9/11/13 marked the 40th anniversary of the notorious coup which overthrew the elected government of socialist Salvador Allende in Chile leaving Allende himself dead. Many more deaths, disappearances, and imprisonments, as well as horrendous incidents to numerous to count of torture were to follow as the Generals with the full support of that bastion of liberal democracy known as the USA did much more than merely look on with a hideous smile.
The US backed dictator who took over, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, thus began a seventeen year reign of terror during which more than 3000 Chileans were killed. He didn't stop with Chile. As Nation of Change reminds us:
The Pinochet regime was violent, repressive and a close ally of the United States. Pinochet formed alliances with other military regimes in South America, and they created “Operation Condor,” a campaign of coordinated terror and assassinations throughout Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Brazil. Operation Condor even reached onto the streets of Washington, DC, when, on Sep. 21, 1976, a former Chilean ambassador to the US during the Allende government, Orlando Letelier, along with his assistant, a US citizen named Ronni Moffitt, were killed by a car bomb planted by Pinochet’s secret police on Embassy Row, just blocks from the White House.
That anniversary was remembered the past few days in Chile not with flag waving but with protest and repression.
Police hauled out the water canons and the gas as they carried out their battles with protesters. The protesters fought back injuring at least 42 cops while hundreds of their comrades were arrested marked a second consecutive night of fighting in the suburbs of Santiago. Protesters erected barricades and cut power. 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.
Protests these days in Chile are not merely about the past. Young people born since the return to "democracy" in 1990 have been in the streets demanding education reform, healthcare and jobs. Carolos Torres says in the Bullet:
In Chile neoliberal politics were imposed under a military-business dictatorship and until very recently the climate did not appear favorable for challenging the current right-wing government led by Pinochet's cherubs who represent the legacy of the dictatorship, even after more than twenty years of transition to democracy. This is a fearful democracy that had changed the administration of power and made signals toward the protection of human rights, while it continued to repress and criminalize social movements and indigenous communities. It also promotes the criminalization of dissidence by creating new laws to take it to court.
...We are talking about a state conceived of and designed to meet the needs of neoliberalism. The cost, however, is paid by the environment, common goods and working men and women: the fallacy of the successful businessmen is based on the dynamic of double exploitation of the environment and labour.
...We are talking about a state conceived of and designed to meet the needs of neoliberalism. The cost, however, is paid by the environment, common goods and working men and women: the fallacy of the successful businessmen is based on the dynamic of double exploitation of the environment and labour.
The powerful students’ struggle of the past three years is questioning the roots of neoliberalism in the educational system as exemplified in 2011, when students began demanding free education and an end to the debt they were forced to assume in order to study. They also confronted the state and the government concerning profits in educational establishments because in neoliberal Chile businesses that provide services, especially in the areas of finance and retail, are characterized as “industry,” and education is no exception. It has become like any factory, mining, chemical, wood or industrial complex. In other words, education is another sector of economic activity developed to expand the frontiers and strengthen the expansion of capital through onerous fees and high interest rates on educational loans, transforming it into a type of double surplus value extraction.
The student movement has persuaded diverse sectors of society to join the students in their demands; they made it clear that they were the children of workers and therefore part of the social fabric of the nation. As such, their problems extended to all parts of society as they did not consider themselves a sector encapsulated by its own imperatives. Nonetheless, the students emphasized their autonomy from political parties, government coalitions and business interests. Moreover, the majority of student federations called for a transformation of society, including the political constitution that impedes the democratic process in matters that directly affect people's lives.
At present, more than ever, social movements across Chile – from workers of all sectors to students and peasants – are requesting the end of the market in the strategic sector of the economy and the removal of the neoliberal approach in the implementation of social programs: no more market in health, education, housing, and pension plans; no more profits on the state funding of social services.
