SANTIAGO, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Chilean President Sebastian Pinera called for national reconciliation and protesters took to the streets on Wednesday to mark the 40th anniversary of a military coup that ousted then-President Salvador Allende and ushered in 17 years of repression.
"The time has come for national reconciliation," Pinera said at a religious ceremony at the presidential palace of La Moneda in the capital to commemorate the Sept. 11, 1973 violent coup and its bloody aftermath.
In his speech, Pinera addressed the violent change in government and subsequent 17 years of military rule under Augusto Pinochet which created a deep division in the Chilean society.
"We do not have the right, as a generation, to pass on to our children and grandchildren the same hate and the same quarrels that divided us and caused us so much pain," Pinera said.
"The great majority of Chileans feel it is time not to forget, but to overcome past traumas," he said.
The head of state called for an accounting of past crimes, saying "without truth and justice, all reconciliation is built not on rocks, but on sand."
Pinera said, "there is regret, there is a will to change behavior and there is also a will to repair the damage caused."
Without hate, Pinera said, "Chile will fulfill its mission of achieving a free, fair and developed country with equal opportunities and reconciliation."
By the end of Pinochet's brutal regime in 1990, 200,000 Chileans were driven into exile, 40,000 were tortured by the security apparatus, and more than 3,000 were executed or remained unaccounted for.
The day was also marked by protests in Santiago and other cities, leading to at least 68 arrests in all, police said in a report, adding that two of those arrested were women and seven minors.
Protesters put up barricades, set vehicles on fire and clashed with the police in at least 12 districts in Santiago, and police retaliated with tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters, police reported.
Also, student activists took over nine schools as part of a call by the Middle School Students Coordinating Assembly (ACES), which believed that Chile's public education system began its decline during the military takeover.
ACES spokesperson Isabel Salgado said "the students have been affected by the education system we inherited from the dictatorship, which has not improved during subsequent democratic governments.
Occupying schools was one of several actions organized by left- wing social organizations to commemorate the coup.
Pinochet eventually stepped down on March 11, 1990 and died on Dec. 10, 2006 at the age of 91. He was charged with torturing and murdering thousands of left-wing opposition members during his 17- year rule.