World Insights: How America incited the bloody 1973 Chilean coup-Xinhua

World Insights: How America incited the bloody 1973 Chilean coup

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2023-09-13 22:35:15

SANTIAGO, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Decades ago, a live radio speech reverberated across Chile. "I am not going to resign ... I will pay for my loyalty to the people with my life."

The farewell speech was delivered by former Chilean President Salvador Allende, who refused a safe passage on the morning of Sept. 11, 1973, amid a U.S.-sponsored military coup against the democratically-elected government. Barricaded inside the La Moneda presidential palace, Allende gave his life defending democracy as General Augusto Pinochet's troops closed in.

Tanks roamed the streets of Santiago. Planes bombed the burning La Moneda. Gunfire and explosions echoed through the city. The coup marked the start of Pinochet's 17-year dictatorship, which was called one of the darkest chapters in Chile's history.

A report by the Chilean government said over 40,000 people were arrested for political reasons, more than 3,000 died or disappeared at the hands of secret police and at least 200,000 fled in exile under Pinochet's rule.


Chile on Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the coup as people marched by the presidential palace and laid flowers for the victims. "We commemorate a date that is painful and that, without a doubt, is a turning point in our history," said President Gabriel Boric.

In the 1970s, there were stark signs of a crisis looming large in Chile, from a divided government to soaring prices and frequent protests. The CIA financing and covert operations to destabilize the country cannot be ignored, either. For half a century, a trove of historical studies and declassified archives have shown that the United States went to great lengths to prevent the leftist Allende from coming to power and to topple his government later.

Allende had been the target of America since the 1960s when the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union was at its height. The United States, which regarded Latin America as its "backyard", was reluctant to see the left-wing leader be elected the Chilean president.

Declassified documents show that between 1962 and 1964, the CIA spent millions of dollars financing the campaign of Allende's rivals and anti-Allende propaganda. These behind-the-scenes maneuvering worked as Allende lost the 1964 presidential election.

On Sept. 4, 1970, Allende won a narrow plurality in a race against other presidential candidates. Alarmed by the prospect of a "second Cuba" in Latin America, the U.S. government intervened to prevent Allende from winning the congressional vote.

The CIA sent a secret telegram to its station in Chile five days later: "It is reasonably clear, in exploring avenues to prevent an Allende government from exercising power, that (a) the political/constitutional route in any form is a non-starter and (b) the only prospect with any chance of success whatsoever is a military golpe either before or immediately after Allende's assumption of power... What it is desired for Station to do is to establish as many direct contacts with influential military figures in near future as it possibly can."

The CIA's hasty plan was to provoke a coup by coup-minded Chilean officers. Documents later declassified by the CIA show that Washington informed those officers the U.S. government would give them full support in a coup.

The plan ended in vain, with Allende winning the congressional vote in October of that year and assuming office as president.


As a major Latin American nation, Chile's political developments were closely monitored in the region. The United States was fearful that Allende's ascending power through democratic means might lead to the rise of leftist movements in Latin America, challenging U.S. hegemony in the region. Therefore, after the first coup attempt in 1970, the United States decided to weaken the Allende government through political, economic and military means to create conditions for another coup.

On the political front, according to media reports, the U.S. government allocated 815,000 dollars to divide various fractions in Allende's government. From 1970 to 1973, the CIA spent over 8 million dollars in Chile, most of which was used to fund strikes and protests organized by right-wing opposition groups. Meanwhile, the CIA's "black propaganda" machine, honed in the 1964 election, was in high gear again.

According to Chilean journalist Victor Herrero, between Sept. 15 and Nov. 3, 1973, the CIA generated 726 articles, TV and radio reports and editorials in Chile and worldwide, criticizing Allende's government for trying to control the press.

To "make the Chilean economy scream," the U.S. government tried to hinder loans from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other financial institutions. It also depressed the price of copper in the international market to hit copper exports, an important source of foreign exchange for Chile.

A U.S. government report said it continuously assisted Chile's military, maintaining many arms sales to the country. Additionally, the United States trained numerous Chilean military officers, fostering pro-American influences within the Chilean armed forces.

Chilean scholars believed such U.S. intervention paved the way for the military coup that collapsed the government.

The United States has prioritized its own economic and political interests over the well-being of democracy in the Americas, argued Alejandro Navarro, a former Chilean senator. Navarro said the United States regarded Chile and other Latin American countries as its "property", and anyone that hurt American interests became its adversary.


The Allende government's tragedy revealed the hypocrisy and dominance of the United States. History in Latin America has shown that Washington did not hesitate to incite coups when relevant governments did not align with U.S. interests.

Take the Carribean. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915 on orders from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to calm the political unrest following the assassination of Haitian President Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. U.S. diplomatic and defense officials feared that Haiti's instability might result in a foreign rule of Haiti. As a result, the U.S. occupation continued until 1934.

In the early 1950s, then Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman implemented land reforms that involved redistributing unused land owned by the U.S.-owned United Fruit Company to landless farmers. It prompted the company to lobby the U.S. government to support a coup led by Carlos Castillo Armas to overthrow the Arbenz administration.

The U.S. acts have stoked anger in Latin America. In March 2022, the president of Panama declared Dec. 20 as a national day of mourning to commemorate Panamanians who died during the 1989 U.S. invasion of the country.

During the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in January, leaders collectively urged the United States to end its long-standing blockade against Cuba.

The Nicaraguan foreign minister on June 27 handed a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres signed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, demanding the United States pay over 12 billion U.S. dollars in compensation to fulfill the judgment of the International Court of Justice in 1986, which ruled the United States guilty of providing funding for the civil war in Nicaragua.

Thirty-seven years have passed, and the United States has not fulfilled its "historical debt". Treating Latin America as its "backyard", the United States continues to pursue hegemony under the guise of promoting "democracy and freedom" while prioritizing its own interests since it espoused the Monroe Doctrine 200 years ago.

Former Bolivian Foreign Minister Fernando Huanacuni pointed out that while touting an "America for the Americans," what the Monroe Doctrine and its derivative policies truly aimed at was an "America for the United States."

Nicaragua's demand for compensation from the United States represents the collective voice of Latin America to counter U.S. hegemony and pursue multilateralism through integration, Huanacuni said.