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Chile’s armed forces stage a coup d’état against the government of President Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist leader in Latin America. Allende retreated with his supporters to La Moneda, the fortress-like presidential palace in Santiago, which was surrounded by tanks and infantry and bombed by air force jets. Allende survived the aerial attack but then apparently shot himself to death as troops stormed the burning palace, reportedly using an automatic rifle given to him as a gift by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
The U.S. government and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had worked for three years to foment a coup against Allende, who was regarded by the Nixon administration as a threat to democracy in Chile and Latin America. Ironically, the democratically elected Allende was succeeded by the brutal dictator General Augusto Pinochet, who ruled over Chile with an iron fist for the next 17 years.
Salvador Allende Gossens was born into an upper-middle-class Chilean family in 1908. He became a Marxist activist and worked as a doctor and in 1933 was a founding member of Chile’s Socialist Party. Elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1937, he later served as minister of health in the leftist government of President Pedro Aguirre Cerda. In 1945, he became a senator. He unsuccessfully ran for president several times in the 1950s and 1960s, and in September 1970 won a three-sided presidential race with 36.3 percent of the vote. Because he lacked a popular majority, his election had to be confirmed by the Chilean Congress.
After the victory of Allende and his leftist coalition, U.S. President Richard Nixon summoned CIA Director Richard Helms to the White House and ordered him in no uncertain terms to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him. Allende, after all, had threatened to nationalize U.S.-owned industries in Chile, and Nixon did not want another Fidel Castro coming to power in an American hemisphere during his watch. President Nixon authorized $10 million for the covert operation against Allende and instructed that it be carried out without the knowledge of the U.S. embassy in Chile.
With its mandate from Washington, the CIA attempted to bribe, coerce, and blackmail Chile’s Congress and military into denying Allende the presidency, launched an international campaign of disinformation against Allende, and paid a right-wing general to assassinate General Rene Schneider, the chief of Chile’s armed forces. Although a conservative, Schneider was staunchly opposed to a coup or any other military interference in Chile’s democratic processes. He was murdered by a gang led by right-wing General Roberto Viaux. One month later, the group received a check for $35,000 from the CIA. Years later, the CIA would claim it only wanted Schneider kidnapped.
With only one week remaining before the Chilean Congress was to vote on Allende’s election, CIA headquarters sent a cable to its Chilean office that read: “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup. It would be much preferable to have this transpire prior to 24 October but efforts in this regard will continue vigorously beyond this date.”
After a heated debate in the Chilean Congress, the mostly conservative body decided to confirm Allende’s election on October 24 after he promised support of 10 libertarian constitutional amendments. In spite of U.S. opposition, respect for Chile’s democratic tradition–the oldest in Latin America–had won out over ideological hysteria. A few days later, a bungled coup by a group of Chilean military officers helped to rally the country around Allende, who was inaugurated on November 3.
In his nearly three years as Chilean president, Allende worked to restructure Chilean society along socialist lines while retaining democratic government and respecting civil liberties and the due process of law. Meanwhile, the CIA worked to destabilize Allende’s government, spending a total of $8 million on the effort. Opposition groups received funding from the CIA, anti-Allende propaganda efforts continued, strikes were instigated in key sectors of the Chilean economy, and CIA agents maintained close contact with the Chilean military. However, the real cause of the 1973 coup against President Allende was not the insidious activities of American spies but rather the U.S.-led international backlash against his economic policies, which had a disastrous effect on the Chilean economy.
In 1971, President Allende began nationalizing foreign businesses in Chile, including U.S.-owned copper mines–Chile’s main source of protection–and a large U.S.-run telephone company. Nixon was outraged, and he created an interagency task force to organize economic reprisals against Chile. The task force plotted steps to sink the world price of copper and ordered a complete ban on U.S. economic aid. The World Bank was successfully pressured to end all loans to Chile, and the Export-Import Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank likewise turned their back on the country. Meanwhile, other foreign investment in Chile dried up out of fears of nationalization.
By 1973, the Chilean economy was in shambles. Inflation, labor strikes, and food shortages were rampant, and violence between the right and the left became a daily occurrence. President Allende still had the support of many workers and peasants, but the middle class was united in opposition to him. There was open talk of an impending military coup, and conspirators needed little help from the CIA to put it in motion. The CIA, however, was informed of the planned coup in advance, and on September 10 this information was passed on to President Nixon.
The next day–September 11, 1973–Chile’s three armed forces launched a concerted attack against Chile’s democratic government. Allende gathered with his loyal presidential guard at La Moneda, the presidential palace. He was photographed inspecting the palace’s defenses, rifle in hand. Tanks and troops surrounded La Moneda, and Allende and his supporters were ordered to surrender by 11 a.m. or face attack by the Chilean air force. Allende refused.
At 11 a.m., via telephone, Allende’s voice was broadcast over Radio Magallanes, the Communist Party radio station. “I can only say this to the workers: I will not resign,” he declared. “With my life I will pay for defending the principles dear to our nation. I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this gray and bitter moment where betrayal threatens to impose itself. Continue knowing, all of you, that much sooner than later, the great avenues will open through which will pass free men in order to construct a better society. These are my last words having the certainty that this sacrifice has not been in vain.”
