Chile 30 years after the coup

To what degree was the United States to blame?

  • 100 percent. (It was all a US action)
  • 75 percent. (primary involvement)
  • 50-50 (direct involvement)
  • 25 percent (key support)

0 voters

Interesting article in today’s Taipei Times regarding the overthrow of Allende. I would like to highlight the following key points if I may:

On September 11 a sudden and violent aerial attack on a symbolic building left many dead and the country in a state of fear and panic. This was September 11 1973, the year of the coup in Chile which led to 17 years of military dictatorship, the violent death of nearly 4,000 people, the torturing of an estimated 50,000, and the imprisonment and exile of hundreds of thousands.

The coup had the tacit blessing and cooperation of the US, whose secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, famously said that Chile could not be allowed to “go Marxist” just because “its people are irresponsible”. General Augusto Pinochet ruled for 17 years before losing a plebiscite vote in 1988, which led to the return of democracy the following year.

Mr Zalaquett is critical now of some aspects of the Allende government. "I was looking at this footage from 30 years ago and I thought ‘Were we that crazy?’ We thought the road to socialism was inevitable. We had this naive belief that because the winds of history were blowing in our direction somehow we would be taken to a safe harbour.

“A mixture of the spirit of the sixties, a thirst for justice, well-intentioned irresponsibility and naivete, and you get what we were. Honestly speaking, we have very mixed views about Allende. We respect his self-immolation and his heroism, he was very well-meant but a terrible administrator. We knew the government was doomed and it was just a question of time.”

Elizabeth Lira, who teaches at the centre of ethics at the University of Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, said if the coup had not happened Allende would probably have lost the next election to the Christian Democrats. “But we were part of the cold war, and therefore the problems of Chile were amplified into a great conspiracy: the dictatorship justified the coup on the grounds that Chile would be like Cuba.”

There is no shortage of cases to investigate. The official figure for the dead or disappeared is 3,150 although there are about 500 or 600 other cases which are classified as “fallen”. Mr Zalaquett estimates that between 150,000 and 200,000 people spent time in jail for political reasons, although most of them were held for only days or weeks. He also estimates that between 40,000 and 50,000 suffered “ill treatment”, ranging from roughing up to sophisticated forms of electrical and psychological torture

First, I think that it is ironic that so many blame the US for primary involvement or 100 percent involvement in this affair.

Second, I think that it is eerie that the coup started on Sept. 11.

Third, I think that it is fair to say that regardless of the fact that the US was not in my opinion directly involved and that Allende would have been overthrown without US help or voted out of office in another year because of Carter-like incompetence, the US WAS involved.

Because of this, the one area where I find myself in agreement with Noam Chomsky is that if the US is going to complain when its buildings come crashing down, it had damned well better determine that it is not guilty of similar behavior in other countries. That is why I think most Americans should be horrified to know how much money Americans sent to the IRA which bombed targets all over England. This has since dried up.

Knowing that its past actions were wrong, however, should not stop the US from doing its utmost to defend itself. Hence the clamp down on Saudi financing of terrorism. Just because the US was guilty does not mean that no future change of course or action is possible.

Second, the US provided weapons and support and we all know about Chile. Why then is there not an equal knowledge of the French actions in africa which have been far more eggregious or Russian actions in Eastern Europe or Chinese in Tibet etc.

Final note: I think that Americans should realize that Chile was a mistake. Granted in the 1970s there was a fear of communism, but this was an overreaction and it was a mistake to get involved. For that America owes Chile a major apology which I believe it has delivered.

Ironically, however, I believe that Chile was better off without Allende as to most of my Chilean friends. That said, there is no denying what happened was ugly. But if ugliness is to be rated, there are far worse examples that spring to mind.

Assigning blame to the U.S. – in whatever portion – assumes the U.S. did something wrong. It ignores that Allende was to blame for pushing a radical Marxist program that would have killed far more people than 4,000 had it succeeded.

The coup was the right decision, even though the U.S. had little to do with it. Fred needs to read my most recent post in the “Whither Iraq” thread.

