SANTIAGO – Groups of relatives of the victims of the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, along with associations of those injured and arrested in the protests besetting Chile since Oct. 18, on Thursday announced that they will join forces with the demonstrators to commemorate the three-month anniversary since the start of the social crisis.
Up to 16 social organizations called a “silent march against repression” for next Saturday, the three-month mark in the most significant crisis Chile has experienced since its return to democracy in 1990.
“We’re joining this movement because we can’t let go by what occurred in October, when it became evident that there was no ‘never again’ that so many of us had been shouting about, and the crimes were being repeated in such a bloody and cruel way like under the dictatorship,” Alicia Lira – the president of the Relatives of Executed Politicians Group (AFEP), that is to say politicians executed during the Pinochet regime – told EFE.
“We never thought that we’d be fighting for truth and justice for these crimes. It’s atrocious to think that they raped boys and girls in police stations and tortured minors,” the human rights activist said.
Along with AFEP, organizations such as Relatives of Political Prisoners, the National Coordinator of High School Students and the powerful CUT union were calling on their members to demonstrate, the first time that these groups have called for a joint protest.
“We’re clear about the fact that unity makes strength,” said the spokesperson for the recently-created Coordinator of Victims of Eye Trauma, Marta Valdes, told EFE.
Valdes emphasized that “it makes a lot of sense that those who’ve spent the last 40 years denouncing human rights violations” are joining in the demands of those people injured in street protests in the past three months.
“There’s a common purpose in what they’ve sought for so many years and what we’re also asking for. We have a lot in common,” she added.
As of Dec. 30, 2019, the state-run National Institute for Human Rights (INDH) had registered 359 cases of eye injuries in the protests.
Two of those people – Gustavo Gatica and Fabiola Campillai – have become iconic figures for Chilean demonstrators, given that they were completely blinded when they were hit with rubber riot-control pellets and a tear gas grenade, respectively, presumably fired by police to disperse protesters.
In addition, at least 27 people have lost their lives, five of them presumably at the hands of security forces, and those injured and arrested number in the thousands. There have also been hundreds of complaints of human rights violations on the national and international level during the social crisis.
Although the demonstrations have lost some steam recently, they are still disrupting activities in Santiago and elsewhere and the crisis seems far from being resolved, despite the social measures announced by the government and the referendum scheduled for April on a new Constitution.
Lira asserted that AFEP will continue mobilizing against the Sebastian Piñera government, saying that “Here, nobody’s going to back off until there’s truth and justice for the crimes of the dictatorship, but also for those being committed today.”