrow closets where the tortured were bound, blindfolded and stuffed in solitary confinement for days. We saw an example of “la parrilla” (the grill), a steel bedframe to which a victim was bound and electricity applied.  Our Chilean speakers were some of the lucky survivors.  They don’t want their history forgotten.


Allende’s tomb.

Dónde están?

General Manuel Contreras, now 84, (once the powerful leader of the DINA and right hand man to Pinochet) and Brigadier Miguel Krassnoff, 67, also of the DINA (both graduates of the School of the Americas) are now in jail in Chile.  Their luxury prison (where they could play tennis if they chose and lived in their separate cabins) was recently closed and they were moved to a less luxurious one just this September. Both have said the DINA didn’t kill or disappear anyone. They maintain all the  disappeared are in the general cemetery and that no one was tortured by the DINA.

Dónde están?

AFEP, Associación de Familiares de Ejecutados Politicos, founded in 1976, is a group who fights for justice for the murdered. We met with them to hear their history.

They said because of the number of cases that AFEP has filed the government has assigned a special minister to process them. They don’t just talk to the government or the courts but use direct actions to make their demands known.  In early September they had done their most recent action. They chained themselves inside the Ministry of the Interior to demand that formal complaints be forwarded through the system.

The president of this group, Alicia Lira Matus, explained how her husband had been killed by the dictatorship and her brother tortured.  Her brother escaped from his jail by tunneling out, lived clandestinely afterward but died prematurely in 2008 due to his prior torture.

There are many groups demanding to know the final resting place of the disappeared, demanding justice and reparations for the tortured and murdered. A few of the killers and torturers are in jail. Most are not. But the past 40 years has shown that they will be pursued relentlessly.

“Ni perdon, ni olvido”. No pardoning and no forgetting.

40 years is a long time.

A cardboard sign posted 9/11/13 at Londres 38, a former torture center in Santiago, declared in black and red magic marker in large block letters:

“Tenía 20 años in 1973. Lleva 40 años desaparecido.”

Roughly translated: “I was 20 years old in 1973. 40 years disappeared.”

Pinochet (arrested in England in 1998 by Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón through international law) deftly sidestepped his jail time by claiming dementia from his wheelchair.

He was nonetheless legally probed until the end of his days. He died in 2006 at age 91 with an embezzled $28 million in  foreign banks. He was denied a state funeral.


Sample of the grill, La parrilla, used in electrocutions.

Dónde están?

Dedicated to the memory of José Ramón Ascensio Subiabre and los desaparecidos.

Kathy Rentenbach lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was a participant in the SOA Watch-Chile delegation 9/7/13-9/14/13. She can be reached at:



Carta de sitios de memoria a postulantes a presidencia de Chile

sm l m m j v s d
44         1 2 3
45 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
46 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
47 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
48 25 26 27 28 29 30  

Una decena de sitios de memorias de distintos puntos de Chile ha enviado una carta a los candidatos y candidatas presidenciales en la que exponen, entre varios otros puntos, la necesidad de que el país se dote de una política que promueva y garantice el derecho a la memoria, a través de una política pública integral.

imagen foto_portada.jpg

A continuación el texto completo de la misiva:Santiago, 11 de octubre de 2013

Señoras y Señores
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P r e s e n t e

Los sitios de memoria queremos expresar nuestra opinión acerca de lo que debe ser parte del programa del próximo gobierno, en materia de sitios de memoria.

A 40 años del Golpe cívico-militar aún no contamos con Políticas Públicas de Memoria que aseguren que la historia reciente de nuestro país pueda ser conocida hoy por todo ciudadano y las generaciones futuras. Aún no hay verdad y justicia plena que aseguren la no repetición de los crímenes y violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidos por el Terrorismo de Estado.

Frente a esto, entregamos nuestras reflexiones respecto al rol que juegan los sitios de memoria en la construcción de una sociedad más democrática. Además, nuestras propuestas y demandas que solicitamos sean consideradas por las autoridades en los próximos años.

Qué son los sitios de memoria

Los sitios de memoria son espacios recuperados o promovidos por organizaciones sociales, de familiares, sobrevivientes y de derechos humanos, con el fin de recuperar la memoria colectiva y ponerla a disposición de la sociedad en general, para la construcción de una cultura basada en el respeto a los derechos humanos.

Los sitios memoria, visibilizan y recuperan memorias e historias vinculadas a la violencia estatal en el periodo de la dictadura, y promueven la reflexión acerca de lo que ocurre en el presente, estableciendo un vínculo con las experiencias del pasado.

En tanto son espacios que en su mayoría fueron utilizados por los organismos represivos, o bien testimonian sobre la violencia y la represión en dictadura, constituyen un patrimonio material e inmaterial de nuestro país.

