Friday, September 13, 2013


Herman Wallace has spent decades and decades in solitary confinement.  Herman Wallace is dying of liver cancer. Herman Wallace isn't looking for your pity.  Herman Wallace is a man (and, in one of the few instances I can think of, I use the word "man" in a positive way).

I have written about Herman Wallace and the Angola Three numerous times.  I merely call your attention to my post "Buried in Cages of Cement and Steel" from January of 2010, for example.  I don't know what to write that I haven't written before.

I will only mention that Wallace was finally released from solitary following his cancer diagnosis.  However, the prison failed to administer the recommended chemo drugs for six weeks until his lawyer raised hell.  By then, however, Herman had lost fifty pounds and was no longer able to respond to treatment.  

Still the state can't see a way to free a man who never should have been locked up in the first place.  

In a statement he made on September 10th, Herman Wallace said, 

"Nothing can be done for me medically within the standard care that (my oncologists) are authorized to provide. They recommended that I be admitted to hospice care to make my remaining days as comfortable as possible. I have been given two months to live.
I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well.  The state may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast."

Too many comrades, too long...Makes me so angry, so sick, so disgusted...and so ashamed that we haven't been able to do more.

Herman Wallace is, indeed, a man.

The first post below for Scission Prison Friday is from Hip Hop and Politics.  The second is from Slate.

Angola 3 Political Prisoner Herman Wallace Given 2 Months to Live

Attica prison
With so much going on in the world, where we are running around demanding that everyone conforms to rest of the world conform to our so-called standards of governing and we often forget that here at home we mistreat and abuse far too many of our citizens. For all the talk of us being the beacon of freedom and the world’s number one super power that all should emulate, where we fall short the most is the cruelty and torture we put upon those who are incarcerated, in particular political prisoners and those who have partook in the Prison Reform Movement of the 1970s

First we should note that this week Sept 9th- Sept 13th marks the 41st anniversary of the nation’s most violent and disturbing Prison Rebellion.. We’re talking about Attica. The root of the rebellion was folks coming together and asking for what we’re deemed reasonable improvements and an end to the isolation and torture of inmate at the hands of sadistic guards.

The violence was when then Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to negotiate on key demands  and sent in guards , soldiers and former prison workers who shot and killed 9 of the 10 prison guards who were held hostage.. along with over 20 inmates. After the rebellions prisoners were stripped and cruelly beaten after erroneous reports were put forth that they had killed prison guards. It was later learned the inmates tried to protect them.

Angola 3
Angola 3

1971 was the year the Attica Rebellion took place. It was also the same year that one thousand miles away, Robert KingAlbert Woodfox and Herman Wallacewere sentenced to do time at Angola State Prison  a former slave plantation. Inspired by the Prison Reform Movement and the fact that Woodfox and Wallace had joined the Black Panthers, they began organizing inmates and pushing to demand improvement to the prisons wretched conditions. They called for an end to violence and rapes that were routinely occurring. They called for the prison to be desegregated.

In 1972 the 3 men were accused of murdering prison guard Brent Miller and were placed in solitary confinement for 40 years. All 3 maintained they were innocent which seemed to be supported by the fact there was no physical evidence connecting them to the crime. Over the years it was found evidence used against them was compromised by prosecutors and prison officials who held racial biases and that much of it has since been lost.

Witnesses were later found to be discredited and on 3 different occasions their sentences was overturned only to be appealed by over zealous Louisiana attorney generals who have made it a mission to keep the remaining two Woodfox and Wallace locked up. King who was set free several years ago after spending 29 years in solitary confinement..
Herman Wallace
Herman Wallace

In recent days its come to light that 71 year old Herman Wallacewho was diagnosed with severe  liver cancer has 2 months to live. Even under these conditions he has not been released ..below is a statement he released.

Saturday, August 31st, I was transferred to LSU Hospital for evaluation. I was informed that the chemo treatments had failed and were making matters worse and so all treatment came to an end. The oncologists advised that nothing can be done for me medically within the standard care that they are authorized to provide. They recommended that I be admitted to hospice care to make my remaining days as comfortable as possible. I have been given 2 months to live.

I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We are just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in the American Gulag. We mourn for the family of Brent Miller and the many other victims of murder who will never be able to find closure for the loss of their loved ones due to the unjust criminal justice system in this country. We mourn for the loss of the families of those unjustly accused who suffer the loss of their loved ones as well.

Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have. The State may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.

In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the people, and although I’m down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end.”

Here’s some additional information on the Angola 3

Keep in Touch with Herman and Albert
Albert Woodfox #72148 Herman Wallace #76759
David Wade Correctional Center Elayn Hunt Correctional Center
N1 A3 CCR D #2
670 Bell Hill Road PO Box 174
Homer, LA 71040 St. Gabriel, LA 70776

The Sorry Injustice of the Angola Three

Release Herman Wallace—he is about to die of cancer in prison after 40 years in solitary confinement.

