The bombing of La Moneda. The shot that killed Allende. Forty-four bullets hitting Victor Jara’s body. The Chilean coup left the country with an open wound that is still bleeding. The 1,162 forcibly disappeared people who never came home, whose families still search; the 30,000 people who were tortured, still living with their trauma; the 2,200 people executed for opposing the dictatorship. 20, 000 Chilean babies illegally adopted and sent to Europe or the US;  20,000 people exiled. In total, as estimated by two different truth commissions, the number of killings, forced disappearances, political prisoners,  and tortured people comes to 40, 179. 

Fifty years on, we still talk about the Chilean coup because it affects us all. Maybe we did not witness the horror, but it imposed a socio-economic model that claims that some lives matter more than others, that everything can be bought, even our basic rights – and if you can’t afford it, it’s because you are lazy. It imposed a neoliberal dogma that today, in the EU, translates into in-work poverty, unpaid internships, unaffordable rents, energy poverty… the list is long. 

Of course, Europe did not play the same role as the US or the UK in boycotting Allende’s government and preparing the ground for the dictatorship. But it is also true that many member states turned a blind eye to  Augusto Pinochet’s murderous regime. In 2016, the German Chancellery revealed thousands of diplomatic documents on Colonia Dignidad, the Nazi-founded enclave that, during the dictatorship, worked as a clandestine detention and torture centre in close collaboration with DINA – Pinochet’s secret police force. Thanks to the links established by the Chilean-Sweden Society – formed by extreme-right sectors – the Scandinavian country could support the regime in its “campaign to eradicate poverty” with the Swedish Adoption Centre, which became the core of a macabre network of child trafficking. As of today, the Swedish government has not initiated any investigation into the allegations of illegal adoptions.

On 11 September, we usually remember Salvador Allende by his last words on Radio Magallanes during the bombing of the presidential palace. Today, let’s not remember the words he said before dying, but rather the powerful speech that signed his death sentence at the United Nations General Assembly in 1972. 

“I come from Chile, a small country but one where today any citizen is free to express himself or herself… in unrestricted cultural, religious and ideological tolerance, where racial discrimination has no place”. 

“We are potentially rich countries; we are living in poverty. We wander from place to place begging for credit… and yet we are – a paradox of the capitalist economic system – are great exporters of capital”. These words were a slap on the face for Nixon, Kissinger, the US, imperialist power and its false promises of freedom and democracy.

The coup might have killed Salvador Allende, but not the dream of a fair and more equal society. 11 September marks the start of an ongoing resistance. If in 2023 we still remember 11 September, it is because of the tireless struggle of the Chilean people and their many victories. So, today, while we commemorate all those who have been affected by this dark stain on human history, let’s also celebrate all the people and movements that turned this day into a milestone for the fight for democracy and justice.