Como patrimonio material, los sitios de memoria constituyen un valor probatorio de las graves violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidas en estos lugares entre 1973 y 1990. Además, son el soporte para el desarrollo de memorias colectivas, para la promoción de la verdad y para acciones de conmemoración de interés público. En ese sentido, aportan a la construcción de una cultura de valores democráticos que reivindica la acción política para la construcción de nuestra sociedad, y permiten ejercer el derecho de los pueblos a elaborar soberanamente su memoria. Por lo tanto, el Estado tiene la obligación de velar y garantizar:

* La recuperación o construcción de estos sitios.
* Su mantención, reparación, preservación, y funcionamiento en el tiempo.
* El desarrollo y ejecución de proyectos de memoria, que establecen las organizaciones sociales en cada sitio.

La memoria colectiva

Además de constituir un patrimonio material, los sitios de memoria recuperan, reflexionan y difunden los eventos del pasado y los vinculan con el presente, creando un cuerpo de patrimonio inmaterial que aporta al desarrollo de nuestra sociedad hoy.

La memoria recuperada en estos espacios, se relaciona con los crímenes cometidos como parte del Terrorismo de Estado; así como también, con las experiencias, valores y compromisos del movimiento social y de los partidos y organizaciones políticas que fueron perseguidas por la dictadura.

En ese sentido, este trabajo se asocia con la exigencia de verdad y justicia frente a violaciones de derechos humanos del pasado y del presente en nuestro país; condenando las prácticas represivas y anti democráticas impuestas y heredadas desde la dictadura. En esa línea, además se promueve una cultura basada en el respeto entre las personas, organizaciones e instituciones; y en la participación social y política, en los procesos de decisión que definen la vida en común.

El trabajo de los sitios de memoria

Organizaciones sociales vinculadas a espacios de memoria en diferentes lugares del país, han recuperado, elaborado y difundido las memorias de cada sitio. De esta manera, han realizado una contribución a que la sociedad conozca y enfrente su pasado, permitiendo la problematización y reflexión en torno a la memoria. Además, han creado y desarrollado archivos de documentación y testimonios, junto con promover la investigación sobre el pasado. Lo anterior ha permitido la articulación de acciones sociales, conmemorativas, políticas educativas y culturales que contribuyen a la construcción de una sociedad democrática, más justa, igualitaria y participativa.

Evaluación en materia de sitios de memoria

En primer lugar, se constata que el ejercicio ciudadano de recuperación y desarrollo de sitios de memoria, ha contribuido a la democratización de nuestra sociedad. No obstante, se observa la inexistencia de una política pública que asegure y garantice el desarrollo del trabajo que realizan los sitios de memoria.

La mayoría de los sitios no cuentan con financiamiento que permita llevar a cabo sus proyectos, de manera sistemática y permanente. Esto representa un incumplimiento del deber del Estado de velar y garantizar el ejercicio del derecho a la memoria, que en la práctica, limita o restringe el derecho social de conocer el pasado. El financiamiento y la provisión de los medios necesarios para la preservación patrimonial, y para el desarrollo del trabajo que realizan los sitios, es una condición ineludible de este deber.

En ese sentido, también observamos que las personas que visitan los sitios (organizaciones sociales, niños, niñas y jóvenes estudiantes, comunidades locales, delegaciones extranjeras, entre otras), manifiestan que el acceso a estas memorias, y la posibilidad de reflexionar es comúnmente limitada en sus espacios de estudio, asociación o trabajo. Lo anterior confirma la carencia de políticas públicas en relación a la memoria.

Propuesta y demandas

De acuerdo a lo anterior, los sitios de memoria que suscriben este documento, consideran necesario el diseño, desarrollo e implementación participativa de una política pública integral de Memoria que considere la experiencia y aportes de las organizaciones que trabajan en los sitios de memoria. Esta política pública debe cumplir con(1):

1. Reconocimiento de todos los sitios de memoria que son demandados por organizaciones sociales, como monumento nacional; y apoyo a la recuperación de los sitios en todas las regiones del país.

2. Asegurar la reparación, mantención, preservación y funcionamiento de los sitios de memoria, basado en la autonomía de las organizaciones sociales que los han impulsado y sostenido.

3. Asegurar el financiamiento permanente, a través de la Ley anual de presupuesto nacional, para el desarrollo, trabajo y proyectos que realizan los sitios de memoria.

4. Promoción de la investigación, y divulgación de conocimientos sobre violencia estatal, temáticas de memoria, y derechos humanos; mediante la disposición de fondos públicos para estos fines.