Yes, yes, poor Chile. The little country caught up in the cross currents of huge waves made by the big powers.

Of course, that doesn’t explain how a Marxist implementing a radical program and encouraging violent confrontations along class lines was elected president of the country. Hey, maybe, we Americans and the Soviets voted Allende in.


Oh I am in definite agreement with you that the US is no where near 10 percent to blame for what happened in Chile. I just want to explore some very minor nuances regarding the incident so please bear with me. Nations sell weapons and try to influence countries every day. Only the US is criticized for doing so. That is why I am so flabbergasted that so many people have listed the US as 100 percent or 75 percent responsible. Are local actors mere puppets for US secretaries of state and corporate interests? hah!

I know that Allende was bad. I know that he had several years to make an absolute muck up of things. Look at Chavez in Venezuela now. I know that it is very likely that Cuba and the Soviet Union supported the elements that elected Allende.

That said, I am still concerned about the fact that the US did support the coup. In that regard, I would say despite the fact that Chile was better off without Allende, it would have been better if the Chileans were 100 percent responsible for what happened. That in no way makes the US primarily responsible but given its strength, it has to be careful.

I do acknowledge your concerns though Coldfront but if Chileans were going to die, better that they be responsible for themselves and equally take any subsequent blame.

It is similar to US financial support of the IRA all those years. All those bombings in England etc. were largely funded from US sources. That was a mistake. The US knows better now and I am a great believer and support of US foreign policy goals, but one has to realize how this appears to many others. Okay, the Americans do this and get away with it for decades. Something bad happens to them and suddenly the rest of the world needs to ask how high it must jump. This is insensitive.

When the US makes mistakes, it has generally been quick to admit responsibility unlike MOST countries (France, Russia, China, Arab World, African nations, etc.) So, I posted the original thread just to gauge how incorrectly most have been brainwashed into believing that this was a 100 percent US led action, second to note how eerie it is that the same thing happened on Sept. 11 and third to appreciate the fact that the US has learned from its mistake. Afghanistan and Iraq are in no way to be compared with the incident in Chile.

Likely? Read this Federation of American Scientists report, hardly a supporter of American foreign policy aims.

I like that qualification "…far less than Cuba received…. Hahaha! That pretty much sums it up. Allende would have loved for Chile to become South America’s version of Cuba.

Why? We were fighting the Cold War. The Soviets can help their side but we can’t help ours? Sounds like a good way to lose the war. Were we suppose to stay out of Afghanistan as well? How about Iran? How about Germany? It’s not our business what happens in other countries, right?

Allende was too muddled-head to be a Chilean Castro, but he was opening the door for a Castro-like figure to take control in Santiago. Another Soviet-backed regime in the Western hemisphere would have been a disaster. I fully support the U.S. decisions that may have contributed to keeping that from happening.

They are responsible. Chileans who opposed Allende were the main force behind the coup. Whatever happened in 1973 – both for good and bad, and I think it was mostly good – was the responsiblity of the Chileans.

The U.S. funding for the IRA came from private sources. To my knowledge, the U.S. government did not fund the IRA and, in any event, it certainly was not a major sponsor. Was is wrong that some Americans gave money to the IRA and that the U.S. government did little to stop it? Absolutely. But basically the support for the IRA was the result of private decisions by many Irish-Americans and, without a 9-11, U.S. government policy that effectively prevented such financial transfers from taking place would have been impossible.

Admitting mistakes when you do them is one thing. Admitting mistakes just to make yourself seem unbiased is another. U.S. Policy towards Chile was the right one, although I dispute that it had much to do with the coup.

Fred, why don’t we just apologize for our part in the Cold War? What business of ours was it if countries went Communist? What right do we have to stop that scourge?

New Poll Question for the Day: To What degree was the United States to blame for the Cold War?

Afterwards, we can discuss the U.S.'s culpability in WW2, slavery, and the spread of the bubonic plague.


