This March 29 marked the 35th anniversary of the Day of the Young Combatant, a non-official day to commemorate the victims of the US-backed military dictatorship in Chile, led by General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
In 1985, on this day, 18-year-old Rafael Vergara Toledo and 20-year-old Eduardo Vergara Toledo were assassinated by the officials of the national security forces serving the dictator. The Vergara Toledo brothers were student activists associated with the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), one of the most important Marxist organizations in Chile that bravely resisted the dictatorship. Together with the brothers, another 20-year-old activist Paulina Aguirre Tobar was also gunned down. In addition, the same day, the security officials also kidnapped the Communist Party members José Manuel Parada, Manuel Guerrero Ceballos and Santiago Nattino Allende and slaughtered them the next day.
Every year, on March 29, Chileans celebrate the revolutionary spirit of the young activists as well as of the thousands of other rebels with massive demonstrations to honor the popular resistance during the dictatorship.
However, this year, the global COVID-19 pandemic has forced the majority of the world’s population, that is able to, to stay home and comply with the mandatory quarantine measures in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, making street mobilizations impossible. Instead, thousands of citizens, relatives, artists and members of various social, human rights and political organizations paid tribute to the victims via the internet.
A virtual candle light march was held on social media networks to remember the victims and demand justice for them. At 7:00 pm, thousands of people lit candles in the memory of the people assassinated, disappeared and tortured during Pinochet’s dictatorship and posted the pictures and videos of the candles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Renowned Chilean artists and musicians such as Elizabeth Morris, Camilo Brodsky, Camilo Salinas, Gregory Cohen, Miguel Lawner, Javiera Sandoval Limarí, Tania Naranjo, among others, sent video messages and sang songs or performed on Facebook Live in solidarity with the victims.
The digital event was called for by the social organization, Velatón 29 March, under the slogan of “May the memory illuminates the quarantine.”
Pinochet assumed power following a coup d’état on September 11, 1973 that overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of President Salvador Allende. His regime was characterized by the systematic suppression of left-wing parties and the persecution of all dissidents. His dictatorship is considered one of the most brutal dictatorships in Latin America. During the 16.5 years of military rule, more than 3,100 people were assassinated, over 1,200 disappeared, about 40,000 were tortured and 200,000 went into exile.