5. Inclusión de visitas a sitios de memoria como parte del programa educativo de Estado para todos los niveles de enseñanza.

6. Además, es necesario que esta política pública promueva avances en materia de verdad y justicia, especialmente en relación a:

*  La apertura y acceso público a todos los archivos judiciales o de Estado, asegurando el acceso público y difusión de la información, por parte de los sitios de memoria.
* Exigencia a las fuerzas armadas, carabineros, policía de investigaciones y otras instituciones del Estado, que entreguen la documentación referente al periodo la dictadura militar.
* Justicia plena en todos los casos de violencia estatal.

Este es un llamado y una invitación a candidatos y candidatas presidenciales, quienes tienen la responsabilidad histórica de hacer de los derechos humanos, materia de reflexión explícita en sus programas, de acciones claras y eficaces que permitan avanzar en la construcción de bases sólidas para un Chile democrático, en el que se reconozca el derecho de todos y todas a participar y proponer nuevas formas de organización y convivencia social que condenen la violencia estatal en todo momento de nuestra historia.

Suscriben este documento:

Casa de los Derechos Humanos de Punta Arenas
Casa Memoria José Domingo Cañas
Estadio Nacional, Memoria Nacional
Londres 38, Espacio de Memorias
Memorial Paine, un Lugar para la Memoria
Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi
Sitio de Memoria Ex Clínica Clandestina Santa Lucía
Sitio de Memoria Nido 20
Tres y Cuatro Álamos un Parque por la Paz y la Memoria
Casa de la Memoria de los DDHH de Valdivia


Campaña para desclasificar archivos secretos exige conocer la verdad de los victimarios

 Publicado el 22 Octubre 2013


A 40 años del Golpe de Estado aún existen documentos referidos a los crímenes y violaciones a los derechos humanos que se mantienen confidenciales para el público. Londres 38, ex centro de detención, tortura y exterminio, comenzó la campaña “No más archivos secretos” que durante los próximos meses presentará a las autoridades y distintos órganos de la administración del Estado la petición de desclasificación de la apertura de los archivos.

Esta acción exige un nuevo régimen legal que proteja los archivos, para su conservación y acceso, para así situarlos como una herramienta fundamental para establecer el Derecho a la Verdad y justicia. Londres 38 mediante la junta de firmas exigirá a los órganos de la administración del Estado desclasificar y abrir los archivos de la Comisión Nacional de Verdad y Reconciliación (Rettig), de las dos Comisiones sobre Prisión Política y Tortura (Valech) que reúnen declaraciones de las propias víctimas y diversos documentos, a los cuales se les impuso 50 años de secreto.

En el caso de los informes Rettig y Valech se interpelará al parlamento. En cambio, para los Archivos de la ex Colonia Dignidad se exigirá directamente al Poder Judicial y para los Archivos de las Fuerzas Armadas, policiales y de inteligencia se demandará directamente a las instituciones que respondan por la información a la que no se da acceso o ha sido eliminada.

Lorena Pizarro, parte de la Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos (AFDD), señala que esta política no sólo es un ocultamiento de la información por parte del Estado, sino que es una decisión de mantener en impunidad los nombres de los criminales y cómplices a la violación de los derechos humanos. En este sentido, si bien los 20 años de Transición significaron aplicar la justicia en la medida de lo posible, para la vocera “los informes sobre Prisión Política y Tortura actualmente reconocen víctimas del terrorismo de Estado pero no los victimarios”.

Desde la Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados Políticos (AFEP) se apoya esta campaña puesto que la publicación de estos informes serían un aporte al conocimiento y, más importantemente, permitiría llevar a la justicia los crímenes que aún quedan pendientes. Sin embargo, dudan cómo se hará factible la desclasificación debido a lo reservados que son los órganos responsables de esta información.

De la misma manera, se exige develar los archivos de la ex Colonia Dignidad incautados en el 2005 que incluyen documentos y fichas producidas por esta organización criminal y que, amparándose en la Ley de Inteligencia Nacional, han sido calificadas como «secreto de Estado» por el juez Jorge Zepeda. También se demanda la desclasificación de archivos que aún se encuentran en poder de las fuerzas armadas, policiales y de inteligencia que se produjeron durante la Dictadura.

Las únicas causales de reserva o secreta por las que se puede denegar parcial o totalmente el acceso a la información son cuando ésta afecta el cumplimiento de las funciones del órgano requerido, los derechos de las personas, la seguridad de la Nación, el interés nacional o cuando se hayan sido declarados reservados o secretos, de acuerdo a las causales señaladas en el artículo 8º de la Constitución.

