Patricio Fernandez Belittled the 1973 Chilean Coup d’etat

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – Controversy broke out recently after former government advisor and coordinator of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat, Patricio Fernandez, said on a talk show hosted by Manuel Antonio Garreton, that the causes of that tragic event could be discussed, but the events after that coup are unacceptable. His remarks sparked a great outcry from different human rights groups who condemned his words and demanded his resignation.

Thus, human rights organizations handed in a letter to President Gabriel Boric, criticizing Fernandez for separating the coup d’etat from the subsequent dictatorship in Chile. They accused him of belittling the greatest crime against humanity in the country’s history, on September 11th 1973, as Garreton himself said at the beginning of the program to introduce the interview.

This has triggered an important discussion on social media, with some people labeling Patricio Fernandez a denier and others coming forward and saying he said nothing wrong. Such stirred a controversy that not only hurts the Government, but also the thousands of victims of the atrocities committed, that should have never taken place.

The reality is Patricio Fernandez had no other choice but to resign from his position, given the amount of pressure the Government was under, but the damage has been done. His words will surely be used by more reactionary and Pinochet-supporting groups in the country, to instil the idea that the coup d’etat was necessary and inevitable, in response to Salvador Allende’s government.

Personally-speaking, I don’t think Fernandez justified the coup and is a denier, but I do think it was dangerously wrong of him to differentiate the coup d’etat from the bloody dictatorship that followed. In doing so, he played down and belittled an event that must never be repeated and we have to stand firm and not fall into any ambiguity on this issue.

Therefore, those who put little importance on what Fernandez said don’t seem to see how serious this kind of statement is, when he also pointed out in an interview that: “historians and political scientists can discuss why and how it came to that, but what we could try to agree on is that events after that coup are unacceptable in any civilizational pact.”

If anyone reading this doesn’t see a problem, I think it’s left a door open for discussing just how desireable the coup d’etat was or wasn’t, when we as a society need to be coming together now and commemorate the 50th anniversary with a basic shared agreement that a coup d’etat is always a condemnable act, regardless of the circumstances.

As a result, this isn’t a matter of rejecting or censoring the discussion about the causes of the Chilean coup d’etat in 1973, like some people have said, but taking a clear political stance on it, which is something Patricio Fernandez was unable to transmit and ended up irresponsibly stirring confusion with his line of reasoning.

Worst yet, for those who have been defending Fernandez’s statements, they aren’t anything new. He posted on social media, in 2019, a few days before the social uprising that “supporting the 1973 coup is somewhat understandable,” confirming that what he later said wasn’t a mistake, but part of a very dangerous and hurtful political discourse that has no place in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the coup d’etat.

That said, I’ll pick up on Manuel Antonio Garreton’s last words in that very interview, who consistently pointed out that “there should never be a violent solution, no matter how serious the crisis is,” which is an attitude that needs to be adopted by the person who replaces Fernandez in his role as coordinator of the 50th anniversary commemoration, who we also hope is able to establish an account of the circumstances that is worthy of this historic moment.

Rounding off, there is a document written up by different celebrities and intellectuals across Chile, which makes an appeal to honor the figure of Salvador Allende, condemn the civil-military coup and to strengthen the Never Again commitment, which has been hurt by this Patricio Fernandez controversy, which I hope will be resolved for the country’s wellbeing, democracy and human rights.

Read more from Chile here on Havana Times.