Fifty years after the coup that ousted Chilean President Salvador Allende, Latin American leaders gathered in Santiago to honor his legacy and discuss the future of progressivism in the region. Colombian President Gustavo Petro, attending his second official visit to Chile, spearheaded the event alongside Chilean President Gabriel Boric. Together with other dignitaries, including veteran Uruguayan politician Pepe Mujica, they reflected on the historical significance of this day and the pressing global issues of today, emphasizing unity and progressive governance as a pathway forward.
Petro’s Day in Chile
This was Gustavo Petro’s second visit to the southern country in his 13 months as president. This time, he responded to an invitation from Chilean President Gabriel Boric to participate in the commemoration, a significant event in the country. Accompanying Petro were the President of the House of Representatives, Andrés Calle, and former Colombian presidents Ernesto Samper and Juan Manuel Santos.
On the first day of his official visit, in addition to meeting with the Chilean president and participating in the official events at La Moneda Palace in commemoration of September 11, 1973, Petro had a meeting with former Uruguayan President Pepe Mujica at the University of Chile.
The veteran Uruguayan politician remains a reference for current progressivism in the region and has shown significant alignment with the Colombian president since publicly supporting him during the 2022 presidential campaign.
Icon of Latin American Progressivism
Half a century later, Salvador Allende’s figure still divides Chile. However, it serves as a unifying symbol for various progressive sensibilities in Latin America. President Petro described Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état as “a brutal mark that should remain as an experience for the reconstruction of Latin American democracy.”
In fact, several generations of left-wing politicians have emerged from Allende’s legacy, the trauma of his overthrow, and the establishment of a dictatorial regime, upheld by bloodshed and the extermination of dissent.
“For many of my generation, the coup against Allende was a brutal mark that began a history of wars, military dictatorships, violence, and the almost complete destruction of democracy throughout Latin America. After the coup against Allende, there were 30 years of dictatorships and insurgencies, and now – and this is the importance of this event – 50 years later at the same location where the Palace was bombed and where Allende was assassinated, we present democracy as an alternative, perhaps the only one we have to build peace,” said Gustavo Petro.
Rise of the Far Right
In the context of remembering Salvador Allende, the Colombian president expressed concern about the risks posed by times of uncertainty and the rise of far-right forces. “I see the risk of far-right movements ascending worldwide. It’s a global problem. There’s a democratic destruction in the world precisely because of the tensions arising from the new reality of a humanity that can die as a species,” Petro said from Chile, referring to the challenges posed by climate change and how to address them.
Precisely on that point, Petro reiterated the need for a change in the economic model that addresses the decarbonization of the economy and its energy sources. He related this moment of change and fear of what’s to come to the rise of far-right ideologies both in America and Europe.
“Politics built on fear causes broad segments of society, including the middle classes, to move toward the far-right out of fear of change, fear of a liberated woman, fear of economic change, which is urgent due to the climate crisis. These fears lead to sectors of society supporting very conservative forces, as if trying to prevent change – it’s a fear of change. And these forces manage to gain majorities in some societies.”