How is Pinochet thrown by people

Coming to terms with the dictatorshipThe anger of the young Chileans

A few steps from the government palace in Chile's capital Santiago is Calle Londres. It's an idyllic cobblestone street, but behind number 38 is the former torture chamber of the military dictatorship. Erika Hennings opens the heavy wooden door. The woman with the black curly hair is the chairperson of today's memorial. In 1974 she was brought here as a prisoner, together with her husband Alfonso Chanfreau:

"When I got here, I saw 50, 100 people with blindfolds and it was already clear to me what was happening here. They took me right upstairs and there I saw them torturing Alfonso."

(dpa / picture alliance / Carol Smiljan) What is behind the protests in Latin America In many Latin American countries, people take to the streets against their governments. According to Latin America experts, these countries all suffer from similar problems.

The two are in their early twenties at the time and part of the MIR resistance group, the so-called movement of the revolutionary left. Many of their companions were arrested or murdered in the first few months after the coup. After 13 days in Londres, the guards take Alfonso Chanfreau with them. It is the last time that Hennings will see her husband.

"To this day I don't know whether they threw him into the sea or buried him somewhere."

Protests since October 2019

Over 3,000 people were murdered or disappeared without a trace during the dictatorship. Almost 40,000 were tortured. Only about 100 people are in prison for these crimes, says Hennings. To this day there is a lack of education and justice. And not only that: The protests that have been shaking Chile since October last year are ultimately a consequence of the dictatorship.

Despite the brutal police crackdown on demonstrators, thousands of Chileans gather in Santiago's Plaza Italia every week. They sing "Chile has woken up".

Francesca Mendoza has been with us since the first day, October 18, 2019. The 27-year-old teacher wears a bicycle helmet, a breathing mask and plastic goggles - against the bullets of the police.

"When the police cars came on the first day, people were armed with stones. My first stone was a stone of relief for me. This social explosion in Chile came at the right time. All the discontent that people suddenly let out - that was also my dissatisfaction. "

Experimental laboratory of neoliberalism

During the dictatorship, Chile became an experimental laboratory for neoliberalism. Education, health and pension systems are privatized. Those who want to study have to pay between 5,000 and 10,000 euros per year. Half of the population earns less than 500 euros a month. But cleaning up the past is not just about economic issues.

(picture alliance / Denis Düttmann) The anger at an unjust education system
Schoolchildren and students in Chile are calling for a reform of the education system. Because schools and universities are largely privatized, only a small elite can afford a good education.

Mendoza's father was a policeman under Pinochet. Because the daughter participated in the demonstration and "caused chaos", as the father says, a dispute broke out in October.

"I love my father very much, but at that moment this father figure began to sway for me and I thought: 'If my dad thinks like that today, what did he do during the dictatorship?" "

But her father is silent. Like most military and police officers, he doesn't want to talk about the past.

"I don't know whether he was really involved in murders or torture."

Pepe Rovano is standing in Plaza Italia. The 43-year-old is also the son of a police officer - and he is certain of his father's actions.

"My father murdered six Communist Party members. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison in 2007, but he did not spend a day in prison. This is called impunity."

Chile also votes on the past

When Augusto Pinochet resigned on March 11, 1990, there was no hard break with the dictatorship in Chile, but an agreement with the military. The generals had taken precautions with an amnesty law: For a long time, acts between 1973 and 1978 could not be punished. This benefited Rovano's father, who was convicted in 2007 but was given amnesty a few months later. In 2015, at his father's funeral, Rovano made a decision.

He passes on interviews that he had with his father to the court. This means that the process can be reopened in order to finally hold it accountable posthumously. A step towards more justice, but there is still no trace of many of those who disappeared.

"The military know where the disappeared are buried. There is a pact of silence. Why don't they tell us where they are? To put a flower on their grave. Because if you don't stop this disappearance, the pain is inherited, from generation to generation. "

On April 26, Chile will vote on whether to replace the dictatorship constitution with a new one. On this day, the Chileans will not only decide about their future, but also how to deal with their past.