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Cablegate: Concerted Effort to Curb Violence On 1973 Coup Anniversary

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #0838/01 2592042
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 152042Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3709
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3522
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 2088
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 1034
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0413
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1771
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 5671
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 4030
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1901
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 000838

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/EPSC, EEB/IFD, INR/IAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ECON CI
SUBJECT: CONCERTED EFFORT TO CURB VIOLENCE ON 1973 COUP ANNIVERSARY

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The 35th anniversary of the September 11 military
coup was marked with violence, but less than in previous years.
Interior Minister Perez Yoma told the Ambassador that the police,
using intelligence and preventive measures, had done a good job
minimizing protests, particularly in traditionally violent-prone
areas. Unlike in 2007, there were no deaths and fewer arrests.
President Bachelet commemorated the death of President Salvador
Allende in a ceremony at La Moneda with his two daughters by opening
two recently-restored rooms where he died in 1973. A day earlier,
Isabel Allende dismissed a new theory that contended a second weapon
may have been used in the death of the ousted president. END
SUMMARY.

GOC Readout: Better Than Last Year
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) Interior Minister Perez Yoma told the Ambassador on
September 12 that the security forces had done well to keep violence
to a minimum on the September 11 coup anniversary. There were no
deaths, fewer arrests, and less violence. He credited increased
police intelligence and preventive measures, noting the police had
successfully prevented subversive activity in traditionally-violent
districts. For example, Villa Francia, which has been a hub for
violent activity during the past 30 years, was tranquil for the
first time on September 11.

3. (SBU) Perez Yoma said violence did spread to some new areas,
concentrated largely in other southern, poorer sectors of Santiago.
The police have detected links between the hostile perpetrators and
drug traffickers, who may be attempting to establish fiefdoms
through armed activities. The Ambassador asked about the weaponry
used by the assailants, given that two Carabineros had received
gunshot wounds. Perez Yoma said most of the trouble makers were
young kids with home-made shotguns.

4. (SBU) The Interior Minister added that the coup anniversary date
has become an unexplainable -- once per year -- festivity of
violence. Small cells of individuals instigate the violence, loot
local stores, and cause senseless damage in usually peaceful
communities. More than 20 Carabineros were injured during the
violent protests and one youth is in serious condition.

5. (U) The police seized an estimated 3,000 weapons prior to
September 11, and detained more than 800 individuals leading up to
the anniversary date. Interior Vice Minister Harboe ran an
operation center to monitor and react to developments in Santiago
and throughout the country. The Vice Minister told the media there
were children as young as 10 and 12 years old taking part in the
protests, and he lamented parents would allow them to participate in
such destructive and dangerous activities.

Restoration of Salon Blanco
---------------------------

6. (U) In a ceremony at La Moneda on September 11, President
Bachelet commemorated the 35th anniversary of Allende's death by
opening two newly-restored rooms where he spent his last moments
before taking his life in 1973. Bachelet toured the Salon Blanco
with Allende's daughters, Isabel and Maria Paz. The room featured
the leader's original desk, a portrait, tapestry and a rotary phone
from the period.

Isabel Allende Confirms Cause of Father's Death
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (U) The death of Salvador Allende in 1973 has been part of the
mythology associated with the military coup, notably outside of
Chile. It is commonly accepted in Chile that President Allende
committed suicide (using a weapon given to him as a gift by Fidel
Castro) rather than surrender in 1973. A forensic expert recently
raised doubts about the suicide, claiming that a newly-available
autopsy report suggests there is evidence of wounds from a second
weapon.

8. (U) Isabel Allende on September 10 quickly refuted the theory,
stating that no military were present on the second floor of La
Moneda when her father died in 1973. Moreover, she noted she
believes the version of her fathers' advisors who were with him
until the end. She admitted that in 1973, and for several years
after, she had her doubts about the cause of her father's death, but
today she and her family consider the issue closed.

A Day that Divides
------------------

9. (SBU) Comment: Thirty-five years since the 1973 coup, Chilean
youths continue to instigate violence and destroy property on this
controversial and disruptive anniversary. Workers depart early and
stores and businesses close to avoid the demonstrations. The
derelict activities appear less driven by ideology than by a desire
to participate in dangerous, anti-establishment behavior. While the
September 11 news has largely become a police story, several
political commentators contend that until Chilean society dialogues
about the significance of that day, little will change on future
September 11 anniversaries.

SIMONS

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