“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.”
- Salvador Allende, November 9th 1973
Twenty-four years ago today, Salvador Allende took office as president of Chile after a controversial election. Allende won with only 36.2 percent of the vote, not a simple majority, and only a one point victory over incumbent Jorge Alessandri, who had financial backing from the United States. Poet Pablo Neruda was originally running against Allende but withdrew his candidacy at the last minute and supported Allende. Allende's presidency was marred by U.S. influence and ended tragically - in death, and the defeat of Chilean democracy.
As a founding member of the Chilean Socialist Party and a candidate with the Communist Party, Allende’s election created great concern in Washington. Henry Kissinger worked closely with CIA director Richard Helms to frustrate Allende’s government. President Nixon recorded most of his phone calls, which have since been made public and archived.
Click on the image below for conversations pertaining to Chile and Salvador Allende:
President Allende planned to nationalize Chilean industries and improve social programs. His nationalization of Chile’s copper industry would become the central grievance of opposition protests. While in office, he raised the minimum wage, expanded education and attempted to eliminate illiteracy, among other things. The success of these policies, economically and socially, is debatable. Granted, he only had three years in office. However, any positive impact may have been muted by the disruptive interventions of the CIA, ordered by Richard Nixon to “make the economy scream.” (The CIA carried out this order, for the most part, by inspiring worker walk-outs and protests, the most well known and damaging being the Trucking Company Strike)
Listen to this phone call in which Nixon and Ron Zeigler discuss U.S. Ambassador to Chile Edward Korry's failure to prevent Allende's election. The phone call was made on March 23, 1972, immediately after public revelations were made of CIA collusion with the Chilean International Telephone & Telegraph to prevent Allende's election.
Chilean Workers March in Support of Allende. Image via Wikipedia Commons
Fidel Castro and Salvadore Allende. Image via CUDebate.cu
Salvador Allende and Fidel Castro. Image via The Phantom Country
CIA Director Richard Helms with US President Richard Nixon. Image via Salon.com
On September 11, 1973, a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet brought about the end of Allende’s presidency. The CIA worked in direct cooperation with Pinochet in the planning and execution of the coup. As the Chilean Air Force bombed the presidential palace, Allende delivered his final radio address to the people of Chile. He died in his office of an apparent suicide. Forty-one years of peaceful democracy in Chile came to a halt and were followed by 16 years of brutal dictatorship under Pinochet.
The Presidential Palace on September 11, 1973. Image via SBS.com.au
Allende's final address.
A piece of Allende's glasses found after the coup, on display at Chile's National History Museum. Image via Sleepless in Santiago
A Sculpture of Salvadore Allende's glasses by Carlos Altamirano. Image via Flickr
Feature image via RafaelBarriga.com
Garrett Connolly is an editorial intern at Warscapes