Juan Garces, a citizen of Spain who was President Allende's closest advisor and who barely escaped the Presidential Palace just before it was bombed by the air force was tasked by President with telling the world what had happened that day. Garces, As Nation of Change writes:
Today,...sees alarming similarities between the repression in Chile and US policies today: “You have extraordinary renditions. You have extrajudicial killings. You have secret centers of detentions. I am very concerned that those methods ... were applied in Chile with the knowledge and the backing of the Nixon-Kissinger administration in this period. The same methods are being applied now in many countries with the backing of the United States. That is very dangerous for everyone.”
It is a bit of remarkable irony or not that Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting, yesterday, on Sept. 11, with one of his predecessors, Henry Kissinger, reportedly to discuss strategy on forthcoming negotiations on Syria with Russian officials.
Rabble puts it well,
Rather than meeting with Kissinger for advice, John Kerry would better serve the cause of peace by consulting with those like Garces who have spent their lives pursuing peace. The only reason Henry Kissinger should be pursued is to be held accountable, like Pinochet, in a court of law.
I will leave you with the last words Salvador Allende addressed to the people of Chile on September 11, 1973, during the coup and while barricaded inside La Moneda, the Presidential Palace.
Surely this will be the last opportunity for me to address you. The Air Force has bombed the towers of Radio Portales and Radio Corporación.
My words do not have bitterness but disappointment. May they be a moral punishment for those who have betrayed their oath: soldiers of Chile, titular commanders in chief, Admiral Merino, who has designated himself Commander of the Navy, and Mr. Mendoza, the despicable general who only yesterday pledged his fidelity and loyalty to the Government, and who also has appointed himself Chief of the Carabineros [national police].
Given these facts, the only thing left for me is to say to workers: I am not going to resign!
Placed in a historic transition, 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.
They have strength and will be able to dominate us, but social processes can be arrested neither by crime nor force. History is ours, and people make history.
Workers of my country: I want to thank you for the loyalty that you always had, the confidence that you deposited in a man who was only an interpreter of great yearnings for justice, who gave his word that he would respect the Constitution and the law and did just that. At this definitive moment, the last moment when I can address you, I wish you to take advantage of the lesson: foreign capital, imperialism, together with the reaction, created the climate in which the Armed Forces broke their tradition, the tradition taught by General Schneider and reaffirmed by Commander Araya, victims of the same social sector which will today be in their homes hoping, with foreign assistance, to retake power to continue defending their profits and their privileges.
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 professionals of Chile, patriotic professionals, those who days ago continued working against the sedition sponsored by professional associations, class-based associations that also defended the advantages which a capitalist society grants to a few.
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.
Surely Radio Magallanes will be silenced, and the calm metal instrument of my voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be next to you. At least my memory will be that of a man of dignity who was loyal to [inaudible] the workers.
The people must defend themselves, but they must not sacrifice themselves. The people must not let themselves be destroyed or riddled with bullets, but they cannot be humiliated either.
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, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason.
I will post below two items of import. The first is an account of the coup days with analysis. It is from Red Pepper. The second has to do with the role of Kissinger and the USA and presents some more then telling documentation. It is from Popular Resistance.
Chile: The first dictatorship of
When General Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende’s left-wing government in Chile, Mike Gatehouse was among the thousands of activists arrested. On the 40th anniversary of the coup he describes the hope and then the horror of the time.
The mood in the country in March 1972 was still quite euphoric, following substantial and hugely popular achievements such as the nationalisation of Chile’s copper mines and the pursuit of a more radical land reform. People still felt that now, at last, they had a government which belonged to them and would bring real and irreversible improvements for the poor and the dispossessed. In the words of the Inti-Illimani song: ‘Porque esta vez no se trata de cambiar un presidente, será el pueblo quien construya un Chile bien diferente’ —This time it’s not just a change of President. This time it will be the people who will build a really different Chile.
Chile was an intensely exciting place to be. Everyone was ‘comprometido’ —committed, involved. There was no room for being in the words of the Victor Jara song, ‘ni chicha, ni limonada’ —a fence-sitter, neither beer nor lemonade. Political debate was constant and ubiquitous among all ages and classes of people of the left, centre and right. Newspapers (most of the principal ones still controlled by the right), magazines, radio and TV discussed every action of the government, every promise made by Allende and his ministers and every move of the opposition with a depth, sophistication and venom almost unimaginable in Britain today.
