Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Clashes in Chile over Pinochet tribute film

AFFRONT:Running battles between police and protestors lasted about two hours, with 64 people arrested and 22 injured — 20 police and two demonstrators, the authorities said

AFP, SANTIAGO

Hundreds of protesters clashed violently with police in the Chilean capital on Sunday as they demonstrated against the screening of a new documentary honoring former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet.

“Murderer, Murderer” chanted demonstrators at Teatro Caupolican in Santiago ahead of the screening of Pinochet, which celebrates the general’s 1973 to 1990 military dictatorship.

Some protesters wore masks to conceal their identity as they threw sticks and stones at police.

More than 500 police in full riot gear responded by firing tear gas and water cannons to prevent their advance on the theater, where a few thousand Pinochet supporters were gathering for the tribute.

Officers charged on protesters. Most ran for cover, but some were pinned to the ground and arrested. A few demonstrators attacked Pinochet sympathizers to try to prevent them from getting to the theater.

The clashes lasted about two hours. Sixty-four people were arrested, and 22 were injured — 20 police and two demonstrators, the Santiago authorities said.

The screening has triggered a firestorm of controversy, pitting Pinochet supporters, claiming the right to free speech, against relatives of regime victims who are angry the event was allowed to proceed.

The government of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, the nation’s first right-wing head of state since Pinochet left office, has said it does not support the tribute, but respected its right to take place.

More than 3,200 people were killed or disappeared during Pinochet’s rule and researchers have documented about 37,000 cases of torture and illegal detention.

Pinochet died in 2006, aged 91. He was never sentenced for rights abuses during his regime.

“This event is an affront on human rights,” read one sign held by a protester, while others held up posters featuring the portraits of missing or killed relatives as they shouted angry slogans at people trying to get to the event.

Supporters of the general meanwhile brandished posters with Pinochet’s image and the word “thanks” underneath.

“The police are limiting our activity in order to allow activities in honor of the dictator. This is paying tribute to a criminal,” Association of Relatives of Detained and Disappeared vice-president Mireya Garci told CNN Chile.

Pinochet examines the political circumstances that preceded the US-supported coup against then-socialist president Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973.

Inside the theater, more than 2,000 supporters crowded a hall to pay tribute to the former dictator.

Special guests included Miguel Mendez, a grandson of a minister who served under former Spanish president Francisco Franco and Jaime Alonso — a prosecutor in the trial against former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.

A judge threw out a bid by relatives of Pinochet’s victims to ban the event. More than 350 cases of disappearance, torture, illegal detention and conspiracy under the dictatorship remain open.

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