Salvador Allende came to power as the first elected socialist president in Latin America in 1970. He was backed by the Unidad Popular (Popular Unity), a civilian front with communists, socialists, Christian Radicals and Left Radicals. The Unidad Popular occupied a minority in the parliament of Chile 'though.

The Allende government was destabilized from the beginning. Not only by conservative powers in Chile, but also by the Nixon administration to revert nationalization of American companies like ITT, Kennecott and Anaconda. Right extremists committed assaults, anti-Allende-movements (mainly recruted from middle class) held protest marches and the CIA infiltrated social life and press in Chile.

The Chilean economy was put to a halt because of strikes and sabotage but also because of maladministration by the Unidad Popular. Salvador Allende - uncle of famous author Isabel Allende - sought to implement an anti-imperialist program of building socialism within a democratic framework. This 'Chilean path to socialism' drowned in the economic chaos and doubtful decisions by Allende and his government, which lead to inflation and shortages. The Chilean unemployment rate however dropped from 8.4 percent to 4.8 percent in 1971.

Allende's efforts to maintain some degree of working consensus with the opposition began to fail. Defense minister and generals submitted their resignations, clearing the way for a putsch.

By the summer of 1973, an important part of the high command of the Armed Forces of Chile had lost respect for the legally constituted government. The thousand days of Allende were soon over, as the overtaking general's telegram showed: "Mission accomplished. La Moneda taken. President dead". The revolutionists claimed it was suicide.

As head of the military junta, general Augusto Pinochet announced himself president.