The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today participated in a ceremony in remembrance of the fortieth anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile, held in Rome by the Foundation “Italianaeuropei,” which was convened by former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, who chairs the institution.
The OAS Secretary General said the coup d’état of September 11, 1973, against the government headed by Salvador Allende occurred at the heart of the darkest period in Latin America’s history, “full of national security dictatorships in the Southern Cone and civil wars in Central America. During that period of obscurantism, Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship was noted for its arrogant brutality.” The Secretary General added that "Pinochet became, and remains today, the most hideous face of Latin America’s dictatorships.”
Secretary General Insulza said the coup led by General Pinochet destroyed democracy in Chile and spawned a bloody dictatorship that "through summary executions, enforced disappearances, torture and mass incarceration, the exile of hundreds of thousands of persecuted people and the suppression of all freedoms and rights of citizens, would become a symbol of human rights violations in the world."
The head of the OAS said that "the bombing of La Moneda Palace; the heroic death of President Allende and his colleagues; the sports fields and ships converted into imprisonment and mass torture camps; massive exile; the boastful attitude of the military leaders, with colorful coats and sunglasses; the clumsy statements which, aside from trying to justify crimes, sought to elevate them as an 'example to the world,' were directly witnessed by millions and generated widespread popular rejection and a wide international solidarity that Chileans still remember with gratitude."
During the memorial ceremony of the Chilean institutional breakdown, a message from the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, was read. He recalled that the "bloody overthrow of the constitutional order" in Chile gave birth to a "global debate on the transformation processes of economic and social structures and the risks to political and democratic institutions." President Napolitano highlighted the deep solidarity with the Chilean people that the Pinochet coup d’état inspired in his country, and he recalled the "deep admiration" felt by his countrymen on "the return of democracy in Chile and the subsequent evolution of the political, economical and social life" that took place in the South American country.
In his intervention, the leader of the OAS thanked the Italian President and said that, like other countries, Italy showed solidarity towards the exiles that fled the military regime. He also recalled that the Italian Embassy in Chile protected "amid great difficulties and threats, hundreds of Chilean leaders and activists, and the regime's hostility towards it also became a symbol of courage and solidarity to the world." He went on to recall that it was in Rome that the first coordination center of international solidarity with the South American country was installed, "Democratic Chile," in which he worked for seven years, from 1974 to 1981. Speaking of his exile years in Italy, where one of his sons was born, the Secretary General recalled the solidarity of the Italian people. "I felt that solidarity vividly when visiting unions, communes, villages, associations at dozens of events and meetings,” he added.
In his speech, Insulza said the coup in Chile led the world, and especially Europe, to undergo a deep analysis about why it had occurred and what lessons could be drawn from the brutal breakdown experienced on the democratic road to socialism. "Although the debate took place in many countries and had many voices, there is no doubt the one that occurred in Italy was crucial, but this was not only because lessons were quickly drawn for Italian politics from what happened in Chile, but also because they powerfully influenced our thinking," he said.
According to Secretary General Insulza, the debate during the exile years contributed to the creation of the Coalition of Parties for Democracy (Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia), which led to victory—in the plebiscite of October 5, 1988, that ended the dictatorship of Pinochet—the party that, from then on, ruled Chile for twenty years. “It was the expression of the historical convergence of Christian and Socialists forces, which had been opposing in 1973, and then were able to forge an alliance and a majority that still exists," he said. "The renewal of Chilean socialism, the thorough unity of its many forces that were scattered in Chile and their full agreement with Chilean Democracy were the result of a deep critical analysis and self-criticism that went on for years, and were strongly influenced by the keys within the Italian debate, which were promoted first by Enrico Berlinguer, and then by all Italian communists and socialists after 1973," he said.
In the final part of his speech, the head of the OAS said that "today all of that remains in the past," and he added that nowadays, the concerns of Chileans are focused in new and important goals. "The times and the demands of society have changed, because we made them change. Progressism means never being satisfied with what has been achieved, but to look for permanent improvements in democracy and society," he asserted.
"We still want to change our society with more democracy; young people, who demand more freedom, better education, more job opportunities, effective inequality reduction, and better models of political organization, are part of the democratic movement and take the place we forged with our effort and with your solidarity," said Secretary General Insulza, who concluded his speech by recalling the ties between Italy and Chile: “The emotional and political closeness that bonded Chileans and Italians from September 11, 1973 onwards, has not changed. For that reason, once again, I thank you for this invitation, and I hope that together we can continue along the path of democracy and freedom, for the good of our peoples."
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.