The changes were not only political, they were profound changes in the national culture. Most of the popular singers, many actors, artists, poets and authors identified closely with Popular Unity and considered themselves engaged in a battle against the imported, implanted values of Hollywood, Disney, Braniff Airlines, the ‘cold-blooded dealers in dreams, magazine magnates grown fat at the expense of youth’ in the excoriating words of Victor Jara’s song ¿Quien mató a Carmencita? There was a vogue for playing chess and in cafés and squares you would see people earnestly bent over chess-boards while conducting vehement political debates.
The national publisher Quimantu (the old ZigZag company, bought by the government in 1971) was printing a vast range of books, produced and sold at low prices, to enable all but the poorest to own books, enjoy reading and have access to literature. In the two years of its existence it produced almost 12 million books, distributing them not only in bookshops, but street news-kiosks, buses, through the trade unions and in some factories.
But dark clouds were beginning to gather. The CIA had already attempted a coup in 1970, with a botched kidnap attempt ending in the murder of General Schneider, commander-in-chief of the Chilean army. ITT and other US corporations were busily urging more decisive intervention on the State Department. There was a vast increase in funding to opposition groups in Chile and the price of copper, Chile’s crucial export, was being manipulated on the world market. The economy was beginning to falter, and inflation to climb.
In October 1972 the owners of road transport staged a massive lockout (still, mistakenly, called ‘the lorry-drivers strike’), paralysing road transport, attacking or sabotaging the vehicles of any who continued to work and paying a daily wage well in excess of normal earnings to owner-drivers who brought their lorries to the road-side encampments of the strike. The atmosphere of these was similar to those of the refinery blockades in Britain in 2000, but far more serious and violent. Food, oil, petrol and other necessities ran short.
I spent some of my free hours unloading trains in Santiago’s Estación Yungay, alongside teams of volunteers organised by the Chilean Young Communists and other groups.
The lockout subsided, and all attention was turned for the next few months on the mid-term congressional elections due in March 1973. Despite a concerted opposition media campaign to denounce growing food shortages and economic difficulties which were affecting the living standards of many workers, Popular Unity increased its share of the vote to 43.2 per cent.
By now, however, the Christian Democrat party had turned decisively to the right and began to identify more and more closely with the parties of the traditional right. Virulently anti-communist and sometimes anti-semitic messages became more frequent in their newspaper, La Prensa. Together, this right-dominated block held the majority in both Senate and Chamber of Deputies and could block any legislation. Their messages were that Popular Unity meant ‘the way to communism via your stomach’, in other words by hunger; and that socialism meant promoting envy and hatred (of the rich).
Violence of the wealthy
The now united opposition decided that if democratic votes would not provide the results it required, it would resort to violence and call on the military to intervene. Government buildings and institutions were targeted by arsonists, and sabotage of the electricity network brought frequent black-outs. I watched gangs of young middle-class men in Providencia, one of the wealthier avenues of Santiago, halting trolley-buses and setting fire to them.
On June 29 the No.2 Tank Regiment headed by Colonel Souper and backed by the leadership of the fascist group Patria y Libertad, staged an attempted coup. Tanks surrounded La Moneda, the presidential palace in the centre of Santiago. But the rest of the armed forces failed to move in support and the coup failed. I spent that day with my friend Wolfgang, a film-maker at the State Technical University, peering round street corners and trying to film the action as it developed.
We could not tell at the time if this was a dress rehearsal or a false start by a group of hot-heads. Our relief at its failure was short-lived: it was immediately clear that worse lay ahead. At my work-place, the Forestry Institute, we began to take turns to mount guard at night to protect the buildings against sabotage. The institute’s distinctive Aro jeeps had been ambushed on roads in the conservative south of Chile and the drivers beaten up.