Just before noon, two fighter jets flew over Santiago and descended on La Moneda, firing rockets with pinpoint accuracy through the doors and windows of the north side of the palace. Six more attack waves came during the next 20 minutes. The palace was in flames, but Allende survived in a wing of the building. Sometime around 2 p.m., Allende allegedly died by placing his rifle under his chin and firing. Reportedly, a gold metal plate affixed to the stock of the gun had an inscribed message that read, “To my good friend Salvador Allende from Fidel Castro.”
A few weeks later, Fidel Castro would tell the Cuban people that Allende died while advancing on army troops and firing his gun. The fascist soldiers, Castro said, cut him down in a hail of bullets. This account was taken up by many supporters of Allende and persists in various forms to this day. However, Allende’s personal surgeon reported having seen the president shoot himself with the rifle, and a 1990 autopsy of Allende’s remains confirmed that he died from a single shot that shattered his skull.
In the aftermath of the coup, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, commander in chief of the armed forces, became dictator of Chile. He rounded up hundreds of Allende’s supporters, including two American citizens, and had them tortured and executed. The United States immediately offered military and economic aid to the new ruler of Chile–”the savior of democracy”–and the CIA may have helped him identify and capture dissidents. In his 17 years of repressive authoritarian rule, more than 3,000 political opponents were assassinated or “disappeared.” His assassination squads were also active outside Chile, and in 1976 Orlando Letelier, Allende’s former defense minister, was killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C.
In 1988, Pinochet agreed to a national referendum on the future of Chile, and a majority of Chileans rejected the continuation of his dictatorship. Democratic elections were held in 1989, and in 1990 Pinochet stepped down as President Patricio Aylwin Azócar was sworn in as Chile’s new leader. That year, Salvador Allende’s remains were exhumed and given an official burial.
Pinochet remained head of Chile’s armed forces until 1998, whereupon he was made a “senator-for-life.” That October, during a trip to Britain, he was arrested after Spain sought his extradition for his execution of Spanish nationals. Under pressure from prosecutors in Europe, U.S. President Bill Clinton ordered the CIA and other U.S. agencies to declassify all documents concerning their operations in Chile during the early 1970s. The CIA refused to release many of the documents, however, citing fears that they would reveal operational methods still in use around the world by the CIA.
After a long legal tug of war, Britain’s home secretary declared in January 2000 that the 84-year-old Pinochet was unfit to stand trial and ordered him sent back to Chile. Back in Chile he resigned his senatorial seat in 2002 after a Supreme Court ruling that he could not stand trial based on his failing health. Then, in May 2004, Chile’s supreme court finally ruled that he was capable of standing trial. In December 2004 he was charged with several crimes. He died in 2006.
Military Coup In Chile
In 1970 Salvador Allende, the leader of the Chilean Socialist Party, was elected president. He therefore became the first Marxist in the world to gain power in a free democratic election. The new government faced serious economic problems. Inflation was running at 30 per cent and over 20 per cent of the male adult population were unemployed. It was estimated that half of the children under 15 suffered from malnutrition.
Allende's decide to take action to redistribute wealth and land in Chile. Wage increases of around 40 per cent were introduced. At the same time companies were not allowed to increase prices. The copper industry was nationalized. So also were the banks. Allende also restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, China and German Democratic Republic.
In June 1973, Salvador Allende appointed Augusto Pinochet as commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army. Allende was unaware that Pinochet was plotting with the CIA to remove him from power. On 11th September 1973, Pinochet led a military coup against Allende's government. Allende died in the fighting in the presidential palace in Santiago.
Pinochet immediately closed down the Chilean Parliament, suspended the constitution, banned all political and trade union activity and imposed strict controls over the media. Pinochet, who had appointed himself president, ordered a purge of the left in Chile. Over the next few years more than 3,000 supporters of the Allende regime were killed.
People in positions of authority who were suspected of holding liberal opinions were also removed from power. It is estimated that around 10 per cent of the Chilean judiciary were dismissed during this period. Pinochet was also responsible for thousands of people being tortured and large numbers were forced into exile.
Over the next few years Pinochet, with the help of 400 CIA advisers, privatized the social and welfare system and destroyed the Chilean trade union movement. Pinochet also received help from Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government. This included Britain supplying arms to the regime and blocking attempts by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses in Chile.
Augusto Pinochet thought he had completely removed the influence of the left and in 1980 was confident enough to introduce a new national constitution. This established a timetable for the election of a president.
In October 1988 a referendum took place to decide if Pinochet should be the only candidate in the forthcoming presidential election. Much to his surprise and dismay, this proposal was rejected, and he won only 44 per cent of the vote.
In 1989 Patricio Aylwin, a Christian Democrat, won 55 per cent of the votes to become Chile's new president. Pinochet did however remain as commander-in-chief of the army, a position he was able to use to make sure there were no prosecutions against any members of the security forces suspected of human rights abuses during his period of power.
In March 1998 Pinochet resigned as head of the Chilean army but became a senator, therefore guaranteeing him parliamentary immunity for life. However, later that year, while on a visit to London, Pinochet was arrested by the British police, following a request by judges investigating the torture and disappearance of Spanish citizens during Pinochet's period in power.
