Remembering Allende

I am in Santiago, Chile, on holiday. On Tuesday my wife and I went on a short walking tour which took us to the cemetary, among other places. There we saw Salvador Allende's magnifcent tomb. Evidently his body was spirited away after the coup 0f 1973 and buried somewhere out of Santiago, but has been brought back and buried in the main cemetary - one of the largest anywhere apparently. Our young guide suggested that the Musee de Memoria and Humanos Derechos (memory and human rights) was worth a visit, and it was.

 

The coup, led by Pinochet and his fellow generals and admirals, took place on that other 9/11, in 1973. People were killed, including Allende, imprisoned, tortured, deprived of their rights and exiled, One exhibit I found particularly poignant was of passports stamped 'valido solo para salir Chille' which meant that the owner could only leave and never come back. Pinochet enacted laws based on the idea that there was an emergency, what they called a state of siege: ordinary civil liberties and human rights were over-ridden owing to the state itself being under threat.

 

Nothing justifies human rights being violated; these are sacred and inviolable. Restrictions on civil liberties can be justified as temporary measures, but they must be done only in real national emergencies. Australia has a long way to go before it is anything like Chile under the dictatorship of Pinochet, but it is more like that country now than it was before the present regime came to power.

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