In the poor neighbourhood where I lived, close to the centre of Santiago, we had set up a JAP, a food supply committee, which aimed to suppress the black market, discourage hoarding and ensure that basic necessities such as rice, sugar, cooking oil and some meat, were distributed to local residents at official prices. We had enrolled 1,200 families in an 8-block area, and the weekly general meetings were attended by 400 or more. We worked with the owners of the small corner grocery stores common in that area. But they had no love for us.
The country was slipping into a de facto state of civil war. Allende attempted to stabilise the situation by including military officers in his cabinet, but his loyal army chief, General Prats, was forced to resign when a group of wives of other senior generals staged a demonstration outside his house, accusing him of cowardice. His replacement was General Augusto Pinochet, at that time still believed to be loyal to the constitution.
By early September 1973, we fully expected a crescendo of right-wing violence, a military rebellion, further coup attempts. Popular Unity supporters marched in a vast demonstration on 4 September, taking hours to pass in front of the Moneda Palace, where a desperately tired and grim-faced Allende stood to salute his supporters.
But nothing had prepared us for the swiftness, the precision and the totality of the coup that began in Valparaiso on the night of 10 September and had gained complete control of the government, all major cities, airports, radio stations, phones, transmitters and communications by 3pm on the 11 September.
In the Instituto Forestal, we met in the canteen. Most people left to go home, collect children from school, ensure the safety of their families. Some perhaps had orders from their parties to go to particular points of the city, to defend, to await orders, possibly to take up arms. A group of us stayed on to guard the buildings until the military curfew made it impossible for us to leave. The radio broadcast only military music and bandos, military communiqués, read in a clipped, cruel, mechanical voice, declaring an indefinite 24-hour curfew, reading a list of names of those who must hand themselves in immediately to the Ministry of Defence, and justifying the ‘military pronouncement’.
Torture and killings
At first we believed that there would be resistance, that the armed forces would divide, even that General Prats was marching from the south at the head of regiments loyal to the constitution. But none of this occurred. Pockets of resistance in industrial areas of the cities were swiftly and brutally eliminated. Some military officers were arrested, others fled the country, but there was no significant rebellion. The parties of Popular Unity and the MIR hunkered down for underground resistance but, having worked publicly and openly for so long, most of their existing leaders were instantly identifiable and were soon arrested or killed.
Together with other non-Chileans, I hid that night in the outhouse of a colleague who lived near the Instituto. Returning next morning we found the institute empty, with signs of doors having been forced and some bullet marks. A military patrol had come during the night and arrested the director and those who had remained on guard. We went through the buildings, office by office, removing all lists of names, trade union membership, party posters and badges, everything that we supposed might incriminate our colleagues. It was hard: everything that had been normal, routine, legal, was now illegal, dangerous, potentially lethal.
Later, some of the cleaners arrived and warned us to leave immediately: it was likely that the military would return and arrest us. They took us across the fields to the shanty-town where they lived and, at considerable risk to themselves and their families, hid and fed us in their houses until the curfew ended.
The next days were spent living in limbo, moving from one friend’s house to another. Of my two Chilean flatmates, one had been arrested on the 12 September in the State Technical University, along with hundreds of students and academics and taken to the Chile Stadium, where Victor Jara was tortured and shot. Wolfgang managed to escape and later would come as a refugee to Britain. The other, Juan, had sought asylum in the Swedish Embassy.
The scale and totality of the coup is hard to grasp. From the first, the military sought to replace every single public official from ministers, through provincial governors, university rectors, right down to small town mayors and secondary school heads. The new appointees were mostly serving or retired military officers or those in their direct confidence.
University departments (especially sociology, politics, journalism) were purged or closed and whole degree courses abolished. Libraries and bookshops were ransacked and books burned. Blocks of flats in central Santiago were searched and all suspect books (including mine) thrown by soldiers from the windows and burned in the street below. All political parties were declared ‘in recess’ and all those of Popular Unity and the left were banned, with their offices and property seized. The entire national electoral register was destroyed.