Five Law Lords ruled in December 1998 that Pinochet was not immune from prosecution. However, the ruling was set aside when it was discovered that one of the judges had links with Amnesty International. In January 1999 seven Law Lords voted 6-1 that Pinochet must face extradition to Spain but that he was also immune from prosecution for crimes committed before 1988. In January 2000, the British home secretary, Jack Straw, gave permission for Augusto Pinochet to fly home to Chile.
Chile court overturns convictions for 1982 murder of former president Frei
Chile’s appeals court has overturned the convictions of six people for the murder of the former president, Eduardo Frei Montalva, in the 1980s during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
The ex-president’s doctors, his chauffeur, an army officer and a former intelligence agent were sentenced to between three and 10 years in jail in January 2019 for the poisoning of 71-year-old Frei in a Santiago clinic in 1982.
Investigating Judge Alejandro Madrid determined that Frei died from an infection induced by toxins administered by Pinochet’s agents as he recovered from hernia surgery, while the doctors treating him covered up the poisoning.
But three judges sitting at the appeals court ruled on Monday that there had been insufficient evidence to make such a finding.
“The evidence gathered … was not able to demonstrate that the death is attributable to any fraudulent or negligent action by one or more third parties, nor to any omission attributable to (his doctors),” the court said.
“Eduardo Frei Montalva was not a victim of homicide, but died as a result of medical complications.”
Frei, a Christian Democrat who was Chilean president between 1964 and 1970, had initially supported Pinochet and the coup that overthrew socialist Salvador Allende in 1973.
But he later soured on the military dictatorship and became one of the leaders of Chile’s pro-democracy movement, a move that his family claimed resulted in his murder.
Monday’s ruling represents the latest twist in a lengthy legal saga in Chile. The murder charges were originally bought against the six men by Madrid in 2009, but were later dismissed.
In 2016, Madrid ordered the exhumation of Frei’s body which he asked foreign forensic experts to re-examine, bringing fresh charges after they reportedly detected mustard gas.
In a statement, lawyers for the Frei family said they would appeal the ruling in the supreme court, adding: “It is regrettable that (the appeal court judges) could not be convinced that the murder of the former president was the most sophisticated of the intelligence operations carried out by the military dictatorship, despite the existence of sufficient evidence.”
Forty years after Chile coup, families of two U.S. citizens killed in aftermath await answers
Forty-one years ago this weekend, two U.S. citizens, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi were arrested in Santiago by Chilean security forces in the days following a bloody coup . Both were killed and a quest to understand how and why may be coming to close after four decades. FSRN’s Norman Stockwell files this report.
Charles Horman was a journalist and filmmaker who went to Chile to document the reality of Salvador Allende’s democratically elected socialist government. Frank Teruggi was a student and an antiwar activist. He, too, was drawn to witness Chile’s experiment. Both men would be killed in the coup that overthrew President Allende and installed Dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Now after more than four decades, Chilean Judge Jorge Zepeda ruled this past June that the two men were murdered with the complicity of U.S. intelligence services operating in Chile in support of the coup.
“In December of 2000, the widow of Charles Horman, who was a journalist, living in Chile with his wife Joyce, went to Chile and filed a court case, asking judges to officially investigate who had killed him and why,” explains Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive. “We finally have a ruling in this case. This is a major step forward in this long saga. It’s a forty year saga since they were killed, and a fourteen year saga of legal efforts to find out who killed them and why.”
The Hollywood film “Missing” told Charles Horman’s story, but Frank Teruggi’s is lesser known. He grew up in a working class family just outside Chicago and became exposed to Liberation Theology through his Catholic High School.
In 1967, Frank went to college at CalTech in Pasadena, where he started the first Student for a Democratic Society chapter on campus. After hearing about Allende’s election in September of 1970, he moved back to Chicago to raise funds to study Economics at the University of Chile in Santiago. While in Chicago, Frank worked at the Chicago Seed, an alternative paper, and the New World Resource Center, a progressive bookstore and meeting space.
Frank Teruggi (left) with friends in Santiago (photo provided by Teruggi family)
“I would characterize him as reliable and very, very honest and principled,” recalls colleague Burny Farber. “He was committed to a variety of what he viewed as just causes, and, you know, he was willing to put himself on the line a lot of times in terms of devoting his time and energy. He was the kind of person who you could ask him to try and do something and he would come through – he wouldn’t let you down.”
When Teruggi arrived in Chile, he joined up with FIN – the “Fuente de Información Norteamericana,” or North American Information Source. FIN was a collective of about a dozen North Americans that produced a newsletter of translated US press accounts for a Chilean audience.
“We were very much in the spirit of a collective,” Mishy Lesser explains. As a college sophomore, she was was the youngest member of FIN. “So, there were meetings and work was divided up and decisions were made on what articles to focus on and what information to try to make available and what translations to do, and it was not hierarchical, it was tremendously collaborative and people were able to sort of play to their strengths. But it was not easy, and then making that available in Spanish, in good Chilean Spanish, was another challenge.”
On September 11th, a long-planned military coup took place, overthrowing the government of Salvador Allende and bombing the Presidential Palace. Allende died the day of the coup and thousands of other supporters and activists were rounded up in the coming days and held in the National Soccer stadium and other locations.