Hmmmm. I may have to admit defeat here. I think you have caught me trying to act “nice” and “objective” and “sensitive” here. Ironically, these are policy positions that I am quick to call others on. Thanks for calling me on them as well.

I have always maintained that there is nothing wrong with the US selling arms to countries or trying to influence their foreign policies. It happens with every country and many countries maintain huge lobby organizations in the US for the very same purpose and I do not see concerned citizens screaming bloody murder about how the US is being coopted by Saudi oil or Greek interests.

Glad however that you see my point regarding the US PRIVATE donations to the IRA. That said, the US has stopped them to the best of my knowledge. Yet, I think that the US must remain alert to the fact that such quick turnarounds make it seem hypocritical on occasion. That was my point in the earlier post. I back off my position on Chile. You were and are right. Most of my Chilean friends would agree with you. Nothing riles them more than to hear liberal leftists talk like the Chileans were not involved and cannot be considered capable of action outside US “influences.” I think though that the Chomskyite brigade may fail to notice how condescending such views are.

Fred, to tell you the truth, I thought someone hijacked your moniker. I was just about to demand that whoever was using it fess up as to where they hid your body. :wink:

Well well well. Lookee here.

We have 4 people saying the US was 100 percent responsible and 3 saying 75 percent responsible.

Clearly, emotional anti-Americanism is in full force on this forum. How in the name of all that is logical could the US be 100 percent to blame when the forces that carried the coup out were all Chilean? This is the kind of ridiculousness that makes any rational exchange of ideas on these types of issues impossible. Try to based your reasons on facts not “feelings.”

Can someone who answered 75 percent or 100 percent please explain to me how that is possible given our knowledge of the historical facts behind the matter? Even the most rabid anti-American Chilean would put this at 25 percent. I know because I have talked to them. Who carried out the coup? Were US soldiers present? Was only US money used? Was the population 100 percent behind Allende? Were there no local elements that were dissatisfied with Allende? Does Latin America and Chile have no history of such military coups? etc. etc?

I would laugh if the tally on this poll was not so pathetic. It merely goes to show that feelings are more important than facts for so many people. How can anyone take these people seriously?

IN the Washington Post…

The Left Killed Allende, Too
By Roberto Ampuero
Washington Post | September 8, 2003

Roberto Ampuero was a 20-year-old member of the Chilean Communist Students Organization when the elected president of his country, Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973 – 30 years ago this week. After the coup, Ampuero left Chile. He lived for five years in Cuba, where he became disenchanted with communism.

The author of seven published novels, he is now pursuing a PhD in Latin American literature at the University of Iowa.The following essay, which he titled “We All Killed Allende,” is his attempt to make sense of the events of three decades ago – events that changed both him and his country.


“I raise my glass to your excellency, the president of the republic, and to the armed forces’ loyalty to your government.” Gen. Augusto Pinochet spoke these words to Salvador Allende at the Military Club in Santiago, Chile, in August 1973 – just days before Pinochet led the coup that toppled Allende’s elected leftist government and resulted in a 17-year military dictatorship in Chile.

The image of the traitorous Pinochet fits neatly into the popular interpretations of that time, which rightly condemn not only the Chilean Right but also the U.S. government for its role in the coup. But it also obscures a painful truth: The Chilean Left shares responsibility for the tragic end of the Allende government. Thirty years later, the refusal of many on the Left to acknowledge this continues to retard not only historical understanding, but also a full renewal of left-wing politics in Latin America.

During the Allende years, the Chilean Left’s principal failing was to have mentally cast aside our democratic system in order to try to replace it with a system which, by any reasonable measure, had already failed in Eastern Europe, Asia and in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Even before Allende’s Popular Unity (UP) coalition – which included Chile’s Communist and Socialist parties and several smaller, leftist parties that became extremist – took control of the government in 1970, many elements of the left, captivated by then-fashionable ideological interpretations of reality, had declared Chilean democracy defunct.

