This article was originally published on The Santiago Times in August 2013.

President Sebastián Piñera said Sunday the Sept. 11, 1973 coup d’etat was “a historical fact” and its 40th anniversary should be a time of “reflection.”

“Why? To learn from the mistakes we made, and consequently, avoid repeating them today — repeating those mistakes that caused so much harm 40-years ago,” Piñera said.

He added it was part of the culture that “we want to establish in our country.”

Details of the event are yet to be confirmed, but it will consist of two activities held on Sept. 10 and 11, including the reopening of the Plaza de la Constitución, which has been under renovation.

Government spokeswoman Cecilia Pérez declared all political parties would be invited to memorialize the anniversary of a “day which is a painful and sad day of disunity and of much suffering.”

The presidential announcement came amid much political tension over the best way to remember the day, instigated Tuesday by Independent Democratic Union (UDI) Sen. Hernán Larraín’s surprise apology for his party’s actions in the modern era.

“I ask for forgiveness for not having collaborated enough to the reconciliation through my work, the former UDI president said. “I ask for forgiveness. This is my voice for reconciliation. But it is necessary to hear everyone’s voice.”

His wish, however, was not met by Evelyn Matthei, the conservative Alianza presidential candidate, who declared she had “no reason to ask for forgiveness.”

“We always have to remember, but I am asking that we don’t bring the hatreds and the divisions from the past into the future,” Matthei said. “I am sure this is not what people want.”

Matthei said she was 20-years-old at the time of the coup and had always been an outspoken critic of the human rights abuses inflicted by the dictatorship.

She added that the Christian Democratic (DC) party, a member of the left-leaning Concertación coalition, “practically asked for the coup,” and that this conversation was bigger than “who asks for forgiveness and who doesn’t.”

Progressive Party (PRO) presidential candidate Marco Enríquez-Ominami looked to those who were “part of the dictatorship” saying they should be the ones apologizing.

“When forgiveness is late, however, it becomes passive and unproductive,” Enríquez-Ominami added.

Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick talked about an incident in which buses were set on fire Monday in the borough of Villa Francia, west of Santiago, and said the attack was linked to the Sept. 11 anniversary approaching.

“The government has information that these extremist actions will continue, in the next few days, until Sept. 11,” Chadwick said.

He added that the language used to describe the 17-year military rule was irrelevant.

“Calling it a dictatorship or a military coup is semantics. What did happen is democracy failed and a non-democratic government started, this is obvious,” Chadwick added.

Concertación presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet was invited to attend a memorial event at Santiago’s Museo de Memoria y Derechos Humanos on Tuesday, but sent her apologies along with a letter which was read at the event.

“Difficult days are approaching and we have seen that some wounds are yet to be healed,” the former president wrote. “Chile needs to know what happened and face truth and justice and those who were responsible need to take responsibility.”

The anniversary has captured the public’s attention, as shown by high viewing figures for television programs on the topic in recent weeks. Canal 13’s “Los Mil Días”— that contains archive footage of the election of Salvador Allende in 1970 — scored the highest rating in its schedule in spite of a late night showing.

Copyright 2013 - The Santiago Times
Image by Pedro Encina via Flickr. La Moneda after it was bombed, Sept. 11, 1973