The commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the coup d’état has made me relive that date and what came after. Emotions came to the surface again: sadness, fear, impotence, indignation and frustration.

It is difficult to share emotions with others, even those closest to you. Now I can understand and welcome those people who have lived through tragic and painful events and cannot share them with those around them. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why history repeats itself over and over again, hence the importance of memory.

In 1971, as a student, at the age of seventeen, I did my military service in the Buin Regiment. In that period, I learned about military culture and doctrine. It was a constitutionalist army that was reaffirmed in the oath to the flag, the highest patriotic symbol: “to fulfil my military duties and obligations in accordance with the laws and regulations in force”. It ceased to be so on 11 September 1973.

I learned that the army prepared us for war and summoned us to: “faithfully serve my country whether in the air, at sea, on land or anywhere, even to the point of surrendering my life if necessary”. There was no room for discernment because we were sworn to: “obey, promptly and punctually, the orders of my superiors”. We were taught that it was either one’s own life or that of the enemy. In war you had to attack and destroy whoever was in front.

From my short experience of military service, I knew that nothing good could come out of the coup. The day of 11 September 1973 is etched in my memory with details of the events and the emotions I felt as the hours passed.

I listened with sadness to the last words of President Allende broadcast on the only radio station that had not yet been silenced; I felt fear on hearing that the Junta had declared war on the people of Chile; helplessness and indignation on recognising that nothing could be done to prevent the massacre; and frustration that a government programme that sought to dignify the people was cut short.

I was not a victim of the violation of my human rights, but I was a victim of the breakdown of the rule of law. I was a victim of the arbitrariness of those in power, which is why, to this day, I rebel against all “micro-abuses of power” behaviors, so deeply rooted in our culture and social order. Suffice it to recall the popular saying: “he who does not abuse power has no authority”.

Fifty years after, these emotions resurfaced. Not only as an intellectual abstraction but also from the heart. A personal memory that I share in this column is a small contribution to the younger generations who did not live through the events of the dictatorship.