Para ser parte de la demanda de apertura de los archivos que aún en democracia se mantienen en secreto es necesario firmar en

Campaña No más archivos secretos

A 40 años del golpe de estado y de dos décadas de gobiernos civiles hay archivos que se mantienen en secreto.

Entre los desafíos que interpelan a Londres 38, ex centro de detención, tortura y exterminio, en el marco de los 40 años del golpe de estado cívico militar, se encuentra relevar la importancia del derecho al libre acceso a la información y a los archivos para la defensa de los derechos humanos, así como para los derechos civiles en general.

En Chile hay archivos secretos…   Y hay que abrirlos

La falta de información atenta contra los derechos democráticos. Y si ésta se refiere a crímenes y violaciones a los derechos humanos, favorece  la impunidad.

En el marco de los 40 años del golpe de estado cívico militar, Londres 38, ex centro de detención, tortura y exterminio, busca relevar la importancia del derecho al libre acceso a la información y a los archivos para la plena vigencia de los derechos humanos, y de  los derechos civiles en general.

El secreto es antidemocrático y entorpece los procesos de verdad y justicia, perpetuando la impunidad de los culpables. Por ello, en casos de graves violaciones a los derechos humanos, el Estado tiene la obligación de entregar toda la información disponible, y no puede  ampararse en la sola afirmación de la inexistencia de los documentos solicitados, o en restricciones de acceso, como son la privacidad de las personas o la seguridad nacional, causales habituales de reserva para negar el acceso.

A fin de hacer efectivo el derecho al libre acceso a la información en poder de los órganos de la administración del Estado, para alcanzar  la verdad y la justicia, hasta ahora negadas, desde Londres 38, espacio de memorias, exigimos la desclasificación y apertura de los siguientes archivos:

Archivos de la Comisión Nacional de Verdad y Reconciliación (Rettig) y de las dos Comisiones sobre Prisión Política y Tortura (Valech) que reúnen declaraciones de las propias víctimas y diversos documentos, a los cuales se les impuso arbitrariamente 50 años de secreto a pesar de ser información necesaria para esclarecer lo sucedido, hacer justicia y castigar  a los culpables.

Archivos de la ex Colonia Dignidad  incautados en 2005
,  que podrían ser claves para develar casos de graves violaciones a los derechos humanos durante la dictadura. Se trata de miles de documentos y  fichas producidas por esta organización criminal y que, amparándose en la Ley de Inteligencia Nacional, han sido calificadas como «secreto de Estado»   por el juez Jorge Zepeda.

Archivos aun en poder de las fuerzas armadas, policiales y de inteligencia.
  Considerando el tiempo transcurrido y que estos organismos construyeron archivos y produjeron gran cantidad de información, demandamos al Estado su desclasificación  y, en caso de haber sido destruidos, dar a conocer los elementos que lo acreditan.

Una democracia se mide por la posibilidad que las personas tienen de participar efectivamente en la toma de decisiones, pero su participación depende en buena medida de la información con la que cuentan. Es por ello que el libre acceso a la información es un principio democrático fundamental, inherente al derecho a la información y a la libertad de expresión. 

La cultura del secreto en los poderes de Estado es una herencia de la dictadura que debe erradicarse.

Firma la petición diciendo NO MÁS ARCHIVOS SECRETOS. Haremos llegar nuestras firmas a los órganos de la administración del Estado y con ello exigiremos la desclasificación y apertura de archivos.

Formulario de adhesión a Campaña Archivos

Firma la petición diciendo NO MÁS ARCHIVOS SECRETOS!


Personas y organizaciones que adhieren a la campaña

Organizaciones que apoyan la campaña

  • Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos
  • Corporación Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi
  • Comité de Derechos Humanos Nido 20
  • Memorial Paine, un lugar para la Memoria
  • Fundacion 1367. Casa Memoria José Domingo Cañas
  • Comisión Ética Contra la Tortura
  • Archiveros Sin Fronteras Chile
  • Archivo y Centro de Documentación de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile
  • Colectivo Acción Directa
  • Proyecto de la Memoria Histórica
  • Corporación Mutualista Bautista Van Schouwen Vasey
  • Agrupacion de Familiares de Ejecutados Politicos
  • Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Chile
  • Coordinadora de Ex Presos Políticos de Santiago
  • Comando Unitario de Organizaciones Nacionales de Ex Prisioneros Políticos y Familiares
  • Agrupación Nacional de Ex Presos Políticos de Chile
  • Comité de Patrimonio del Colegio de Arquitectos
  • Corporación 3 y 4 Álamos
  • Observadores de Derechos Humanos de la Casa Memoria José Domingo Cañas
  • Asociacion de Ex Presos Politicos Chilenos-Francia AEXPPCH France
  • Fundación Salvador Allende