SANTIAGO, CHILE — Chilean human rights organizations staged a rally on Sunday to protest an event held in honor of deceased former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The screening of a new documentary film perceived to be sympathetic to Pinochet and Chile’s 1973-1990 military regime took place at Caupolicán Theater in Santiago and was organized by the September 11 Corporation, a group named after the date of Chile’s September 11, 1973 military coup.
Pinochet died in 2006, but Chilean society remains deeply divided over its period of military rule and state terrorism, in which tens of thousands of Chileans were tortured and at least 3,000 murdered, according to human rights reports. The documentary film screened Sunday, “Pinochet”, credits the former dictator for the new economic policies introduced by the military junta and explains the military’s justification for the coup.
However, Andres Chadwick, a spokesman for the Chilean government under Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and a former legislator to the dictatorship, said he regretted his past support for the military regime. “We shouldn’t continue paying homage to figures from the past. It generates division,” he said.
Police blocked protesters from the area surrounding the theater, while protesters shouted slogans and hurled objects as people entered the theater. The police fired water cannons and used tear gas against the crowd. At least 64 people were arrested during the protest and 22 were injured.
Chilean human rights groups called on the government to cancel the controversial event, taking the case to a Chilean appeals court. However, the court ruled last week that the screening was legal and had to be permitted.