SANTIAGO – A two-page newspaper advertisement in Chile commemorating members of the armed forces killed during the military dictatorship from 1973 to 1990 is causing a stir in a country still divided by its history.
During the dictatorship, which began on Sept. 11, 1973, when military strongman Augusto Pinochet overthrew the elected socialist President Salvador Allende, an estimated 3,200 people were killed and 28,000 tortured by the state.
While most Chileans abhor the abuses of the era, a sizable minority considers Pinochet’s government to have been a necessary bulwark against communism.
“Forty-three years after the liberation, Chileans grateful to the armed forces and order haven’t forgotten the sacrifices they made for the fatherland,” read the insert, published in the national newspaper La Tercera on Sunday. La Tercera did not say who had placed the insert.
The insert, which coincided with the anniversary of the coup, featured photos and details of soldiers and police that it said were killed between 1978 and 1986. Pinochet was president from December 1974 until March 1990.
The publication provoked strong reactions on social media and was criticized by journalists who work at Copesa, one of Chile’s largest media groups and the owner of La Tercera.
“To those of us who are journalists, it seems inconceivable that our newspaper has allowed this kind of anti-democratic propaganda to be published,” a statement from the journalists’ union said.
La Tercera responded that it was committed to freedom of expression for those who chose to purchase advertising space, though it regretted if it had hurt anyone affected by violence during the dictatorship.
Lingering political tensions often surface in Chile on the anniversary of the coup. This year, a police officer was shot in Santiago amid violent protests.
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