These elements were proposing the Leninist demolition of the “bourgeois” state and its replacement by a “proletarian” one, either by peaceful means or through armed struggle. (The exception, ironically, was the Chilean Communist Party, which, following the cautious Moscow line at the time, advocated a reformist path.) The amazing thing about this is that although UP controlled the executive branch and a substantial part of the legislative branch, this did not cause leftists generally to acknowledge the space for social transformation that the Chilean system did offer in 1970.

Instead of advancing gradually with economic reforms and social benefits for the lower and middle classes, as the UP government had proposed during the campaign, the ultra-left parties within UP played at overtaking Allende on the left, promoting the arbitrary and massive expropriation of factories and farms, demanding the establishment of a unitary single state educational system, of “popular” justice and a “democratic” army. They paraded armed militias that would later prove to be capable only of scaring rightists, not actually fighting; they demanded the renunciation of the country’s international financial obligations; they unfurled the banners of Cuba and North Vietnam and the image of Che Guevara.

All of this helped damage the economy, frighten the middle class and provoke the Right and Chile’s creditors. In sum, it helped create a suffocating atmosphere in the country and deprived the UP of the majority support it required to approve and consolidate change in a democratic way. Leftist leaders, in a kind of anti-Allende conspiracy of their own, called those who remained loyal to the gradualist program “Mensheviks” and “traitors to the people.”

At the same time, they ignored the workings of the democratic system, on the basis of which Allende had established his revolution of “meat pies and red wine,” as we called it. It was based on that system that members of parliament of the Left and center had elected Allende president even though he had received only 36.6 percent of the popular vote. And it should not be forgotten that on August 22, 1973, in the middle of extreme shortages of basic goods, acute political violence and economic crisis, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies declared the Popular Unity government illegal.

Allende entered into immortality by committing suicide as Pinochet’s forces encircled La Moneda, the great gray presidential palace in Santiago – a suicide for which not only Pinochet, the Right and the United States are to blame, but also Allende’s allies, who left him to fend for himself. His sacrifice, orphaned as he was by the UP leaders who fled into exile rather than resist at La Moneda, symbolizes dramatically the abandonment, isolation and betrayal to which Allende was subjected by far left-wing leaders who flirted with the armed struggle but who, when the bullets began to fly, largely vanished into thin air. Today they are mostly neoliberals or center-leftists. What Pinochet did in 1973 was simply to deliver the final blow to a democratic and republican order in Chile that many sectors of the left had already abandoned after the 1970 election.

Allende’s death is full of symbolism. He killed himself with a rifle given to him by Castro. Castro had always posed as Allende’s friend, but at bottom he did not share Allende’s faith in the electoral route to social change. It could not have been otherwise: Allende had won countless elections throughout his life; Castro never even won a student election in his pre-revolutionary days – but he has won them all in his 44 years as a dictator, each time with 99 percent of the vote. Castro played a decisive role in wearing Allende down: first, by organizing and financing the Movement of the Revolutionary Left, a guerrilla group that aggressively pursued socialism through a campaign of bombings, assassinations and bank robberies during the Allende years, and, second, through the military training of ultra-Left members of Allende’s own Socialist Party and other small leftist parties.

Finally came Castro’s official three-week visit to Chile during 1971. For weeks, the Allende government, facing tenacious opposition from the right, could not rid itself of a guest who was as inopportune as he was interventionist. Heedless of the political damage he was causing the Popular Unity government, Castro traveled through Chile boasting of the most radical measures his own regime had taken, attacking parliamentary democracy, teaching how to make Marxist revolution, and generally causing the hair of the Chilean right, the military and the U.S. government to stand on end.

At Castro’s final appearance, at the National Stadium in Santiago, Allende simply did not show up, and Castro failed to fill half the seats. The Cuban played both sides of the street in Chile. He publicly expressed support for Allende’s approach, but at the same time he covertly manipulated Cuban-trained militants who were attacking Allende from the left.

