September 11th, 1973

The United States, in its quest for global hegemony, unleashed an astounding level of violence on nearly every corner of the planet after the Second World War. As former CIA agent Phil Agee explains in this short clip from the documentary Inside the CIA: On Company Business, the United States began its mission of destabilizing and ultimately destroying any progressive or left-wing forces that might oppose the implementation of the Marshall Plan in Europe immediately after the end of the War. In Italy in particular, the Communist Party was incredibly popular and certain to win the 1948 elections in its coalition with the Socialist Party, as they were the leaders of the Partisans in the fight against Mussolini’s hated Black Shirts and the Nazi occupation. Instead of allowing Democracy to prevail in Italy, Capitalism’s Invisible Army had to get in there and destroy it with sabotage and terrorism to make sure that the interests of American corporations were protected (see: Operation Gladio and its Strategy of Tension).

The American covert war against democracy soon spread from post-war Europe to places like Guatemala, Iran, Indonesia, Ecuador, Brazil, Laos, and far too many more — leaving millions of dead in its wake. It’s within this context that while the US was overtly slaughtering millions in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, it also covertly turned its attention towards Chile in the 60’s and early 70’s. Chile, like the rest of South America, had been ruthlessly exploited for centuries by European and American colonialism. It had rich copper reserves to be expropriated and and a cheap labor force to take advantage of. Unfortunately for the Euro-American exploiters, there was a growing progressive movement aimed at nationalizing the copper reserves and improving the wages and lives of the Chilean workers.

Organized workers marching in support of the Allende campaign.

Dr. Salvador Allende, a physician and Marxist who had been involved in Chilean politics for decades, ran for President in 1952 and again in 1958, falling just short of winning the election. Almost immediately after the close vote in 1958, the United States began organizing plans to disrupt the next election in 1964 to assure that Allende would not win.

Dr. Salvador Allende

“…the United States decided that the next election, in 1964, could not be left in the hands of providence, or democracy. Washington took it all very gravely. At the outset of the Kennedy administration in 1961, an electoral committee was established, composed of top-level officials from the State Department, the CIA and the White House. In Santiago, a parallel committee of embassy and CIA people was set up… After channeling funds to several non-leftist parties, the electoral team eventually settled on a man of the center, Eduardo Frei, the candidate of the Christian Democratic Party, as the one most likely to block Allende’s rise to power. The CIA underwrote more than half of the party’s total campaign costs, one of the reasons that the Agency’s overall electoral operation reduced the U.S. Treasury by an estimated $20 million — much more per voter than that spent by the (1964) Johnson and Goldwater campaigns combined in the same year in the United States. The bulk of the expenditures went toward propaganda.” — William Blum, “Killing Hope” (p. 206)

The anti-communist propaganda deluge worked in 1964. Eduardo Frei defeated Allende 56% to 39%, and for the next six years, the CIA continued to bombard the Chilean population with red scare tactics to manipulate them for the 1970 election. Henry Kissinger, one of history’s worst who is somehow still alive, famously quipped in July 1970: “I don’t see why we have to let a country go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible”. Six more years of capitalist reality were too much for the Chilean electorate to handle however, and Allende finally won the 1970 Presidential election which took place on September 4th.

“On 24 October, the Chilean Congress would meet to choose between him and the runnerup, Jorge Alessandri of the conservative National Party. By tradition, Allende was certain to become president.

The United States had seven weeks to prevent him from taking office. On 15 September, President Nixon met with Kissinger, CIA Director Richard Helms, and Attorney General John Mitchell. Helms’ handwritten notes of the meeting have become famous: “One in 10 chance perhaps, but save Chile!… not concerned with risks involved… $10,000,000 available, more if necessary… make the economy scream…”

Funds were authorized… to bribe Chilean congressman to vote for Alessandri, but this was soon abandoned as infeasible, and under intense pressure from Richard Nixon, American efforts were concentrated on inducing the Chilean military to stage a coup and then cancel the congressional vote altogether. At the same time, Nixon and Kissinger made it clear to the CIA that an assassination of Allende would not be unwelcome.” — Killing Hope (p. 209)

General René Schneider, Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army and Allende’s top ally in the military, was assassinated by CIA-armed conspirators days before Allende was supposed to take office. The move backfired, for the time being at least, as the Chilean military rallied around constitutionalism and Allende was sworn in. What followed was 3 years of all-out economic strangulation, sabotage, and CIA destabilization that would lay the groundwork for all American foreign policy up to the present date.

On September 11th, 1973, President Salvador Allende was overthrown and killed in an assault on the Presidential Palace by the Chilean military while US Navy ships waited offshore and US Air Force surveillance planes flew overhead. The fascist military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet and the University of Chicago neoliberal project had begun in Chile.

Pinochet would go on to rule Chile for seventeen years, with Chile serving as a headquarters for the CIA’s Operation Condor, which was a program to imprison, torture, and assassinate students, teachers, union leaders, campesinos, priests, nuns, and any suspected leftists or communists throughout South America. At least 3,000 Chileans were confirmed killed by Pinochet, although many more were disappeared and never heard from again, leaving their families without any closure. One of those killed was beloved musician and poet Victor Jara, who was tortured and shot over 40 times inside the Estadio Chile. His dead body was displayed outside the stadium for future victims to see while being led into the stadium. Tens of thousands were tortured, while thousands fled Chile in exile only to be hunted by Pinochet’s intelligence agents around the globe.

In 1976 Orlando Letelier, President Allende’s former Ambassador to the United States, was assassinated by a car bomb in Washington D.C. mere blocks from the White House. The man ultimately deemed responsible for the assassination was Colonel Manuel Contreras, who was head of Pinochet’s intelligence service (DINA) as well as an agent on the CIA’s payroll. He was convicted for the crime by a Chilean court and served a seven year prison sentence after the Pinochet regime fell in 1990. Pinochet himself lived to the old age of 91, with an amassed fortune of at least $25 million stashed in various bank accounts around the world.

“Thus it was that they closed the country to the outside world for a week, while the tanks rolled and the soldiers broke down doors; the stadiums rang with the sounds of execution and the bodies piled up along the streets and floated in the river; the torture centers opened for business; the subversive books were thrown to the bonfires; soldiers slit the trouser legs of women, shouting that “In Chile women wear dresses!”; the poor returned to their natural state; and the men of the world in Washington and in the halls of international finance opened up their check-books.” — Killing Hope (p. 214)

Chilean troops fire upon the Presidential Palace in Santiago — September 11th, 1973.
Students rounded up by the Pinochet regime in 1973.
Relatives of those who were disappeared by the US-backed Pinochet regime march in Santiago.
A sculpture of Dr. Allende’s broken glasses — found inside the Presidential Palace after the coup — sits inside the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in Caracas, Venezuela. It serves as a grim reminder of the brutality of the United States for the government of President Nicolás Maduro, who is currently fighting off repeated US coup attempts, strangling sanctions, and threats.



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