Though I wasn't born in Chile, nor did I live to see September 11, 1973, most of my family lived through that day of sheer terror.

In 1970, socialist leader Salvador Allende was elected president by the people of Chile. Augusto Pinochet became the commander of the Chilean army on August 23, 1973.

On September 11, 1973, he violently overthrew the leftist Chilean government, using his newly appointed military power. His tanks lead the charge toward La Moneda (the equivalent of the Chilean White House), followed by planes loaded with bombs. Pinochet ordered Allende and his government leaders to leave the building, but he and his high ranked officers decided to stay, for he knew that they would be executed by the right wing extremists. They chose a wise destiny: they chose martyrdom. The "milicos" (Pinochet's troops) then bombed La Moneda, killing everyone inside; much to Pinochet's delight.

Pinochet then took over all radio and television stations and declared himself president/dictator of Chile, and placed the country under strict martial law. Each milico took on the role of the gestapo and did random checks through the homes of civillians; checking for socialist propaganda. If any was propaganda was found, everyone in the house was taken to the National Stadium.

Civillians were also slaughtered and/or tortured. Random working class people were picked up off of the streets in downtown Santiago, as well as a high percentage of the homeless, and were taken in trucks to "El Estadio" (literally translated as "The Stadium", where Colo-Colo plays their home games). An endless number of trucks full of people poured into the stadium that day, but all the trucks that left were completely empty, minus the driver. Pinochet's goal was to eliminate poverty in Chile, but his goal wasn't to create jobs for the jobless... his goal was to kill the poor. The people were literally hung by goal posts, and were shot and killed by the US trained millitants.

Among the victims was guitarist Victor Jara. He was tortured in the National Stadium by milicos who cut off his fingers, then his hands, and was asked how he would play his music without them.

Even the working class people were tortured and beaten. My uncle, who worked for an airline at the time, was detained and beaten by two milicos on the way home from work. My other uncle, who managed to escape La Moneda before it was bombed, was tortured in Punta Arenas, where he was forced to do pointless slave labor (such as carrying huge sacks of sand from place to place) while he was beaten by the milicos.

Recently, Pinochet was indicted with something called "The Death Caravan", which was basically a systematic execution of political/pro-socialist prisoners which took place on or around September 11, 1973. Approximately 3,000 people "disappeared" in that time, excluding those that were killed in the bombing of La Moneda.

September the eleventh, Chile and Salvador Allende:

Chile is a thin and long country in South America, running almost all the way along the Pacific coast of the continent. In 1973 it had 10 million inhabitants. It was an underdeveloped country, strongly dependent on the United States economy and its multi-nationals. The main industries were the copper mining, steel and farming lands. It had managed to sustain over 160 years of parliamentary activity, had a constitution almost a hundred years old and division of powers. The government was elected democratically by individual and secret vote. There was no discrimination on religion, race or ideas.

In this context Salvador Allende was risen. He studied medicine, but was called to the fields of politics, in the lines of the Socialist Party, forming a group that would be known as "Unión Popular" (People's Union). Unlike all the other socialist leaders in the USSR, Cuba, China, etc., Allende believed in democracy, a democracy formed by differentiated political parties, based on the freedom of expression and vote, division between church and state and division of powers (legislative, judicial and executive).

In 1970 the UP lost the elections, but with the support of other parties gathered enough votes in the Congress to elect Allende president of the republic. Following this, he proceeded to develop his program: socialization of the main national industries, redistribution of wealth, development of education, health care, construction of homes for the lower classes... These things made his popular support increase in the next elections of 1973.

However, Allende had to sustain a lot of opposition from the international community (because you wouldn't believe that the copper mines belonged to Chileans, would you?) and from his own country, specially from the higher classes that had been affected by the capital redistributions. Of course it would have been easier to silence all of them, but if one thing must be understood about Allende is that he took the spirit of communism to its furthest consequence: democracy. He would not silence discrepant voices, ban opposing parties or newspapers. He would rule with the support of his people, or he would not rule at all.

On September the eleventh of 1973 a sector of the army, supported by the United States, rose against the Chilean government and marched over Santiago (the capital) and to the "Casa de la Moneda" (government headquarters). For long hours the two sides fought: the coupist soldiers against those defending the choice of the people. During all this time, Allende stood his place, with a radio connection open to the air. He himself radiated the events and promised his people that he would not betray the trust they've put on him. He was still talking, when the fascist troops finally entered his office. The recorded emission concludes with the sound of the two gun shots that ended his life.