Castro not only harassed Allende during his life, he also tried to control the story of his death. In Havana’s Plaza de la Revoluci&n on Sept. 28, 1973, Castro told a crowd of 1 million Cubans that Allende had died in La Moneda wrapped in a Chilean flag, firing at the army with Fidel’s rifle. In this way, Castro was evading his own responsibility for his interfering in Chile and along the way converted Allende into a man who, at the end of his career, renounced his own peaceful methods and resorted to the armed path blazed by Fidel.

But Allende did not make such a mistake at the hour of his death. And today, more than ever, achieving equality, dignity and democracy for Latin America requires a strategy of building majorities in favor of fundamental but incremental change. At the end of Allende’s government, this is what was left: an honest president who chose to die amid the flames of La Moneda rather than follow the example of those deposed Latin American presidents who have escaped abroad with a fortune robbed from the public treasury; thousands of Chileans tortured, assassinated or disappeared by the dictatorship; hundreds of thousands of exiles, myself included; leftist leaders who, like a phoenix, have reemerged and installed themselves in power as renovated politicians, international advisers or fervent lobbyists for business interests they tried to expropriate 30 years ago; and a tragic and contradictory history that has also served as a source of livelihood for the many who write and talk about it.

Yet there also remains a Chilean people who today seek to realize their dreams through a patient and at times exasperatingly slow process of social and democratic transformation. Yes, we all killed Allende, but fortunately, in Chile, and in the world, his example lives on.

(Translated from Spanish by Charles Lane, a Post staff writer and former Newsweek correspondent in Latin America.)

Well well well now that everyone has had a chance to examine the CIA documents declassified by Clinton, lo and behold the US was not responsible for the coup that overthrew Allende, read on. Once again, however, we must look at the percentages of those that voted for 100 percent US involvement, shake our heads and agree that while the Left FEELS in great plentitude, it could do a bit more critical thinking or really thinking at all might be something to consider. I wonder what icons like Michael Moore and Arudhita Roy would make of all of this. After all, neither of them has let lack of facts get in the way of pompous screeds. hahaha … icity.html

The myth that the United States toppled President Salvador Allende of Chile in 1973 lives. In 1975, a Senate subcommittee headed by Frank Church – a stalwart Democrat and no friend of the Nixon administration – determined that there was “no real evidence” of U.S. support for the military coup or for an earlier botched kidnapping by Chileans that ended in the death of Army Chief of Staff Rene Schneider. A more recent CIA study confirmed these conclusions. No evidence to the contrary emerged from the 24,000 Chile-related documents declassified by the Clinton administration.

There is, in short, no smoking gun. Yet the myth persists. It is lovingly nurtured by the Latin American left and refreshed from time to time by contributions to the literature like Peter Kornbluh’s The Pinochet File and Kenneth Maxwell’s review of that book, “The Other 9/11” (November/December 2003).

Given that there is more proof of Saudi, Syrian and Iranian complicity in these ongoing terrorist actions in Iraq, I wonder where the “right-thinking” brigade is on these very overt and covert actions taken against the government of another nation. OR does it only matter if the US is involved in any way shape or form, even if doubtful or umprovable?

Warning! This is very long. An essay I wrote on the matter in graduate school.


Latin America has always been economically important to the United States. Latin American countries supply 34 percent of the United States

First, read the article that I submitted from Second, when did you write the article? Before the classified documents were released by Clinton which were cited in my report? Third, your article speciously proclaims that US refusal to lend money or trade with Chile was just as responsible for the overthrow of Allende. Why must we loan enemies money or trade with them? Is our refusal to trade with Iran or loan them money to be blamed next as well?

Reread the professional article written by someone in the know that I have submitted. While I appreciate the fact that your article points to the many communist organizations active in Chile and the economic missteps of allende’s government, I would have to question why Cuba and Russia are not equally cited as equally responsible for Allende’s rise. If the US can be cited for his fall and held responsible, surely, the Russian and Cuban support must be cited and blamed for his election? Why is one acceptable and the other to be decried? There are serious questions and I will be curious to see how you address them.

