Carrying the solemn portraits of the “disappeared” as they marched on Sunday, thousands of emotional and defiant Chileans poured onto the streets of the capital, demanding justice for those murdered and tortured under the regime of former dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Demonstrators blocked traffic in Santiago in remembrance of the victims and called for the closure of the special "luxury" prison for ex-dictatorship officials, according to AFP.
"The wound remains open because the truth has not been told, and justice has not been served," Tania Nunez, 52, told AFP, while carrying a poster of some of the more than 3,200 people, mostly leftist activists, who were murdered during Pinochet’s rule.
The march coincides with the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 1973, military coup that ousted the elected socialist government of president Salvador Allende and that eventually brought the terrifying regime of Augusto Pinochet to power.
During Sunday’s march, passersby could hear drums and chants. Some demonstrators blared the speeches of Allende, while others carried flares like torches.
Local news outlets reported clashes between some left-wing activists and police on Sunday during the end of the march.
"While there is no truth and justice there will be no reconciliation, and we will always be divided as a people," said 52-year-old Monica Figueroa, whose father died after he was arrested by authorities in 1974.
For 24-year-old Jose Dalquin, it’s the ominous “pact of silence” between prominent Chilean conservatives and the military that prevents Pinochet’s victims from truly “obtaining justice.”
Though the military has denied the existence of such pacts of silence, the government of President Michelle Bachelet is taking steps to address the crimes of the past while investigating former officials linked to Pinochet’s regime.
Bachelet announced the creation of a new Human Rights Unit as part of the Ministry of Justice, which awaits approval by the Chilean Congress.
The idea for the Human Rights Unit was proposed after accusations surfaced, alleging that the army had withheld vital information relating to violations during the 1973-1990 dictatorship, when the regime killed or "disappeared" more than 3,000 people and tortured some 38,000.
A young demonstrator uses a slingshot during a march commemorating victims of Pinochet’s regime on Sept. 13, 2015. | Photo: Reuters. Click to go to gallery of photos from the protests (opens new window).
"What happened during the dictatorship is difficult for all Chileans. But we're in the year 2015. Today, we have a military that is looking for a way to make itself an institution for the future," said Defense Minister Jose Antonio Gomez.
“I will make sure that the justice will be equally achieved for everyone, and will defend human rights from new threats. Today the country is reflecting upon our history,” Bachelet said last Friday on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 coup.
The president herself was imprisoned and tortured along with her mother before being exiled to East Germany.
Meanwhile, Chilean social media was filled with posts remembering the faces and the names of the disappeared as Twitter users retweeted the portraits and photographs of the victims.