SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of leftists rampaging through Santiago on Friday, marking the 25th anniversary of a coup that launched a military dictatorship.
At least five police and three protesters had minor injuries in the clashes, which have become a yearly occurrence on the holiday. Police said 116 protesters were arrested.
Violence erupted when a Communist Party column attempted to march past mounted police at the presidential palace in a tribute to Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president who died during the military takeover.
The demonstrators first removed mob-control fences and tossed Molotov cocktails.
As police responded with force, the violence then spread to other downtown areas. Masked demonstrators looted shops and a bank office, destroyed traffic signs, and threw rocks at passing vehicles. They also blocked traffic at several intersections with fire barricades.
Meanwhile, official observances of the coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet were subdued, with the parades and celebrations of previous years canceled in what authorities said was a gesture for national reconciliation.
The army held a Mass at the Military Academy attended by Pinochet.
The coup remains a divisive issue in Chile, where thousands of people suffered under Pinochet’s dictatorship. But some Chileans claim the coup was needed to repair the chaos caused by Allende’s socialist economic policies.
This was the last time the anniversary will be a legal holiday. It will be replaced next year by what has been called a ``day of national unity.″
Pinochet, 82, ruled until March 1990. He retained the powerful post of army commander until March, when he was made a senator for life _ a job he gave himself in the constitution he wrote.
According to a report by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet’s, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons during his dictatorship, including 1,102 who disappeared after Pinochet’s security agents detained them. Thousands more were tortured, forced into exile, or both.