Before. I wrote that in February of 1999. Sure, I would agree that both Russia and Cuba share some of the blame for his rise. In fact, didn’t Allende take his own life with the rifle he was given by Castro. However, it is my opinion that the declassified documents reveal US complicity as is mentioned in my academic work. I agree that there is no smoking gun, but isn’t it in this context that the CIA thrives in? Don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. There isn’t always a paper trail. I have the utmost respect for the organization and people such as the late Dick Helms. It was the cold war, so I don’t think the US should feel particularly guilty about the fall of Allende. Basically, with my quick read over the article, I didn’t find anything new. The argument has always been and continues to be the “level of American involvement.” I still think it was indirect, but there is definite proof of collusion to destablize the country

Among the key documents declassified that shed considerable light on the history of U.S. involvement in Chile, and the repression of the Pinochet regime are:

[i] Detailed minutes of the


I remain unconvinced.

Reread what I have submitted.

Much of what you have is a list of meetings that were “suppposedly” held to discuss issues, and the very fact that such issues were discussed is supposed to suggest that that can be used to prove direct involvement? Wow. Quite a stretch. How is it relevant that the US has the Chilean address of some American? Does it mean he was being monitored? Could be. Does it mean that the US had any role in his detainment? No. Could the US have done anything after he was detained etc? Who the hell knows. Finally, it has been proved that the US had no complicity in the death of those individuals in DC. Finally, cables regarding the subject are natural given the nature of the assassinations. Naturally, one would expect an intelligence agency to make inquiries into such events.

Also, I have no idea why you have posted some of this information. How is it relevant to this discussion when you have neither shown US involvement, shown that the US could have done anything in certain cases and why wouldn’t we have the information or discussions in the first place. Just because the US now views China as a strategic threat and not a strategic partner. Just because the US now believes that France is not an ally and a competitor and has discussions on strategy or forward planning, does that mean these agencies are responsible for everything else that follows? I don’t see that and I find that a great stretch of the imagination.

I believe that these documents were released after your 1999 paper. I think that they clearly show that much of the hype about American involvement was just that: hype.

AND how is refusing to help evidence of culpability in overthrow. If we do not like a government, are we obligated to send it aid? to lend it money? to make it easy for that nation to get money from other nations? This is a nation after all that had nationalized US citizens property in Chile without adequate compensation. Who should the US listen to more, its own citizens or Chilean communists? UNLESS of course you assume like most college professors teaching these courses that communism was the right way to go and the truly equitable way to approach redistributing Chilean wealth to make even greater, fairer economic development possible.

I think that is going to be an argument that you cannot fail to lose given that: a. communism is a failed bankrupt system, and b. Chile is now the most advanced nation in Latin America with the highest per capita income.

Now given that deaths have occurred all over Latin America during these times and given that Chile had 3,000 dead, in which cases can you specifically prove that US officials were directly responsible for said deaths? AND given that you have shown that Allende was equally repressive, how is this unfair on the part of those threatened by him to retaliate in similar fashion?

I think the whole Chile thing is a canard beloved of Leftist radicals with no merit whatsoever. If you want to talk about Guatemala in 1954 or Iran in 1953 or Panama in 1989, I believe you have a better case. Until then, I agree with most of my Chilean friends that the US is not the only force of action in the world, and that “we are capable of making decisions without the US. We supported Pinochet, others did not, but we take full responsibility for the actions of our government. It was a civil war. We won. The other side lost. How then can you try Pinochet in Spain for human rights abuses? What gives you the right?”

These questions were not directed at me but I agree with them. The people that Pinochet had killed could be viewed to be a threat to him and his new administration and were dealt with accordingly. How is this different from the actions of similar governments around the world. Hell, even the US would try and execute terrorists and they are trying to overthrow our system in one way. Wherein lies the difference? How is the US directly or indirectly responsible for Chile? And what proportion of the responsibility lies with the Chilean people and various local actors themselves? I would argue that the US had very limited involvement or of a nature similar to that of Russia and Cuba and that the case has not bee satisfactorily made.

Try again if you like but I remain unconvinced.