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Sunday, September 12, 1999 Published at 00:59 GMT 01:59 UK

World: Americas

Protests mark Chilean coup anniversary

Relatives of those who disappeared led the marchers

By James Reynolds in Santiago

Thousands of Chileans demonstrated in the capital, Santiago, on Saturday to mark the 26th anniversary of General Augusto Pinochet's overthrow of the government of Salvador Allende.

[ image: Police dispersed rioting protesters]
Police dispersed rioting protesters
For the first time, General Pinochet was not in Chile on the anniversary. He remains under house arrest in Britain awaiting possible extradition to Spain to face torture charges.

Demonstrators chanted in memory of Salvador Allende during the march across the capital.

Thousands of protestors walked to Santiago's general cemetery to pay tribute to Mr Allende and also to the 3,000 people who were killed during Chile's years of military rule under General Augusto Pinochet.

'Where are they?'

Relatives of those who disappeared during the military government held up photos of their family members, with the words "where are they?" written above.

[ image: A woman holds a picture of Salvador Allende]
A woman holds a picture of Salvador Allende
Many protestors waved the flags of the Chilean Communist Party and of banned revolutionary groups.

Others carried effigies of Augusto Pinochet.

As the march ended more than 100 protestors wearing hoods attacked shop fronts and destroyed bus shelters.

Riot police were called in to restore order.

No national holiday

Supporters of Augusto Pinochet, who make up an influential minority in Chile, decided not to organise any major events to mark the anniversary of the coup in protest at the legal proceedings facing the country's former military leader.

This is the first year since the end of the military government in 1990 that the anniversary of the coup has not been marked as a national holiday.

Instead, the holiday has been replaced by a day of national unity which was held earlier this month.

But the demonstrations marking the anniversary of the coup show that the memory of the military government still divides this country.

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