After that, and for seventeen years, a fascist government ruled in Chile. It caused over 7.000 deaths and an uncountable number of tortures and political prisoners. In a country of ten million people, these seven thousand deaths equal over forty-five attacks against the Twin Towers, compared to the United States 11S. Seven thousand people were killed, but that day millions of dreams died.

{Update: I have recently seen documents which raise the number of deaths caused by the dictatorship of Pinochet up to 30.000. This would equal 200 attacks against the Twin Towers, in proportion to the U.S. populace. But, frankly: three thousand or thirty thousand -- it's the same, they're just numbers. If you can justify the murder of a single human being, then you've got the argumet to exterminate hummanity.}

Allende was significant because he was the promise of a better world, of a brighter future, and he tried to realize it not by the means of strength or violence, but through those of democracy. He understood that communism was only possible with the support of the people. He fought with words for that idea, and won the battle. Those who lost it ended his life with the lead of their guns. But, quoting Allende's last words: "Social changes cannot be delayed, neither with crime nor with strength. History is ours, and it is written by the people".

The CIA intervention

A fore note:
This a slightly extensive gathering of info on September 11th of 1973, the fascist coup-de-ètat in Chile and its origins and implications. To be fair, I have to warn you that the sources consulted were strongly tilted towards Salvador Allende, ideologically at least, and the compiler (that is, me) is too. I've tried to be objective and I think that the texts here exposed, if strongly left-flavoured, do contain objective information, but it may be very possible that the colour of my ideals is blinding me.
Please understand also that most of this information was extracted from Spanish sites and books. Thus, many of it had to be translated, including names of U.S. administrations and famous quotes. Please point to me the mistakes I've committed so that they can be corrected.

When Salvador Allende -- an avowed Marxist -- lost for only three points the Chilean presidential elections of 1958, the United States decided that the result of the next elections, those of 1964, was not to be left in the hands of fate or democracy.

Washington took this very seriously. Because of that, at the beginning of the Kennedy administration, in 1961, an electoral committee was created, formed by high officers from the State Department, the CIA and the White House. In [Santiago de Chile, meanwhile, a parallel committee was formed, mainly with members of the U.S. Embassy and the CIA.

"The North American intervention in Chile in 1964 was brazen and almost obscene", pointed an intelligence officer who worked in an strategic area at the time. "We sent people everywhere, mainly from the State Dept., but also from the CIA, with all kind of excuses". About a hundred U.S. officers took part in the operation.

They began to shape the conditions for the next elections and, quoting an investigation committee from the Senate: "operative relationships were established with the main political parties and propaganda and organic mechanics were created with the ability to influence large sectors of the populace". Projects "to capacite and organize 'anti-communist' groups among the peasants, in the towns, in the syndicates, students, mass-media, etc."

After having supported economically several political parties that didn't belong to the left, the electoral team eventually choose the centrist Eduardo Frei, the candidate of "Democracia Cristiana" (Christian Democracy), and the most realistic option to prevent Allende from being elected. The CIA paid more than half the campaign of the DC. That is, U.S.$20 million, a quantity equaling more money per voter than that of the Johnson and Goldwater campaigns together, which were carried that year in the United States. Most of that money was spent on propaganda.

*****

The operation surpassed expectatives. Frei won with a 56 per cent of the votes, against the 39 per cent that Allende reached. According to the CIA, in its report to the Senate, "it was the most successful anti-communist campaign ever carried on". The tactic was mainly to approach the feminine populace. Actually, Allende won with 67.000 more masculine votes than Frei -- in Chile men and women vote in separate boxes -- while amongst the women Frei won by 469.000 ballots. This fact shows once more how easy it is to manipulate thousands of minds, whatever be the society.

What did Salvador Allende incarnate to trigger such a feverish activity? What threat did this man held so that one of the most powerful nations in the world would attack him with all its technical and economical resources? According to the Senate, Allende's political program had as main aim "the redistribution of income (in a country where two per cent -- 2%!! -- of the populace gathered 46% of the income) and the reshapement of the Chilean economy, beginning with the socialization of the main industries, namely the copper mining; a wide agricultural reform and better relationship with socialist and communist countries".

The North American government knew that from a man compromised with such objectives, they could only expect him to lead his country along a path independent from the priorities of the U.S. and its multi-nationals foreign policies. (During his administration, however, Allende showed that his policy was also independent from that of other -- read USSR -- countries).

*****

I don't see why we should stand by and watch a whole country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its people.

Thus spoke Henry Kissinger, main advisor of the United States President on national security issues. It was June the 27th of 1970. The place, a Committee 40's meeting for the National Security Advisory, and the people Kissinger was blaming of imminent irresponsibility were the Chileans that, he feared, would vote for Allende.

