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Violence breaks out as Chile marks coup
( 2003-09-12 13:43) (Agencies)

Violent protests erupted in several working class neighborhoods of the capital as Chileans marked the 30th anniversary of the coup that deposed President Salvador Allende and brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power.

Chilean yell slogans for former socialist President Salvador Allende in front of La Moneda presidential palace, during an event marking the 30th anniversary of 1973 military coup, in Santiago Sept 11, 2003. This same palace was bombed by the Chilean Air Force on September 11, 1973 during a coup led by General Augusto Pinochet, overthrowing President Salvador Allende.   [Reuters]
After a day of mainly peaceful remembrances for the Marxist president, demonstrators blocked traffic with flaming barricades at a number of Santiago intersections late Thursday and battled police in clashes that left at least one officer wounded and more than 50 people detained, said Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Correa.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the violence. In previous years, the anniversary of the coup triggered violent demonstrations.

Earlier Thursday, President Ricardo Lagos addressed hundreds of government officials at the presidential palace and called for a society "without rancor and division."

Lagos also praised Allende, calling him a martyr and he described the coup as "a tragedy, a day of pain."

According to a version accepted by Allende's family and his closest associates, Allende shot himself with a submachine gun presented to him by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The palace was partially destroyed by fire after the heavy air and ground attack on Sept. 11, 1973.

Some 3,200 people were killed for political reasons during Pinochet's 16 1/2 year reign, including 1,200 who remain unaccounted, according to an official report by the first post-Pinochet civilian government.

Lagos, a member of Allende's Socialist Party, vowed to work to erase the divisions stemming from the coup and to strengthen democracy.

"Building such a future is our duty, our task," Lagos said.

A ceremony Wednesday was the first official government homage to Allende inside the palace since he was toppled. The homage to Allende prompted criticism from politicians, the strongest of which came from right-wing politicians who fiercely opposed Allende and supported Pinochet.

Meanwhile, an ailing Pinochet made a rare public appearance at his suburban Santiago mansion. His wife, Lucia Hiriart, also appealed for national unity "but without distorting history."

Pinochet supporters say the government and its supporters fail to recognize the crippling economic and political crisis and the recurrent violence during Allende's presidency.

Pinochet's wife said the Sept. 11, 1973 coup led to our country "rising and winning the place it has in the world now."

Pinochet remained seated during the ceremony at the front garden of his suburban Santiago mansion. He carried a walking cane and was aided by bodyguards when he stood up to leave. He handed his red, white and blue presidential sash to the Pinochet Foundation established by followers.

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