Many were tortured, hundreds were killed. Among those arrested were FIN contributors Charles Horman, Frank Teruggi and his roommate, David Hathaway. Hathaway was released after several days, but Horman and Teruggi were never seen alive again.
“David was released the next day from the National Stadium and given 24 hours to leave the country, to pack up his things and leave,” recounts FIN member Steven Volk, continuing “… and he asked me whether I would go to the morgue and see whether Frank’s body was there, because nobody knew at that time where he was. And after about maybe 20 to 30, 35 minutes of looking at the bodies that were there that I discovered Frank’s body.”
The reason that Frank Teruggi and Charles Horman were the only US citizens killed remains unclear. The Chilean government today officially estimates more than 3000 people were killed during the coup and its repressive aftermath. The Teruggi and Horman families suspect these men would not have been killed without some sort of green light from U.S. officials.
For the past forty-one years, they have sought answers. Now Judge Zepeda’s ruling may open the door to the publication of evidence that documents how and why these deaths occurred.
“Nobody’s been ever sent to jail for the murder of these two Americans,” according to Kornbluh.”And almost nobody’s been sent to jail, if I know the Chilean cases correctly, for almost any of the executions. All of this, at the time when the U.S. is actively embracing Pinochet, those executions have really never been fully aired, and the people that committed them held fully accountable.”
Judge Zepeda would not comment for this report because the case is still ongoing, but Frank Teruggi’s sister, Janis Teruggi-Page said she and Joyce Horman both look forward to the court’s evidence being made public.
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The death of socialist President Salvador Allende in 1973 marked the beginning of a brutal dictatorship in Chile.
Latin Americans remember Sept. 11 as the date in which the Chilean Army, supported by the U.S.' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), carried out a coup against the socialist President Salvador Allende. His death marked the beginning of the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the general who opened a cycle of neoliberal reforms, authoritarianism and violence against the South American peoples.
At 7:30 A.M. on Sept. 11, 1973, the democratically elected President Salvador Allende arrived at the Palacio de La Moneda in Santiago to be informed about the insubordination of the Navy in the city of Valparaiso. In the Chilean capital at that time, there was not much traffic or people in the streets everything seemed normal
A couple of hours later, however, the armed forces and the military police, "Los Carabineros", carried out a coup against the socialist government of the Popular Party.
From the government headquarters, Allende addressed the Chileans at 9:20 A.M. through Radio Magallanes this would be his last speech.
Sep 11 1973 - A military coup in Chile led by General Pinochet & backed by USA leads to the overthrow of President Salvador Allende's leftwing government. Allende is killed. Pinochet's regime institutes mass repression & kills 1000s. https://t.co/x6Uof4rLN4 pic.twitter.com/jXRKSyfTwt— DailyRadical History (@radicaldaily) September 11, 2019
“I will pay for loyalty to the people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seed which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever,” said the President who was entrenched in the Palacio de La Moneda.
Two years earlier, in December 1971, while facing sabotage and intrigues from the Chilean extreme right, Allende had already anticipated what his behavior would be in extreme situations.
“I will not step back. And let them know: I will leave La Moneda when I fulfill the mandate the people gave me.”
The Dirty Hands of the United States
Based on Cold War logic, Salvador Allende's democratic administration meant a direct and immediate communist threat.
To overthrow it, then U.S. President Richard Nixon allocated millions of dollars, a fact which was confirmed decades later when declassified documents revealed the U.S.' participation in the rise of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, which kiled more than 40,000 people at the start of its reign.
"Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent President Allende from taking over the presidency," admitted Edward Korri, who was U.S. Ambassador to Chile from 1967 to 1970.
In an interview for the “Allende's last decision” documentary, Korri recalled that at a meeting with Nixon in Washington, the U.S. President spoke of the Chilean socialist politician, stating “how he was going to crush Allende, while hitting his hand with his fist. He called him a son of a bitch, too."
A few years later, a CIA document dated October 1, 1973, praised the coup d'état in Chile and called it almost "perfect."
The Words that Will Never be Forgotten
For Latin Americans, September 11 is the day when Salvador Allende died. This democratic politician and physician was the first Marxist to ever be elected to the presidency in Chile.
“I address, above all, the modest woman of our land, the campesina who believed in us, the worker who labored more, the mother who knew our concern for children. I address Chilean patriotic professionals, those who days ago continued working against the sedition sponsored by professional associations, class-based associations, which also defended the advantages that a capitalist society grants to a few.”
46 years ago, the U.S. backed a military coup in Chile that overthrew the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and installed the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who murdered and tortured tens of thousands of Chileans. pic.twitter.com/vtqBnWy8ZN— Zach Carter (@zachjcarter) September 11, 2019
For Latin Americans to forget its 9/11 would be to forget thousands of men and women who were tortured, killed and disappeared because of the military dicatorships of the 1970s and 1980s.
“I address the youth, those who sang and gave us their joy and their spirit of struggle. I address the man of Chile, the worker, the farmer, the intellectual, those who will be persecuted, because in our country fascism has been already present for many hours -- in terrorist attacks, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railroad tracks, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to protect them. They were committed. History will judge them.”
Long Live the People! Long Live the Workers!