The United States didn't wait too long to act. In that meeting the funding for the anti-Allende campaign was incremented in U.S.$300.000. The CIA shoot his misinformation campaign against the Chilean electorate, with bullets that read: "Allende's victory will mean Stalinist repression". The 'black' propaganda was used to undermine the coalition formed by Allende and those supporting him, creating a division between the Communist Party and the Socialist Party, and also between the Communist Party and the "Central Unica de Trabajadores" (the main worker's syndicate), which was leaded by the communists.

Despite this, on September the eleventh of 1970, Allende won the elections with a ballot minority. On October 24th, the Chilean Congress gathered to choose between Allende and the closest winner, Jorge Alessandri, from the "Partido Nacional Conservador" (National Conservative Party). Theoretically, Allende had his presidency assured.

The United States had seven weeks to prevent Allende from being elected. On September 15th, President Nixon met with Kissinger, CIA director Richard Helms, and the Main Solicitor John Mitchell. The notes that Helms wrote during the meeting have become famous: "Maybe there's still a ten per cent chance, but we have to save Chile! ... I don't care the risks this implies ... there's U.S.$10.000.000 available, more if necessary... we have to unbalance the economy".

The Committee 40 authorized funding to bribe the Chilean politicians so that they would vote for Alessandri, but this idea was soon discarded. After that, and under high pressure from Richard Nixon, the North American efforts turned to the persuasion of the Chilean military into a coup-de-ètat, after which the Congress vote would be suspended. At the same time, Nixon and Kissinger made clear to the White House that they didn't throw away the option of political murder. There's a White House document that explores several ways to kill Allende.

*****

Meanwhile, the CIA kept talking with several officers of the Chilean Army that were open to the idea of a government overthrowing. (According to the CIA, it was difficult to find such officers, given "the apolitical tilting and constitutional inertia of the Chilean military"). To those interested the United States offered all possible support apart from direct intervention. The main obstacle that these subverting officers found was the strong opposition of the Army's Chief Commander, General Rene Schneider, who insisted into respecting the constitutional process. This obstacle would be "suppressed".

In the morning of October 22th of 1970, the CIA gave submachine guns and "sterilized" weaponry to some of the plotters. That day, Schneider died from the wounds inflicted during a "kidnap attempt" while he was heading to his office.

The CIA in Santiago informed its headquarters that the general had been murdered with the weapons given to the coupist officers. Afterwards, however, the CIA would declare to the Senate that Schneider's murderers were not the same men that had received the weapons.

The manslaughter didn't help the coupists -- it only strengthened the respect for the constitution inside the Army. Two days after that, Salvador Allende's presidency was ratified by the Chilean Congress. November 3rd of 1970 Allende took charge.

All the elements were set for the conflict between two experiments. On one side, the "socialist" experiment of Allende, with its objectives of rising the country from the mud of underdevelopment and dependency, and ending with poverty. On the other side, in words from the CIA Director William Colby, "a laboratory experiment to try techniques of high economic inversion aimed to the loss of prestige and overthrowing of a government"

Though few of the elements of this experiment were unique for the CIA, the truth is that it was the most multifaceted intervention carried by the United States. Its realization contributed with a new word to the language: destabilization.

"Not a single screw or nut will enter Chile under Allende," warned North American ambassador Edward Korry once Allende's presidency was ratified. The economy of Chile, dependent as it was from the United States, was the country's weak spot, easy to strike. Through the next three years, the number of public programs of social assistance from the United States thinned until they almost disappeared. Similar things happened to the loans from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Inter-american Development Bank, in which the United States had veto right. The World Bank didn't authorize any new loan to Chile between 1971 and 1973. The economical assistance and guarantee to the private inversion in Chile, from the North American government, suffered from serious drawbacks, and the U.S. business sector was ordered to tighten the rope around Chile's neck.

Actually, this boycott meant that many urban transports in Chile became out of order, since there was a general lack of pieces to repair them. Similar problems had the copper, steel, electricity and petroleum industries. The North Americans refused to sell the so needed replacements even despite Chile's offer of anticipated cash payment.

The multinational ITT, which didn't need to be instructed on what had to be done, declared in 1970 in a memorandum: "A realist hope for those attempting to overthrow Allende is that a quickly dropping economy will cause waves of violence that will end in a militar coup-de-ètat".

While the economical aid was receding, and even despite their own warnings, the United States increased their military help to Chile between 1972 and 1973 while Chilean soldiers were being trained in the United States and Panamá. The government of Allende was cornered, and didn't want to refuse that aid, to avoid more enemies among their own military leaders.