Our flat had already been raided twice by police, after right-wing neighbours claimed we had an arsenal of weapons stored there. Unwisely I returned, ten days after the coup, to collect clothes and was just leaving when the police blocked off the street and an armed patrol arrested me.
At the comisaría, the local police station, there was an atmosphere of hysteria. The carabineros there had divided and fought a battle on the day of the coup, between those loyal to the constitution and supporters of the coup. The survivors had been on duty almost continuously and been fed with rumours that ‘foreigners had come to Chile to murder their families’. Improbably, they accused me, despite my fair hair and blue eyes, of being a Cuban extremist. A pile of books, perhaps including mine, was burning in the courtyard and the smoke blew in through the bars of the cell where I was held.
In the National Stadium
Later that day they took me to the National Stadium, the vast national football and sports arena. The entrance was thronged with groups of prisoners being brought in from the four points of the capital. There was a large group in white coats, doctors and nurses from one of the main hospitals, arrested because they had refused to join right-wing colleagues the previous month in a strike against the government.
We were herded into changing rooms and offices. Soldiers manned machine-gun positions along the corridor which ran the full circuit of the stadium below the stands. We were 130 in our camarín, a team changing room, only able to lie down to sleep at night by lining up in rows and dovetailing heads and feet. Next to us was a cell with women prisoners, some of whom had been horribly abused and tortured, but whose morale and singing would sustain us in the coming days.
Photographs of the period tend to show prisoners sitting in the stands. But these were only a fraction of the total number, while many more remained in the cells below and those selected for interrogation, torture and elimination were taken to the adjacent velodrome.
I was lucky. My family and friends had informed the British Embassy that I was missing, and on my seventh day in the Stadium the British Consul arrived to obtain my release. I hoped to stay in Chile but with no documents and no job (all foreigners at the Institute had been indefinitely suspended by the new military-appointed director) I had little choice but to leave. Most others were much less fortunate. The Brazilian engineer next to me in the camarín was taken out for interrogation, hooded, beaten around the ears with a wooden bat until he could scarcely hear and questioned by both Chilean and Brazilian intelligence. I told Amnesty International about him, but we could never discover what became of him.
Neoliberalism starts here
Returning to Britain, I became involved with the Chile Solidarity Campaign, just being formed with backing from Liberation, the main trade unions, the Labour and Communist Parties, IMG, IS and many others from the churches, academics, artists, musicians and theatre people. At the time, we believed that the dictatorship would be brief, and I personally hoped and expected to return to Chile and resume my life there.
What none of us sufficiently understood was that the Pinochet regime was much more than the sum of its troops, its armaments and repression. It was an entire economic project, perhaps the first full-on attempt to implement a neoliberal revolution by means of the extreme shock of military coup and dictatorship. But the power that underpinned it lay not in Santiago’s Ministry of Defence, but in Washington and Chicago, in corporate headquarters, banks and think-tanks, in the City of London, Delaware and the budding off-shore empires. As so brilliantly documented by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, these would come to dominate not just Chile, but the states and economies of most of the developed world, and the recent recession notwithstanding, they dominate them still.
The fight against this globalised economic dictatorship has barely begun. Even in Chile, more than 20 years after the end of the Pinochet regime, the thousands of students who have taken to the streets in the past few years are clear in their demands: for an end to the neoliberal model in education and other public services and for the resumption of universal provision as a human right.
Mike Gatehouse is a campaigner and journalist. He lived in Chile in 1972-3 and after he left worked for the Chile Solidarity Campaign and the El Salvador Committee for Human Rights. He is now a member of the editorial team of Latin America Bureau.
Kissinger, Nixon and Chile, The Coup's Declassified Record
Kissinger pressed Nixon to overthrow the democratically elected Allende government because his “‘model’ effect can be insidious,” documents show
On 40th anniversary of coup, Archive posts top ten documents on Kissinger’s role in undermining democracy, supporting military dictatorship in Chile
Kissinger overruled aides on military regime’s human rights atrocities; told Pinochet in 1976: “We want to help, not undermine you. You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.”
