SANTIAGO – Chilean President Michelle Bachelet unveiled on Tuesday a plaque commemorating two generals who were killed for their resistance to a military coup.
The ceremony took place on the fifth floor of the defense ministry, near the office occupied by Gens. Rene Schneider and Carlos Prats during their respective tenures as head of Chile’s armed forces.
Though their murders were separated by four years, both crimes arose in the context of domestic and international hostility Salvador Allende, the Socialist who was elected president in 1970, winning by a plurality against two other candidates.
Schneider was killed following the election by right-wing extremists seeking to kidnap him with the idea of getting the Chilean military to prevent Allende from taking office.
Declassified US government documents showed that the botched abduction was part of a CIA plan to deny Allende the presidency.
Schneider was succeeded by Prats, a “constitutionalist” whose refusal to countenance a coup against Allende led to his ouster as army chief in August 1973.
After the violent putsch led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006) on Sept. 11, 1973, Prats and wife Sofia Cuthbert went into voluntary exile in Argentina, but agents of Chile’s DINA secret police pursued them there.
Prats and Cuthbert died on Sept. 30, 1974, in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo, when a bomb attached to the bottom of their car went off.
In her speech at the unveiling, Bachelet – the daughter of an air force general who was tortured to death by DINA for opposing Pinochet – said that it was important to honor Schneider and Prats and to understand their commitment to the law and the constitution.
“That constitutes a legacy and a fundamental example, not only for the army, but for national defense and for state institutions as a whole,” she said.
Bachelet said that Schneider and Prats each followed the only legitimate course of action by demonstrating loyalty to the president, unqualified adherence to the constitution and faithfulness to the republican values of the Chilean armed forces.
Also present for the ceremony were members of the Schneider and Prats families, Defense Minister Jose Antonio Gomez, army commander Gen. Humberto Oviedo and the head of the general staff, Gen. Ricardo Martinez Menanteau.