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Chile dominates the news, forty years on


Why so much attention to a 40th anniversary? Some of the Chileans living in the UK have explained it by saying ‘Many of those of us who lived through that experience may no longer be here for the 50th’. Sadly, they may be right: anyone who was 20 on 11 September 1973 is 60 today.

Chileans and British chilenófilos in the UK established a loose network to promote 40th anniversary events with a website which carries an impressive calendar of events taking place all over the country. Alborada, another UK website concerned with Chile, lists documentary films and events.

Chilean film-make Felipe Bustos Herrera has produced Nae Pasarán, a short documentary telling, through the voices of the shop stewards involved at the time, the story of how workers at Rolls Royce East Kilbride boycotted jet engines sent there for servicing by the Chilean Air Force. The engines had powered British-made Hawker Hunter jets used on September 11 to bomb and rocket the Moneda Palace where Allende and his closest advisors were gathered. A trailer for the film can be viewed here.

Snapshot: Memories of Pinochet – in pictures is an exhibition by photo journalist Julio Etchart, hosted by Amnesty International at the Human Rights Action Centre in Shoreditch, London.

Meanwhile, there has been a plethora of articles in the press and on websites. These include:

Chile, the first dictatorship of globalisation by LAB Editor Mike Gatehouse, who lived in Chile for the last 18 months of the Popular Unity Government.

Uncovering Britain’s secret role in protecting Chile’s 1973 coup by LAB author and contributor Grace Livingstone, who describes the efforts of the British Embassy in Santiago to influence visiting journalists to portray the military junta sympathetically.

Chilean coup: 40 years ago I watched Pinochet crush a democratic dream sees LAB author Hugh O’Shaughnessy, in the Guardian, describe his experience as one of the few foreign reporters present in Santiago at the time.

Allendes’ Socialist Internet by Leigh Phillips in Red Pepper describes the efforts of UK cybernetics expert Stafford Beer to establish a kind of primitive internet to enable Allende and his cabinet to manage information via a non-centralised network of information provision.

A 40 AÑOS DEL GOLPE CÍVICO-MILITAR  a special edition (in Spanish) of the Chilean edition of Le Monde Diplomatique.

Chile. a 40 años del Golpe: Recuerdan quema de libros y obras de arte by Ernesto Carmona for Argenpress describes an exhibition of books rescued and hidden from the dictatorship and includes a video interview with Ramón Castillo, Director of the School of Art of the Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago.

Chile: dos décadas de justicia de transición, published by the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) in Argentina examines a period of disgraceful collaboration by the Chilean judiciary with military repression. In Chile, the judges have finally apologised. In a statement, they said that the judiciary at the time had abandoned its role as protector of basic rights. “The time has come to ask for the forgiveness of victims… and of Chilean society,” they said.

Widow of Missing’s Chilean coup victim carries on her fight for justice describes the continuing battle for justice by Joyce Horman, whose husband Charles was killed by the Chilean military in the days following the coup, almost certainly with the complicity of US intelligence officers in the country at the time, a history that was movingly dramatized by Costa Gavras in the film Missing, Horman is still hopeful that her husband’s killers will be brought to justice.

Agony of Chile’s dark days continues as murdered poet’s wife fights for justice tells the story of the murder of the singer and theatre director Victor Jara and the efforts of his widow Joan Jara and her family to identify his killers and bring them to justice.


Meanwhile, several new books have been published to mark the anniversary:

Chile in my heart by journalist Kate Clark (Bannister Publications, Chesterfield) describes the author’s ‘personal love affair with Chile and its people’. Living and working as a lecturer at the University of Chillán in southern Chile, Kate vividly describes the Popular Unity period, her own life with her husband Ricardo Figueroa and his subsequent arrest and imprisonment by the military junta.

Salvador Allende, Revolutionary Democrat by Victor Figueroa Clark (Pluto Press) is one of the first biographies in English to examine Allende’s entire political career and the passion and intellectual consistency which enabled him, over many years, to construct the coalition which ultimately won the presidential elections in 1970.

Chile from Within, an out-of-print chronicle of the fall of President Salvador Allende, is being published as an ebook, four decades after the coup. The digital version will add audio interviews and archival footage to the original book, which was a 1990 collaboration between Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas and 16 Chilean photographers who documented the troubles.

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