1973 Chilean coup d'état

er 1973

The 1973 Chilean coup d'état was a watershed moment in both the history of Chile and the Cold War. Following an extended period of social unrest and political tension between the opposition-controlled Congress of Chile and the socialist President Salvador Allende, as well as economic warfare ordered by US President Richard Nixon, Allende was overthrown by the armed forces and national police.

Quotes edit

  • As had been the case during Nixon's last years in office, the nation again faced the question of whether the United States should, or even could, maintain separate standards in fighting the Cold War from what it was prepared to accept at home. Events in Chile posed the dilemma most clearly. A successful military coup had finally taken place in Santiago in September, 1973. It left Allende dead—probably by suicide—and a reliably anti-communist government in power headed by General Augusto Pinochet. Direct C.I.A. complicity was never established, but Nixon and Kissinger openly welcomed the outcome and sought to cooperate with the new Chilean leader. By the time the C.I.A. investigations got under way in 1975, however, Pinochet's government had imprisoned, tortured, and executed thousands of Allende supporters—some of them American citizens. Chile, for many years a democracy, now had one of the most repressive dictatorships Latin America had ever seen. What the United States did in Chile differed little from what it had done, two decades earlier, in Iran and Guatemala. But the 1970s were not the 1950s: once the information got out that the Nixon administration had tried to keep Allende from the office to which he had been elected and had sought to remove him once there, "plausible denial" became impossible. That made questions about responsibility unavoidable. Could Allende have remained in power if there had been no American campaign against him? Would he have retained democratic procedures had he done so? Should the United States have refrained, to the extent that it did, from condemning Pinochet's abuses? Had it made a greater effort, might it have stopped them? There are, even today, no clear answers: Washington's role in Chile's horrors remains a hotly contested issue among both historians of these events and participants in them. What was clear at the time, though, was that the C.I.A.'s license to operate without constraints had produced actions in Chile that, by its own admission, failed the "daylight" test. They could not be justified when exposed to public view.
  • I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.
    • Henry Kissinger, Meeting of the "40 Committee" on covert action in Chile (June 27, 1970) quoted in The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (1974); the quotation was censored prior to publication due to legal action by the government. See The New York Times (September 11, 1974) "Censored Matter in Book About C.I.A. Said to Have Related Chile Activities; Damage Feared" by Seymour Hersh
    • Omi, M.; Winant, H. (2014). Racial Formation in the United States. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-135-12751-0. Retrieved on November 2, 2018. 
  • At midday on September 11, 1973, after months of mounting tensions in the streets of Santiago, Chile, British-made Hawker Hunter jets swooped overhead, dropping bombs on La Moneda, the neoclassical presidential palace in the center of the city. As the bombs continued to fall, La Moneda burned. President Salvador Allende, elected three years earlier at the head of a leftist coalition, was barricaded inside. During his term, Chile had been wracked by social unrest, economic crisis, and political paralysis. Allende had said he would not leave his post until he had finished his job—but now the moment of truth had arrived. Under the command of General Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s armed forces were seizing control of the country. Early in the morning on that fateful day, Allende offered defiant words on a national radio broadcast, hoping that his 8 many supporters would take to the streets in defense of democracy. But the resistance never materialized. The military police who guarded the palace had abandoned him; his broadcast was met with silence. Within hours, President Allende was dead. So, too, was Chilean democracy. This is how we tend to think of democracies dying: at the hands of men with guns. During the Cold War, coups d’état accounted for nearly three out of every four democratic breakdowns. Democracies in Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Thailand, Turkey, and Uruguay all died this way. More recently, military coups toppled Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014. In all these cases, democracy dissolved in spectacular fashion, through military power and coercion. But there is another way to break a democracy. It is less dramatic but equally destructive. Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders—presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power. Some of these leaders dismantle democracy quickly, as Hitler did in the wake of the 1933 Reichstag fire in Germany. More often, though, democracies erode slowly, in barely visible steps.
    • Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (2018) How Democracies Die. New York: Crown.
  • Chile had known class struggle within a bourgeois democratic framework for many decades: that was its tradition. With the coming to the presidency of Allende, the conservative forces progressively turned class struggle into class war — and here too, it is worth stressing that it was the conservative forces which turned the one into the other.
    • Ralph Miliband, "The Coup in Chile" (1973), in Class War Conservatism: And Other Essays
  • The armed forces have acted today solely from the patriotic inspiration of saving the country from the tremendous chaos into which it was being plunged by the Marxist government of Salvador Allende.… The Junta will maintain judicial power and consultantship of the Comptroller. The Chambers will remain in recess until further orders. That is all.

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