Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chilean Bishops Urge Reconciliation on Coup Anniversary

A group of Chilean Roman Catholic bishops called for reconciliation on the fortieth anniversary of the military coup d’état that ousted President Salvador Allende.

“Beyond the different and legitimate reading of the facts, as pastors of the Church we want to remember this date and reflect on the dignity of the human person,” read part of a statement from the bishops.

The letter observed, “Reconciliation cannot be imposed by decree, but comes from a merciful heart. Our belief is that small personal and institutional gestures can be vital to help heal wounds and contribute to true reconciliation”. 

The bishops also noted the role of the Church as defenders of human rights during the seventeen years of post-coup military rule that was led by General Augusto Pinochet.

“Nothing justifies the violation of human dignity perpetrated starting from 11 September 1973,” said the statement.

Current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera at an event this morning commemorating the coup also echoed the push for reconciliation.

“Human rights violations are the responsibility of those who committed them but also those who could’ve prevented them,” said Piñera on a date officially designated as a national day of remembrance.

In an interview with published today, the man who was elected as Chile’s first conservative leader since Pinochet stepped down in 1990 mentioned that he “thought that my country had just gone mad” when the coup occurred. Yet he blamed Allende for “not respecting basic democratic principles” prior to the golpe and for creating a situation where there “was no dialogue”.

Isabel Allende, the daughter of the late president who is now the head of the country’s Socialist Party, also mentioned unity among Chileans.

“Only truth and justice will allow us to come together as a country.  Never again should we break our democracy, allow coups, or persecute those for their ideas,” said Allende at a commemoration of her father who committed suicide as troops entered the presidential palace.

Despite the calls for reconciliation, the coup and its aftermath continue to divide Chileans today.  For instance, a television series on the Pinochet regime that began to air last month generated heated opinions both for and against the program.

As noted by Global Voices, one Twitter follower accused “Chile, The Prohibited Images” of depicting an “incomplete, biased and ignorant view” while another claimed that allegations of bias would be like “denouncing National Geographic for its reports about Hitler and World War II”.

Video Source– YouTube via euronews (“Thousands of Chilean people (on Monday) have taken part in a march for human rights to mark the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power.”)

Online Sources – La Nacion; Global Voices; BBC Mundo; Catholic Culture

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