On Monday, Chile commemorated the 50th anniversary of the military coup that inaugurated a bloody dictatorship holding a ceremony at the government palace in La Moneda attended by several regional leaders. The military regime led by General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) killed 3,200 people, of whom 1,469 disappeared. Half a century later, 297 repressors have been sentenced and 1,300 trials for human rights violations are still open.
The Chilean Coup was a real blow for those who had supported the Unidad Popular government, which corresponded with the emergence of a new political consciousness challenged by violent repression by Allende’s opponents and their international accomplices. For Western and non-Western progressive forces, Chile soon became a bastion of democracy and a warning sign of the dangers to which democracies were exposed in a time of transformation in the world economic order. The Russell II Tribunal on Dictatorships in Latin America (1974-76) was a pioneer in exposing widespread crimes against humanity across the continent that, in the Chilean case, these assumed even more clearly a violation of people’s free choice to self-determine politically and economically. The end of the ‘Chilean way to socialism’ marked the slow decline of the global left and the triumph of liberalism destined to spread globally, whose human, social, economic, political, and environmental damage is being weighed today.
This commemoration comes at a time of political polarisation between the ruling party and the right-wing opposition, due to disagreement over the role played by each one in the coup. Still, the coup wound is not healed: the failure to remember and elaborate on one’s past has evidently made Chile fragile, which has returned to democracy since the 1990s with a silent pact linking the dictatorship’s military to the historical phase of ‘transition’.
The celebrations for the Chilean golpe taking place these days should encourage people to reflect on both past and present and, in the words of Luciana Castellina, ‘on how truly uncommon, i.e., global, the memory of humanity really is, at a time that is so called’.
The conference organised by the Institut des Amériques and the cities of Grenoble and Lyon points in this direction. It proposes to explore the history of the Southern Cone countries between 18 and 20 September 2023, for a comprehensive and supranational reflection on repression and the exile community’s responses to it. Comparing and contrasting the two resulting processes of exile and cultural resistance, the aim of the conference is to understand the particularities and similarities between resistance and creation, to remember as much as possible and link the tragic events of fifty years ago to the silent and ignored dictatorships of today.