The coup that ended the life of thousands of Chileans was led by Augusto Pinochet, the man appointed by Allende as the Army Commander in Chief just a month before the 9/11.
Under his orders the army planes dropped more than 20 bombs on the Palacio de La Moneda. President Allende asked his cabinet members to leave they did not. They remained there until their last moments.
Shattered crystals and walls turned into rubble. Dust and fire. One bomb after another. All the noise and images of this ignominy were captured and remain as historical records.
In the lobby of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a huge display is installed of the broken glasses of Chilean President Allende, found after the US-backed coup on September 11, 1973.
As a reminder of the threat US imperialism poses to this day. #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/bwp1WBQG1t— redfish (@redfishstream) September 11, 2019
Amid the chaos generated by the military's belligerence, Allende fulfilled his words: "I am not going to give up." While waiting for the final attack, the socialist politician continued addressing millions of citizens.
"Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society."
"Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers! These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain."
History of brutality
Popular movements have been suppressed with the same brutality. After the Valparaíso earthquake of 1906, naval forces wiped out the longshoremen’s organisation of 8,000 workers. In Iquique, at the beginning of the century, demonstrating strikers tried to take refuge from the troops and were machine-gunned: within ten minutes, there were 2,000 dead. On 2 April 1957, the army broke up a civil disturbance in the commercial area of Santiago and the number of victims was never established because the government sneaked the bodies away. During a strike at the El Salvador mine during the government of Eduardo Frei, a military patrol opened fire on a demonstration to break it up and killed six people, among them some children and a pregnant woman. The post commander was an obscure 52-year-old general, the father of five children, a geography teacher and the author of several books on military subjects: Augusto Pinochet.
The myth of the legalism and the gentleness of that brutal army was invented by the Chilean bourgeoisie in their own interest. Popular Unity kept it alive with the hope of changing the class make-up of the higher cadres in its favour. But Allende felt more secure among the Carabineros, an armed force that was popular and peasant in its origins and that was under the direct command of the president of the republic. Indeed, the junta had to go six places down the seniority list of the force before it found a senior officer who would support the coup. The younger officers dug themselves in at the junior officers’ school in Santiago and held out for four days until they were wiped out.
That was the best-known battle of the secret war that broke out inside military posts on the eve of the coup. Officers who refused to support the coup and those who failed to carry out the orders for repression were murdered without pity by the instigators. Entire regiments mutinied, both in Santiago and in the provinces, and they were suppressed without mercy, with their leaders massacred as a lesson for the troops.
The commandant of the armoured units in Viña del Mar, Colonel Cantuarias, was machine-gunned by his subordinates. A long time will pass before the number of victims of that internal butchery will ever be known, for the bodies were removed from military posts in garbage trucks and buried secretly. All in all, only some 50 senior officers could be trusted to head troops that had been purged beforehand.
40 Years After Chilean Coup, Allende Aide Juan Garcés on How He Brought Pinochet to Justice
Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the so-called “other 9/11”: On September 11, 1973, a U.S.-backed coup led by General Augusto Pinochet ousted the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. It is estimated more than 3,000 people were killed during Pinochet’s dictatorship, which lasted another 17 years. In 1998, Pinochet was arrested in London on torture and genocide charges on a warrant issued by a Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón. His arrest came largely thanks to the efforts of our guest, Spanish attorney Juan Garcés. A personal adviser to Allende, Garcés was with him on the day of the coup. Allende walked him to the palace exit before it was bombed and told him to tell the world what he had seen. Garcés went on to lead the efforts for Pinochet to be arrested and tried.
Related StoryWeb Exclusive Sep 10, 2013 The Pinochet File: How U.S. Politicians, Banks and Corporations Aided Chilean Coup, Dictatorship
AMY GOODMAN : Singer-songwriter Víctor Jara, who was tortured and executed during the Chilean coup of Salvador Allende. September 11, 1973, the coup began. He died a few days later in or around the stadium, which is now called Víctor Jara Stadium. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report . I’m Amy Goodman, with Aaron Maté. To see my interview with Joan Jara, the widow of Víctor Jara that we conducted yesterday, you can go to our website at democracynow.org, as well is with Joyce Horman, who is the widow of Charlie Horman, a young American freelance journalist who also died in those days after the coup, killed by the Pinochet forces. Aaron?
AARON MATÉ: Well, we turn now to the 40th anniversary of the so-called “other 9/11,” the one that occurred in Chile on September 11th, 1973. A U.S.-backed coup led by General Augusto Pinochet ousted the democratically elected President Salvador Allende. It’s estimated over 3,000 people were killed during Pinochet’s dictatorship, which lasted a further 17 years.
Today, Chile continues to grapple with Pinochet’s repressive and neoliberal legacy, and the country is the middle of an intense presidential election between two contenders with family ties to the coup. Evelyn Matthei, candidate of the right-wing Independent Democratic Union party, is the daughter of retired Air Force General Fernando Matthei, who served in Augusto Pinochet’s military junta. Her opponent is Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s Socialist Party president from 2006 to 2010. She is the daughter of another famous Air Force general, Alberto Bachelet, who was imprisoned and tortured to death for refusing to support Allende’s overthrow. Chilean human rights groups have petitioned the courts to hold General Matthei, who commanded the base where General Bachelet died, responsible for his death.