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 437
- On September 12, eight days after Allende’s election, Kissinger initiated discussion on the telephone with CIA director Richard Helm’s about a preemptive coup in Chile. “We will not let Chile go down the drain,” Kissinger declared. “I am with you,” Helms responded. Their conversation took place three days before President Nixon, in a 15-minute meeting that included Kissinger, ordered the CIA to “make the economy scream,” and named Kissinger as the supervisor of the covert efforts to keep Allende from being inaugurated. Since the Kissinger/Helms “telcon” was not known to the Church Committee, the Senate report on U.S. intervention in Chile and subsequent histories date the initiation of U.S. efforts to sponsor regime change in Chile to the September 15 meeting.
- Kissinger ignored a recommendation from his top deputy on the NSC, Viron Vaky, who strongly advised against covert action to undermine Allende. On September 14, Vaky wrote a memo to Kissinger arguing that coup plotting would lead to “widespread violence and even insurrection.” He also argued that such a policy was immoral: “What we propose is patently a violation of our own principles and policy tenets .… If these principles have any meaning, we normally depart from them only to meet the gravest threat to us, e.g. to our survival. Is Allende a mortal threat to the U.S.? It is hard to argue this.”
- After U.S. covert operations, which led to the assassination of Chilean Commander in Chief of the Armed forces General Rene Schneider, failed to stop Allende’s inauguration on November 4, 1970, Kissinger lobbied President Nixon to reject the State Department’s recommendation that the U.S. seek a modus vivendi with Allende. In an eight-page secret briefing paper that provided Kissinger’s clearest rationale for regime change in Chile, he emphasized to Nixon that “the election of Allende as president of Chile poses for us one of the most serious challenges ever faced in this hemisphere” and “your decision as to what to do about it may be the most historic and difficult foreign affairs decision you will make this year.” Not only were a billion dollars of U.S. investments at stake, Kissinger reported, but what he called “the insidious model effect” of his democratic election. There was no way for the U.S. to deny Allende’s legitimacy, Kissinger noted, and if he succeeded in peacefully reallocating resources in Chile in a socialist direction, other countries might follow suit. “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on — and even precedent value for — other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.”The next day Nixon made it clear to the entire National Security Council that the policy would be to bring Allende down. “Our main concern,” he stated, “is the prospect that he can consolidate himself and the picture projected to the world will be his success.”
- In the days following the coup, Kissinger ignored the concerns of his top State Department aides about the massive repression by the new military regime. He sent secret instructions to his ambassador to convey to Pinochet “our strongest desires to cooperate closely and establish firm basis for cordial and most constructive relationship.” When his assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs asked him what to tell Congress about the reports of hundreds of people being killed in the days following the coup, he issued these instructions: “I think we should understand our policy-that however unpleasant they act, this government is better for us than Allende was.” The United States assisted the Pinochet regime in consolidating, through economic and military aide, diplomatic support and CIA assistance in creating Chile’s infamous secret police agency, DINA.
- At the height of Pinochet’s repression in 1975, Secretary Kissinger met with the Chilean foreign minister, Admiral Patricio Carvajal. Instead of taking the opportunity to press the military regime to improve its human rights record, Kissinger opened the meeting by disparaging his own staff for putting the issue of human rights on the agenda. “I read the briefing paper for this meeting and it was nothing but Human Rights,” he told Carvajal. “The State Department is made up of people who have a vocation for the ministry. Because there are not enough churches for them, they went into the Department of State.”
- As Secretary Kissinger prepared to meet General Augusto Pinochet in Santiago in June 1976, his top deputy for Latin America, William D. Rogers, advised him to press the dictator to “improve human rights practices” and make human rights central to U.S.-Chilean relations and to press the dictator to “improve human rights practices.” Instead, a declassified transcript of their conversation reveals, Kissinger told Pinochet that his regime was a victim of leftist propaganda on human rights. “In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here,” Kissinger told Pinochet. “We want to help, not undermine you. You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.”