Allende now an official Hero
cdbrady at sbcglobal.net
Sat Sep 6 02:36:41 MDT 2003
Chiles Allende seen as a hero
3 decades after overthrow, death
BY KEVIN G. HALL
Knight Ridder News Service
Miami Herald, posted on Sat, Sep. 06,
SANTIAGO, Chile - Thirty years after Chilean President
Salvador Allende died in a U.S.-backed coup, new
books, political tributes, court cases and press
revelations are prompting Chileans to reassess the man
and the 1973 coup that began the 17-year dictatorship
of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Chile is tense as the Sept. 11 anniversary of the coup
Protests have been banned next week, and young
leftists challenged the government Wednesday with a
surprise demonstration in the La Moneda presidential
palace. They want Chile to match neighbor Argentina
and revoke the amnesty laws that protect former
military rulers from prosecution.Police made numerous
arrests as the raucous demonstration spilled onto
Over the objections of socialist President Ricardo
Lagos, 10 lawmakers in his governing coalition
introduced legislation Thursday that would void the
amnesty laws in cases where torture, kidnapping and
illegal detention were involved.
The legislation is sure to keep the issue in public
debate for months to come.
In Valparaiso, Chile's Congress on Wednesday paid its
first homage to Allende, a career legislator and a
socialist who was narrowly elected president on Sept.
4, 1970. His daughter Isabel presides over Chile's
lower house of Congress. His niece, also named
Isabel, is a famous novelist.
Only last month his daughter confirmed what historians
had long contended: that her father committed suicide
as Pinochet's forces approached the palace, using a
rifle that his friend, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro,
had given him.
On a talk show this week, she said that only now were
Chileans honestly assessing her father and Pinochet's
Nobody said there was a coup. There werent murders;
there were excesses. For years it was like this.
Nobody was detained or disappeared, she said. Today,
people know there were murders and gross violations of
human rights. People know it was the policy of the
Allende organized a tribute concert at the National
Stadium, where Pinochets forces held thousands of
political prisoners during the first weeks of the
bloody coup. Top entertainers from Brazil and other
parts of Latin America were to perform.
The Nixon administration, fearful that Chile would
become a communist beachhead, helped end Allende's
three-year rule. President Clinton, and later
Secretary of State Colin Powell, apologized for the
Nominated as Allendes ambassador to Moscow before the
coup, Lagos choked up Wednesday as he recalled
watching the bombing of the presidential palace, which
he now occupies, from his in-laws house.
He was a quality person. You felt like you were in
the presence of something special, Lagos said of his
friend and former political comrade.
Lagos went into exile after the coup, teaching for a
while at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
Pinochet dominated Chilean politics for almost three
decades, which explains why Allendes record and place
in history seldom were discussed.
A truth commission found that 3,198 people died in
political conflict during Pinochets rule, from 1973
to 1990. After Chile returned to democratic rule,
Pinochet flexed his muscles from the shadows as armed
forces chief until 1998, when he became a
He was detained in October 1998 in London on an
extradition request by a Spanish judge who was seeking
to try him for the deaths of Spanish nationals in
Chile. The detention emboldened Chileans, and after
Pinochet returned to Chile in March 2000, ruled
medically unfit for trial in England, he was stripped
of immunity from prosecution at home. Chiles Supreme
Tribunal ruled in July 2002 that he suffered from
dementia and couldnt be tried.
I am convinced that Pinochet's detention in London
started a process that ended with his political and
moral death, said Carmen Hertz, one of the plaintiffs
who brought the landmark human rights case against
Pinochet in Chile.
Lagos will unveil a plaque Wednesday in the room in
the palace where Allende died. And on Thursday, while
Americans mark the second anniversary of the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks, Lagos will reopen an entrance of
the palace that Allende liked to use when greeting the
Pinochet had it sealed off.
The symbolic event, said Pablo Orozco, a close aide to
Lagos, seeks to open doors to the past.
No representatives from the armed forces were invited.
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