AMY GOODMAN : Well, one general who did face prosecution for crimes against humanity was General Augusto Pinochet, thanks in large part to the efforts of our next guest, Juan Garcés. Garcés served as the personal adviser to President Salvador Allende. He was with him the day of the coup, September 11, 1973. Allende walked him to the palace exit before it was bombed, and told him to tell the world what he had seen. Garcés later led efforts for Pinochet to be arrested and tried.
We’re also joined by Peter Kornbluh, who spearheaded the effort to declassify more than 20,000 secret documents that revealed the role of the CIA and the White House in the Chilean coup. Kornbluh is the author of the just newly published The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, which has been updated in a new edition that has just come out this week. Peter Kornbluh is also director of the Chile Documentation Project at the National Security Archive and has just returned from Chile. His latest piece in The Nation magazine, “Chileans Confront Their Own 9/11: Forty Years After Pinochet’s Coup, a Historic Presidential Campaign Has Revived Debates About his Dictatorship—And Washington’s Role in It.” And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Juan Garcés, you have also published a new book simply called Allende. Talk about that day 40 years ago tomorrow, 40 years ago, September 11, 1973, when you were with President Allende in the palace. Talk about what happened.
JUAN GARCÉS: Well, 40 years before, Chile was the most developed, democratic country in the Spanish-speaking world, with a robust Parliament and robust political parties, effective freedom of the press, providence in the society to different opinions and worships. And suddenly, in one day, all changed. What is interesting to consider is that before this living—this living democracy was replaced by a regime where there were systematic torture, extraordinary—there were acts of terrorism against—against the democratic society, extrajudicial executions, extraordinary—how do you say—kidnappings and sending the people to another country to be tortured, rendition—extraordinary renditions. And the Plan Condor, the cooperation among the international—
AMY GOODMAN : Operation Condor.
JUAN GARCÉS: Operation Condor.
AMY GOODMAN : That extended to places like Argentina and others.
JUAN GARCÉS: And the coordination between the regional services to kidnap the respective archenemies and torture them and making them disappear. And what is a matter of concern that the methods that were applied by this dictatorship against the people that was for a representative form of government, those methods you can see them working now and being applied worldwide. You have extraordinary renditions. You have extrajudicial killings. You have secret centers of detentions.
AMY GOODMAN : You’re talking about the United States now?
JUAN GARCÉS: I am very concerned that those methods, the habeas corpus ineffectiveness, were applied in Chile with the knowledge and the backing of the Nixon-Kissinger administration in this period. And I am very concerned that the same methods are being applied now under—in other explanations, in many countries with the backing of the United States. That is something that is—I consider as very dangerous for everyone.
AMY GOODMAN : Before we continue on that path, I did want to just capture this moment 40 years ago, when you were in the palace with Salvador Allende and others of his advisers. Explain what happened next, how he died and you lived.
JUAN GARCÉS: Well, I worked with President Allende the night before the coup. And I slept in his home, and I went with him to the presidential palace, because this was the day in which the president will address a message to the nation, opening—calling for a referendum where the citizens will, in their box, decide which future they were preferring: the one that was proposed by the government and—or the one that was proposed by opposition in the Parliament. So, the referendum was open. And in place—and then we were preparing this message to the nation. And in the time that the message should be sent to the airwaves, through the TV, in place of that, there was the attack by airplanes, by artillery, by infantry, with the [inaudible] of killing the president. And, well, this was a political fight. At 9:00 a.m., I asked the president how—”Do you have some regiment, your side?” And the answer was, “No, no regiment.” So, in terms of—in military terms, the outcome was very clear: There were not any capability of military resistance.
So, why Allende resisted still three, four hours more and decided to fight until his death, this is a political message of resistance, of a legitimate commander-in-chief of the army forces that was facing an insurrection, an act of indiscipline, and he didn’t abandon his post of command, and he faced, with the resources that he had, particularly the legitimacy, democratic legitimacy, and that he wanted to let this heritage to his people. And we are now realizing that 40 years later this legacy, this political legacy, is being taken in their hands by Chilean people.
AMY GOODMAN : He took you to the palace exit?
JUAN GARCÉS: Yes. The land infantry and artillery attack began around 9:00 until 11:00. Then the silence said that the airplanes will bomb in a matter of 15 minutes. In this moment, his assistants, all civil assistants, his staff, around 15 people, were with him. We were with him, and he offered them, each one, to have freedom to outside the palace and saved their life, because for him it was very clear that he will resist until the last moment, because he considered that it was his duty as a president elected by the people and with the legitimacy of the republic institutions. And nobody accepted to leave him alone. He made with me an exception. He asked me to save my life, with some recommendations, so I—
AMY GOODMAN : What did he tell you to do?
JUAN GARCÉS: Well, one of the things that he told me is what you said a few moments ago, that given my very close, unique cooperation with him, I was in the measure of explaining what was the government doing during the three years in government, why we were doing what we have done, and which goal, object. And so, he considered that I was the person that could explain better what was the real meaning of this government.
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Orlando Letelier, (born April 13, 1932, Temuco, Chile—died September 21, 1976, Washington, D.C., U.S.), Chilean lawyer, economist, and diplomat who was closely identified with Chilean president Salvador Allende, whose democratically elected Marxist government was overthrown in a military coup in 1973. Letelier is best known in the United States for the manner of his death: three years after the coup, he was killed in downtown Washington, D.C., by a car bomb planted by agents of the Chilean secret police.
