Repression, resilience, and mass movements: A page from Chilean history

Ideas & Trends Author: Consuelo Amat Source: Minds of the Movement Date of Publication: December 1, 2017

In a matter of days Chile went from vibrant democracy to closed society after the military coup of 1973. The junta consolidated power by disappearing, killing, imprisoning, and torturing its opponents following the death of democratically elected Socialist President Salvador Allende. Eighteen years of military rule left thousands dead and tens of thousands tortured. At the time, my maternal grandfather, Carlos Matus, was Minister of the Economy and President of the Central Bank of Chile, serving under Salvador Allende. The armed forces arrested my grandfather two days after the coup and shipped him off to the southern tip of Chile, to a concentration camp on Dawson Island in the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego. He soon realized that the military was rounding up cabinet members from the recently deposed administration, as well as anyone associated with Popular Unity, the coalition of political parties that brought Allende to power.

Within days the assault on Chilean democracy became much more generalized. Civil society and the political elite demobilized, went into hiding or left the country, if they had not already been arrested or killed.

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