Two men watch television in the Angola State Penitentiary, where a majority of inmates are "lifers" (Prisoners for the rest of their life) on April 01, 2002 in Angola, Louisiana.
Two men watch television in the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana, where Herman Wallace, one of the Angola Three, is held.
Photo by Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images

Herman Wallace spent over four decades alone in a 6-by-9-foot prison cell. For 41 years, he has stretched, wretched, ached, medicated, grown, and deteriorated—all in the three paces he could take from his toilet to his closed cell door.

This week, while awaiting a federal judge’s decision on a petition he brought challenging the conviction that put him in solitary confinement, Wallace, who is 73, stopped an ineffective chemotherapy regime for a liver tumor. Because of the cancer diagnosis, Judge Jackson agreed to an expedited ruling over a month ago, but hasn’t issued it yet. Wallace, meanwhile, has been told he has two months to live.

Wallace is one of the Angola Three, a trio of men who have become fixtures in prisoner exoneration lore both for the evidence of misconduct in their cases and for the political undertones of their decades-long solitary confinement. They’ve been held in Louisiana’s legendary Angola prison, which is named for the slave plantation that once occupied the grounds. Angola is also referred to as “the Farm,” and when you enter its gates after a long, lonely drive, you see inmates, mostly African-American, tending fields of cotton, wheat, and corn.

Wallace and Albert Woodfox entered Angola in 1971 for separate armed robbery convictions. That same year, the men co-founded an Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party to fight the systematic rape and violence that plagued the prison in the 1960s and ’70s. In 1972, following the murder of an Angola prison guard, Brent Miller, the men were charged, convicted, and put in solitary confinement for the next four decades. While the men admit to their armed robberies, they have consistently maintained their innocence in the Miller case.

Robert Hillary King, the third member of the Angola Three, was also active in the Black Panther Party. He did not arrive at Angola until after the Miller incident. Yet he served 29 years in solitary confinement for an inmate murder he did not commit before his release in 2001.

The Angola Three have won national and international attention. Amnesty International includes the men on its watch list of political prisoners, and this June, the organization called on Gov. Bobby Jindal to release Wallace on humanitarian grounds. In July, members of the House Committee on the Judiciary, including Rep. John Conyers (Michigan) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (Louisiana), sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking for a federal investigation of Louisiana’s punishment practices. They drew particular attention to the Angola Three and called the state’s treatment of Herman Wallace “unconscionable.”

The murder case is embarrassingly weak and rife with evidence of investigative and prosecutorial misconduct, including the bribing of witnesses and the suppression of exculpatory evidence. Even Brent Miller’s widow has come out in support of revisiting the men’s convictions. The case rests on four inmate witnesses, each of whom gave statements inconsistent with their testimony. Wallace’s lawyers learned decades later that the witnesses were promised all sorts of favors, including cigarettes, food, and even the possibility of a pardon in one case, in exchange for their testimony. One of the Angola wardens at the time has been recorded saying of the state’s primary witness, Hezekiah Brown: “you could put words in his mouth.” A bloody fingerprint and a number of other prints found at the scene matched none of the defendants, yet the prison didn’t try to find a match among the rest of the prison population.

In 2009 federal Magistrate Judge Docia Dalby wrote that the extreme length of Wallace’s and Woodfox’s isolation was “so far beyond the pale that this Court has not found anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence.” So why has it continued?

In a 2008 deposition, Angola Warden Burl Cain said “Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace is (sic) locked in time with that Black Panther revolutionary actions they were doing way back when, and that they’re still hooked up to that.” Asked to assume Woodfox was innocent of the Miller murder, Cain still insisted he should remain isolated. Otherwise “I would have me all kinds of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them. I would have chaos and conflict, and I believe that.” Courts and legislators usually defer to prison officials like Cain—a central reason that 80,000 prisoners are currently in solitary confinement in American jails and prisons.

If Judge Jackson overturns Wallace’s murder conviction, he could be released on bail. Rep. Cedric Richmond wrote a letter Thursday encouraging Jackson to take this step. But Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell has indicated he will do what it takes to keep Wallace locked up. Caldwell has also denied that Wallace was held in solitary. "Let me be clear," heconcluded in a statement last spring, "Woodfox and Wallace are GUILTY and have NEVER been held in solitary confinement." In 2008, Judge Jackson overturned Woodfox’s conviction and ordered release on bail, at which point Caldwell requested an emergency appeal. The famously conservative Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed Jackson before Woodfox’s release could even be processed.

Jindal could also let Wallace out of prison, with the consent of a pardon board, by granting him clemency. But the governor won’t discuss the matter, either with Wallace’s supporters or with the press.

After his cancer diagnosis in June, Wallace was moved out of solitary so that he could receive treatment in the prison infirmary without being shackled during transport. He had already lost 45 pounds over a span of six months at that point. He is still out of solitary, living in a prison hospital room, but after three months of chemotherapy, he is quite literally depleted.