Letelier studied at the Instituto Nacional and later at the Universidad de Chile, graduating with degrees in law and economics in 1954. He worked in the copper industry as a research analyst until 1959, when he was forced to resign for having supported Allende’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1958. Letelier and his family went into exile in Venezuela and then settled in Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Inter-American Development Bank and studied at American University in the 1960s. His time abroad both radicalized him and bolstered his credentials as an international representative of Chile.
When Allende was elected president in 1970, Letelier returned to Chile and was subsequently named ambassador to the United States. He became an articulate advocate for the Allende government’s policies of nationalization and redistribution of wealth. But he was working from the difficult position of defending a democratically elected Marxist government increasingly under siege from domestic opponents and the Richard Nixon administration. In 1973 Allende promoted Letelier to foreign minister and then, briefly, to defense minister. However, Letelier was unable, from this position, to head off growing dissatisfaction with Allende’s rule in the military. Defections within the traditionally constitutionalist and democratic armed forces were crucial to Allende’s demise.
Led by General Augusto Pinochet, the military junta that took power on September 11, 1973 eventually murdered more than 3,000 people and tortured and imprisoned tens of thousands of others. Letelier was arrested and tortured in a concentration camp on Dawson Island, in the country’s extreme south. After international pressure led to his release in 1974, Letelier returned to Washington and took up a high-profile position with the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank. He at once became an obvious target of the Pinochet regime’s efforts to stifle dissent. The bomb that killed him on September 21, 1976 also took the life of his American assistant, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Letelier’s murder was perhaps the most egregious single act of Operation Condor, a joint effort by several military dictatorships in South America in the 1970s and ’80s to murder exiled political dissidents.
Allende Revival Stokes Animosity in Chile
President Salvador Allende did not leave this world quietly. With army tanks surrounding his offices in the downtown La Moneda palace, and jets overhead poised to drop bombs on him, he went on the radio for one last defiant speech.
“I will not resign,” he said. “I will offer my life to repay the loyalty of the Chilean people.” Then he donned a helmet, grabbed a machine gun -- and eventually shot himself.
In the three decades that have followed the military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the name of the democratically elected leftist president has been all but erased from the nation’s history. But now, on the 30th anniversary of the right-wing takeover, Chile’s current president, Ricardo Lagos, is bringing Allende back to the forefront of this country’s political life.
Allende is being honored this week in two acts of official remembrance that, though simple and muted, have shaken Chile’s establishment. A meeting room in the presidential palace was renamed after him Wednesday. And Lagos today will become the first president since the leftist leader’s death to enter La Moneda palace through the door by which Allende’s body was carried out on Sept. 11, 1973.
The potent symbolism has provoked anger not only from the right-wing parties and military officers who backed the Pinochet dictatorship, but also from the centrist allies in Lagos’ ruling center-left coalition, who have declined to attend the official ceremonies marking the coup’s anniversary.
“It doesn’t seem right to us that the former adversaries of the Allende government should be asked to attend an act in honor of a government we thought was a bad one,” said Patricio Aylwin, a former president, reflecting a common sentiment in the Christian Democratic Party.
Elected president in 1970, Allende ruled during a heady time in which he and his supporters imagined themselves leading their country down a “Chilean road to socialism.” He nationalized industries and earned the enmity of the Nixon administration, which worked covertly to undermine his government.
About 3,200 people died in the coup and in the 17 years of right-wing authoritarian rule that followed, according to the official “truth commission” report issued in 1991 under the government of Aylwin, the democratically elected president to whom Pinochet handed power in 1990.
Despite the reservations of Alywin and others, the image of Allende and his leftist Popular Unity government has undergone a remarkable rehabilitation here. No longer is he seen as the bumbling Marxist ideologue that the Chilean media once made him out to be. Instead, he is increasingly viewed as a courageous statesman and a victim of U.S. meddling in Chilean affairs.
Pinochet, meanwhile, is a largely discredited man who has escaped trial for gross human rights violations only because a judge said he suffers from “dementia.”
The horrors of the 1973 coup are being detailed on nightly documentaries, such as a recent one that offered viewers images long considered taboo here: workers recovering bodies of executed prisoners from the Santiago trash dumps and the Mapocho River.
Most tellingly, the report used the Spanish word for coup, golpe, rather than the long accepted euphemism -- “the military process.”
“There has been a 180-degree turn,” said Sen. Jorge Patricio Arancibia, a member of the rightist Independent Democratic Union.
During the 1973 coup, Arancibia was a naval officer overseeing the detention of workers at a coastal factory. He said no one was tortured or killed there, and he remains proud of the military’s overthrow of Allende.
Until 1998, he pointed out, Sept. 11 was a national holiday here, celebrated as the day of Chile’s liberation from “Marxist terror.” Then the holiday was canceled and replaced with a memorial Mass. Now Allende will be honored on that day.
“The government is making a mistake putting Allende’s name forward on Sept. 11,” Arancibia said. “Far from being a statesman, he was one of the worst presidents Chile has ever had. He ruined the country.”
