On September 11, 1973 Chile underwent a "golpe de estado" (coup d'etat), where their democratic President, Salvador Allende was forced out of his position and army general Augusto Pinochet was placed in power as Commander-in-Chief of the Military Junta Government. It was an ugly ordeal, and Pinochet turned out to be a paranoid dictator who, along with his military was the cause of over 40,000 deaths/tortures/executions in Chile.
The hard part to hear is that the United States was the main supporter and funder of the coup d'etat that placed Pinochet into power. We had been keeping our eyes on Chile for some time, and there were many covert CIA operatives in the country during the election. We could not have Allende win the election, so the "Track I" route of the CIA was to do anything to keep him from being a candidate (buying off congressmen, pushing for another candidate, etc). In the end, Allende was elected despite the CIA's efforts. When Chile was under the Presidency of Allende, their economy was literally tanking and the country was being made into a socialist state. When Fidel Castro made a visit to Chile from Cuba, that pushed the last button for the United States. This was in the Cold War era, and the United States began to put immense economic pressure on Chile, and then we decided to take the situation into our own hands. We had interests in Chile, and needed Allende out of his seat. Now, this was not one-sided. Most Chileans at the time also wanted Allende out because he was making the economy the worst it had been in Chile. The coup d'etat wasn't necessarily the tragedy, it was what took place after that was the tragedy.
When Pinochet took his place of power, he began his regime of terror. He banned all political parties, especially the leftist party and if you so much as sneezed the wrong way, you were going to be tortured. All throughout Chile people were being taken off the streets to be tortured. The military had gross tactics of torture, and many of the surviving victims say that the officials never even asked them a question. It was just torture for the sake of threat, power, and intimidation. It worked well too. My professor was telling me of how when he was a little boy, his parents would go pale and begin to sweat every time they had to go through a check point while driving somewhere. Police could take you for any reason they wanted, so his parents would tell him that he could never say a word in the car and hopefully they would all get through safely. I can't imagine living in so much fear! There were disappearances happening left and right, and nearly 32,000 were tortured. The 8,000 others were either assassinated, exiled, or executed. Pinochet's regime lasted for 17 years, and in 1990 he was pushed out and a democracy was placed back into Chile.
Today I am sending prayers for peace between Syria and the United States. Something I have come to learn here in Chile is love for my country. Like many Chileans, I too believe that my country has made its fair share of mistakes, but I want to be there when it makes its good decisions too, and I want to be a part of making that happen. I also send prayers for the families of the victims of 9/11, and for all the victims and families of the first 9/11 here in Chile. Sometimes it is easier to unite in the midst of sufferings. It makes life more real, and gives perspective. God Bless America, and God Bless Chile :)