Maybe nothing rose the unrest more among the Chilean populace than the general shortage, everyday nuisances like the inability to find a preferred food, or flour, or edible oil, or sheets, or soap, or the needed replacement for the TV or car. Or, worst of all, when a nicotine addict could not find tobacco. Partially, the shortage was a result of the transitions that the country was suffering, the socialization of certain enterprises, experiments in the administration by the workers, etc. But this was naught compared with the effects of the economical boycott and the practices of North American corporations, whose presence could be felt so strongly in Chile. Besides, a series of long strikes shook the country, supported by the economical aid of the United States.

On October 1972, for example, a guild of private truck owners began a strike to obstruct the transport of food and other needed goods, including in his boycott the papers that supported the government -- it is worth saying that subtlety wasn't very important in such a polarized country. Soon, a great number of business closed their doors -- lots from the middle-class helped to tighten the nut and increase the public unease -- and when their business were open, many refused to sell some goods, like tobacco, to sell them afterwards in the black market to clients eager to pay higher prizes. Afterwards, many professionals and officers opposed to the government ceased in their jobs, with or without CIA support.

The main aim of this campaign was to force the people's patience, and make them realize that socialism could not work in Chile. Despite this, most of the Chilean people had suffered worse privations before Allende's government -- lack of food, shelter, health care and education, for example. At least half the people had suffered malnutrition. Allende, who was medicine doctor, set up a program to guarantee every child half a litre of milk per day, expaining that, "Today in Chile there's over 600.000 children mentally retarded due to the bad nourishment during the first eight months of their lives, when they didn't receive the appropriate proteins."

It was not economic assistance the only support the CIA offered the strikers. Over a hundred members of the professional and employer guilds were ex-pupils from the "Little Anti-Red School" directed by the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) of Front Royal, Virginia. This organization, the main CIA latin-american work syndicate, helped to found a new professional guild in Chile, May 1971: the "Confederación de Profesionales Chilenos". The experts from the AIFLD had over 10 years of experience on the promotion of economical disruptions.

Since Chile, unlike other socialist experiments, had chosen the way of freedom and democracy, the newspapers had free to print whatever they pleased. The propaganda experts from the CIA had the time of their lives exploiting the shortages and chaos, and promoting generalized panic. The first lines in the papers spread rumors about everything, from socializations to rotten meat and unedible water... Certain sectors of the mass-media played with the idea of Civil War, when they were not calling for it directly...

*****

In March 1973, the UP ("Unión Popular", People's Union, the group lead by Allende) won by 44 per cent of the votes in the elections, compared with the 36 per cent of 1970. It is said that it was the greatest support obtained in Chile by a party after more than two years of rule. The parties in the opposition had publicly declared that they expected to have two thirds of the Congress and be able to block Allende. Now they faced three years more of socialist rule, without a chance to block Allende's increasing popularity, despite their best and most dishonest attempts.

During the spring and summer, the destabilization process increased. There was a series of strikes and demonstrations, with a very long truck strike. The magazine Time wrote: "While most of the country was subsisting with limited rations, the truck drivers seemed strangely well-equipped for a long strike". A journalist asked a group of them that was camping and eating "a copious dinner with meat, vegetables, wine and pie" where had they got the money to pay the food from. "From the CIA", was the answer.

On September, the military had control over the situation. "It is obvious", said the Senate committee in charge of the investigation, "that during the months of July, August and September of 1973, the CIA received intelligence reports on the plans for the coup, from the group of soldiers that carried the successful government overthrow in September the eleventh of 1973".

The North American role in that ominous day was one of shadows and presences. The coup begun in the coast of Valparaí­so with the movement of Chilean naval troops to Santiago, while the ships of the U.S. Navy sailed in the distance, apparently with the intention to join the Chilean navy. The North American ships didn't enter national waters, but kept their positions ready. A WB-575 plane -- an airborne communications control system -- guided by officers of the U.S. Air Force patrolled the Chilean skies. At the same time, U.S. scout and war planes took land in the United States base of Mendoza, Argentina, near the Chilean frontier.

*****

Washington knows no worse third world heresy than independence. For Salvador Allende, this was particularly provocative: a Marxist, democratically elected, and eager to respect the constitution. This was not acceptable. It shook the very roots of the anti-communist doctrine: the idea, risen through decades, that "communists" could only reach the power through violence, strength and treason, that they keep the power only through state terrorism and mind washing. There was only one thing worse than a communist leader: a communist leader democratically elected.

*****

Sources:

Most of the information for this text was extracted from the site www.chilevive.cl. According to them, their sources are direct witnesess, documents from the UP and the political refugees out of Chile during the dictatorship, and the book "Killing Hope. U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II" by William Blum, edited by Common Courage Pr., 1995.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.