Arancibia and other rightists see political motives in the celebration, a distraction from economic woes and scandals that have eaten away at the popularity of the ruling alliance, the Coalition of Parties for Democracy.
All three presidents elected since Pinochet stepped down -- Aylwin, Eduardo Frei and Lagos -- have been members of the coalition, which united two parties that were bitter foes during the Allende period, the Christian Democrats and Allende’s Socialist Party.
After taking office in 2000, Lagos enjoyed wide popularity until several congressmen from his coalition were implicated in a bribery scandal this year. Then a government fund was plundered by the worst case of financial fraud in Chilean history.
Sensing the government’s weakness on the issue, the right-wing Independent Democratic Union in May put forward its a plan to prosecute human rights abuses from the Allende era.
Four months later, the Lagos government announced that it would expand and accelerate the prosecution of the military men and security agents guilty of the worst excesses during the dictatorship. And, for the first time, lower-ranking officers would be given immunity to testify against their superiors.
“There is no perfect justice on this Earth,” said Jose Zalaquett, Lagos’ top human rights advisor. “But we will achieve a significant measure of justice if we ensure that the worst cases do not go unpunished.”
The effort is slowly gaining traction in what has become a regionwide effort to accelerate the prosecution of past human rights abuses, with Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Peru all taking steps to revisit a recent history of political violence, torture and killings.
In Chile, a handful of former “repressors” have been convicted in the last two years and are serving prison sentences. Before then, officers had been tried in only one prominent case, the 1976 assassination in Washington of Orlando Letelier, Allende’s exiled defense minister.
Gen. Manuel Contreras, head of Pinochet’s secret police, who was found guilty in 1993 by a Chilean court of ordering Letelier’s assassination, was arrested again this year on new charges.
“And his boss, Pinochet,” said Zalaquett, “has avoided prison only because biology and time took their course. In the moment he was held to answer [for his crimes], he was mentally impaired.”
One of the most important legacies of the Pinochet era was a law that granted amnesty to any military man who committed a crime in the line of duty between 1973 and 1978.
In recent years, however, a growing number of former officials have been prosecuted thanks to a loophole: Cases involving victims who remain “disappeared” are being treated by many judges as if they were ongoing kidnapping cases, and thus as crimes that continued to occur after the amnesty period.
Several prominent officers have been convicted, dozens of ex-soldiers and security agents are in custody, and about 200 other military men are facing charges, while hundreds more cases remain dormant.
Ongoing judicial proceedings, carried out in private, are shedding new light on the horrors of that Sept. 11 of three decades ago, according to lawyer Nelson Caucoto, who represents family members seeking prosecution in dozens of cases. Court proceedings have revealed that the arrested personnel from La Moneda were taken to a military base, where they were killed with hand grenades, he said.
The Lagos government’s new proposal would increase the number of special judges to prosecute human rights cases and also increase the benefits paid to former political prisoners and the relatives of the disappeared.
And yet, many here feel the government’s plan is a surrender to Chile’s still-powerful right.
“Each time we see these repressors free on the streets, it is an insult to the memory of our loved ones,” said Lorena Pizarro, 37, whose parents disappeared during the dictatorship.
Pizarro is president of the Union of Families of Disappeared Prisoners. She was 7 years old the day Allende fell. Both of her parents, high-ranking militants in the Communist Party, went into hiding. Eventually, the entire family lived in safe houses under new identities, forcing the children to address their parents by different names. Then her parents were captured at a party meeting, and she never saw them again.
At the Pinochet Foundation, established to celebrate the general’s 80th birthday in 1995, Sergio Jarpa believes that most Chileans do not want to dwell on the horrors of the past.
Yes, some excesses were committed during the “military process,” and the people responsible should be prosecuted, said Jarpa, a former minister in Pinochet’s government. But he believes history will look kindly upon the dictator’s reign.
Despite the recent malaise, Chile’s economy remains one of the strongest in South America and Pinochet’s application of strict fiscal discipline after the “excesses” and hyperinflation of the Allende government deserves the credit, Jarpa said.
Sen. Arancibia also believes history will be kind to Pinochet.
“Look at how many people were killed in Argentina [as many as 30,000], and their problems were not even half as bad as ours,” he said. “Or look at Peru, where they are now saying [more than 69,000] people were killed. And let’s not even mention places like Africa.
“When you look at it from that point of view,” Arancibia continued, “what we had in Chile was practically a surgical operation.”
Tobar was recently on assignment in Santiago.
Hector Tobar worked at the Los Angeles Times for two decades: as a city reporter, national and foreign correspondent, columnist and with the books and culture department. He left in September 2014. Tobar was The Times’ bureau chief in Mexico City and Buenos Aires and was part of the reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 L.A. riots. He has also worked as features editor at the LA Weekly and as editor of the bilingual San Francisco magazine El Tecolote. Tobar has an MFA in creative writing from UC Irvine and studied at UC Santa Cruz and at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City. The Los Angeles-born writer is the author of five books, which have been translated into 15 languages. His novel “The Barbarian Nurseries” was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2011 and also won the California Book Award Gold Medal for Fiction his latest work is “The Last Great Road Bum.” He’s married, the father of three children and the son of Guatemalan immigrants.
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