Chile’s President Salvador Allende remembered

This video is called Last words to the nation of Salvador Allende – Ultimo Discurso 11 September 1973 (English subtitles).

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Hope brutally snuffed out

Friday 4th November 2015

PETER FROST looks back 45 years to an all-too-brief period of socialism in Chile – and its swift, bloody end

The US, police force to the world, has always thought it had the divine right to decide on how the peoples of South America should be ruled.

Even before Salvador Allende was elected as the first ever Marxist president of Chile the CIA and its Chilean right-wing puppets were planning a coup.

In 1969, a year before Allende’s election, three Pentagon generals dined with five Chilean military officers in a private house in the suburbs of Washington.

When one of the Pentagon generals asked what the Chilean army would do if Salvador Allende were elected, General Toro Mazote replied: “We’ll take Moneda Palace in half an hour, even if we have to burn it down.”

So who was this man who terrified the US and its Chilean lackeys?

Allende was born in Valparaiso in 1903. While still a medical student he studied Marxism and became involved in radical politics. He was arrested several times while at university.

In 1933 Allende helped to found the Chilean Socialist Party. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1937 and served in the government as minister of health (1939-41). He was also senator between 1945 and 1970.

Allende stood for president in 1952, 1958 and 1964, gaining support but failing to win.

Then 45 years ago, in November 1970, he was elected president of Chile.

His new Socialist government faced huge economic problems. Inflation was running at 30 per cent and one in five of the male adult population were unemployed.

Half of Chile’s children under 15 suffered from malnutrition.

Allende introduced a radical socialist programme to redistribute wealth and land. He introduced wage increases of around 40 per cent. At the same time companies were not allowed to increase prices.

Chile’s main industry, the mining and refining of copper, was nationalised alongside the banks.

The government restored diplomatic relations with China and the German Democratic Republic.

Five thousand miles away in Washington you could hear the angry roars. Fidel Castro in Cuba was bad enough but a democratically elected socialist in South America was just too much to take.

The CIA moved into action. Top operatives were smuggled into Chile and local right-wing military officers were offered money and support.

A special task force was organised with only one order: remove Allende.

The CIA attempted to persuade Chile’s chief of staff, General Rene Schneider, to help. He refused and on October 22 1970 his car was ambushed.

Schneider drew a gun to defend himself, and was shot point-blank several times. He was rushed to hospital, but he died three days later.

Military courts in Chile found that Schneider’s death was caused by two CIA-sponsored military groups.

CIA documents now available show that as early as September, before the election, president Richard Nixon asked Henry Kissinger planned to organise a coup against any Allende government.

Another CIA document, written just after the election, said: “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup.

“It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the United States government and American hand be well hidden.”

Two CIA-backed groups — one calling itself Order and Freedom, another Common Protection and Sovereignty — started an arson campaign in Santiago. Carlos Prats, head of the Chilean army, resigned after a CIA-inspired smear campaign.

Allende and his socialist government struggled on until September 11 1973, when a CIA-backed and funded military coup removed his government from power.

He fought till the end. He died with an AK47 rifle, a gift from Fidel Castro, in his hands in the heroic fighting in the presidential palace in Santiago.

He would be replaced by the fascist dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Thousands of Chile’s democrats, trade unionists and socialists would be rounded up, imprisoned and executed.

Dictator Pinochet would become Margaret Thatcher’s darling. When he was finally placed under house arrest in Britain in October 1998, Thatcher got her public relations hack Patrick Robertson to lead the opposition to his being bought to justice.

Pinochet was eventually released in March 2000 on medical grounds by the home secretary Jack Straw without facing trial. Straw had overruled a House of Lords decision to extradite Pinochet to face trial in Spain.

He did come to justice in Chile but died during the trial. Evidence revealed not just human rights offences but also crimes including fraud, theft and money laundering.

Today the dream of a democratic socialist Chile that Allende started lives on but the fight continues. In January 2006 Chileans elected their first female president, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, of the Socialist Party.

In January 2010 Chilean elected Sebastian Pinera as the first right-wing president in 20 years. His election campaign cost nearly $14 million. Then in March last year socialist Michelle Bachelet returned to office. The spirit of Allende survives in Chile today.

12 thoughts on “Chile’s President Salvador Allende remembered

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  4. Monday 30th
    posted by Morning Star in Arts

    Revolutionary Dreams: From Chile to Wales by Jose Cifuentes (Hafan Books, £7)

    IN THE 1960s and early 1970s a generation of Chileans embarked on a radical attempt to build a fairer and more equal socialist society.

    At the time Jose Cifuentes, a middle-class sociology student in the city of Talca and involved in the Catholic students’ movement was, he says, naive, apolitical, Catholic and conservative with a small “c.”

    Guided by a French priest, he and some of his friends went to live and work in a shantytown neighbourhood where they discovered the reality of life among Chile’s 600,000 poor families.

    Cifuentes concluded that studying was less important than fighting for social change. In that period, support for Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity Party was gathering momentum and in September 1970 he was elected president of Chile.

    Cifuentes and his partner Maria Cristina realised that if they were going to secure a better future for the poor they had to support Allende’s government. They were becoming politicised.

    But the radical changes to improve the lives of the poor, particularly the agrarian reform and nationalisation of the country’s copper mining industry, threatened the economic interests of Chile’s ruling elite and the US.

    Even before Allende’s election the Chilean right wing, with the full support of Richard Nixon’s US government and the CIA, were planning to get rid of him. Aided by the latter, the Chilean economy was soon in chaos.

    Then, on September 11, 1973, Allende was murdered and the military junta of General Augusto Pinochet, one of the most brutal in the history of Latin America, assumed control and instigated decades of violations of human rights, torture and imprisonment.

    The numbers are staggering — 38,000 victims of human rights abuses, 28,000 tortured, 2,269 executed and 1,248 classed as “disappeared.” Around 200,000 fled or were sent into exile.

    Cifuentes had to run for his life after the Pinochet coup and his harrowing story recounts with graphic detail his experiences in hiding, prison, torture and working secretly for the Committee for Peace and the Vicarage of Solidarity, the only organisations in Chile to document the human rights abuses.

    Thanks to the World University Service and the UN High Commission for Refugees, Cifuentes and his wife and baby daughter arrived in Swansea in September 1977 along with over 30 other families and the book is also an account of their lives there ever since.

    It has a fascinating introduction by historian Brian Davies on Swansea’s copper-smelting past — an ironic connection with Chile given what later happened — and there are contributions by ex-Unison Cymru officer Paul Elliott on Swansea’s Chilean community and Rocio del Trigal Cifuentes on growing up in Wales at a time where, unlike today, there was no stigma to being a refugee.

    Gwyn Griffiths,-from-Chile-to-south-Wales#.WI9mWvKbIdU


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