Now, nearing the end of his physical battles, Wallace is looking ahead. For years, he has been collaborating with artist Jackie Sumell to design a dream house—a conceptual escape from his solitary cell that is also a project to build a real house that will serve as a youth center in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward. In July, a documentary about the project, Herman’s House, debuted on public television. Wallace is using his last days to focus on fundraising for it. He gave Sumell a bit of encouragement on a recent visit: “Kiddo, you gotta get on your game. You’re going to be the face of this now.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013


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.

Nowadays we want it all back and more. The debate about a new constitution and the enactment of a constituent assembly is back on the agenda, as is reorganizing the economy and a progressive new tax system. Communities in northern and southern Chile want their regions to have more rights through a decentralized government. The Mapuche-indigenous nation want their land back and reparation for historic losses.

In these days, hundreds of events commemorate the overthrow of Salvador Allende's government and his death as well as the collapse of a democratic system. Human rights organizations and social movements want all perpetrators of abuses, as well as the collaborators of the dictatorial regime, to pay with jail or social scorn for their crimes. Moreover, many right wing politicians, including the current president, are acknowledging their indifference toward human rights abuses. The Supreme Court has stated the same. Most likely, all of these will in some way influence the presidential and parliamentary elections of November 17 in which the right wing candidates will score major losses.

Today, forty years later, it seems that in the context of the commemorations, the mourning and grieving for the fallen is coupled with the revival of their dreams, our dreams in fact. •

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.

My friends,

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.

I arrived in Chile at almost exactly the half-way point of the Popular Unity government. Salvador Allende had been elected President on 4 September 1970, at his fourth attempt at the presidency, heading a coalition of his own Socialist Party, the Radical Party (like Britain’s Labour Party, an affiliate of the Socialist International), the Communist Party and several smaller parties, one of them a splinter from the Christian Democrats.

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.

Radicalised culture

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.

Dark clouds

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.

Military rebellion

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.

Complete purge

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

Washington, D.C., September 11, 2013 – Henry Kissinger urged President Richard Nixon to overthrow the democratically elected Allende government in Chile because his “‘model’ effect can be insidious,” according to documents posted today by the National Security Archive. The coup against Allende occurred on this date 40 years ago. The posted records spotlight Kissinger’s role as the principal policy architect of U.S. efforts to oust the Chilean leader, and assist in the consolidation of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

The documents, which include transcripts of Kissinger’s “telcons” — telephone conversations — that were never shown to the special Senate Committee chaired by Senator Frank Church in the mid 1970s, provide key details about the arguments, decisions, and operations Kissinger made and supervised during his tenure as national security adviser and secretary of state.

“These documents provide the verdict of history on Kissinger’s singular contribution to the denouement of democracy and rise of dictatorship in Chile,” said Peter Kornbluh who directs the Chile Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. “They are the evidence of his accountability for the events of forty years ago.”

Today’s posting includes a Kissinger “telcon” with Nixon that records their first conversation after the coup. During the conversation Kissinger tells Nixon that the U.S. had “helped” the coup. “[Word omitted] created the conditions as best as possible.” When Nixon complained about the “liberal crap” in the media about Allende’s overthrow, Kissinger advised him: “In the Eisenhower period, we would be heroes.”

That “telcon” is published for the first time in the newly revised edition of Kornbluh’s book,The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, (The New Press, 2013), which has been re-released for the 40th anniversary of the coup. Several of the other documents posted today appeared for the first time in the original edition, which the Los Angeles Times listed as a “Best Book” of 2003.

Among the key revelations in the documents:

  • 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.”

At a special “Tribute to Justice” on September 9, 2013, in New York, Kornbluh received the Charles Horman Truth Foundation Award for the Archive’s work in obtaining the declassification of thousands of formerly secret documents on Chile after Pinochet’s arrest in London in October 1998. Other awardees included Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon who had Pinochet detained in London; and Chilean judge Juan Guzman who prosecuted him after he returned to Chile in 2000.


Document 1: Telcon, Helms – Kissinger, September 12, 1970, 12:00 noon.
Document 2: Viron Vaky to Kissinger, “Chile — 40 Committee Meeting, Monday — September 14,” September 14, 1970.
Document 3: Handwritten notes, Richard Helms, “Meeting with President,” September 15, 1970.
Document 4: White House, Kissinger, Memorandum for the President, “Subject: NSC Meeting, November 6-Chile,” November 5, 1970.
Document 5: Kissinger, Memorandum for the President, “Covert Action Program-Chile, November 25, 1970.
Document 6: National Security Council, Memorandum, Jeanne W. Davis to Kissinger, “Minutes of the WSAG Meeting of September 12, 1973,” September 13, 1973.
Document 7: Telcon, Kissinger – Nixon, September 16, 1973, 11:50 a.m.
Document 8: Department of State, Memorandum, “Secretary’s Staff Meeting, October 1, 1973: Summary of Decisions,” October 4, 1973, (excerpt).
Document 9: Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, “Secretary’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Carvajal, September 29, 1975.
Document 10: Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, “U.S.-Chilean Relations,” (Kissinger – Pinochet), June 8, 1976.