30 years ago, Gen. Augusto Pinochet headed a bloody coup plotted in Washington to overthrow the constitutional government of the socialist leader Salvador Allende
Today, Chileans commemorate the tragedy that led them into 17 years of darkness and death.
Foreign diplomats were bringing money into the country that would eventually finance strikes, sabotage, and anti-governmental propaganda. Company owners paralyzed Chile, even denying people access to food. The only market available was the black market. There were long queues in the streets of Santiago with people looking for cigarettes, sugar or bread. There was no meat and finding oil was a miracle.
The Christian Democrats (center – right opposition) and the newspaper El Mercurio denounced the “red tyranny”, calling for a military coup to topple it. Domestic and the international media take part in this campaign. Alone, the government could hardly move: both the courts and the parliament block its decisions.
At the same time, Army officers began conspiring, making Allende believe that they are loyal to the Constitution. Allende was wrong and that would be his last mistake.
Workers discover the secrets of democracy and the economy. They supported the president they had elected three years before, but they had no weapons to free themselves and defend their leader. Not far away from the capital, in the Pacific Ocean, a few US naval ships make their presence known. They could be seen from Chilean coasts. The coup has begun.
Salvador Allende enjoyed life. He had said this several times and that he was not a martyr or an apostle.
Plotting generals led by Augusto Pinochet, blamed Allende for the crisis and demanded his resignation: they offered him a plane to leave the country. “I will leave La Moneda –Palace of Government- once I finish my duty”, he replied. Coup leaders warned that they would bomb the Palace by land and air to remove him. The fuel to move the tanks was paid by the US Embassy in Santiago, which reported with amazing accuracy the army’s movements to Washington. State Secretary Henry Kissinger was one American official kept closely informed.
Allende called a small group of collaborators, listened to the news, put a helmet on and took a rifle. He knew the army controlled the entire country. The president spook on radio for the last time: “I won’t resign”, he said and waited for the first bombs.
As in Buenos Aires in 1955, the Armed Forces, which were supposed to protect the Constitution and the democratically elected authorities, fired on both, bombed the center of Santiago, killing people and their dreams of freedom.
A huge dark smoke column arose from the beautiful fin de siecle styled Palace of Government. Allende committed suicide. Army officers were kill thousands. The new authorities did not take note of dead citizens, as there are not enough registers. General Tomas Opazo Santander claimed that the number victims made-up only 0.01 percent of the population. CIA director William Colby explained in Washington that thanks to the shootings Chile avoided civil war.
The current Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, Ambassador to Moscow at that time protested, but the world did not listen to him. Only the Soviet Union and the socialist world would speak out. Lagos would be removed from his diplomatic functions during the rule of the military They would usurp La Moneda for 17 years. Then, they would find more partners in crime: Argentina fell in 1976, also Uruguay; Paraguay and Brazil were already dictatorships. The same for Central America: genocide in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama. They had something in common: all trained by the notorious “School of the Americas” in Panama, received direct instruction from the CIA and financed by the US Treasury.
Today, Chileans live in democracy again. Ricardo Lagos, the same that protested in September 11, 1973, in Moscow, rules a modern and stable country in a new world. However, those who lived at that time remember the words of the Uruguayan poet, Mario Benedetti: “To kill the man of peace, they had to become partners of death, killing to keep on killing and condemning themselves to the armored isolation. To kill the man that was a people, they had live without the people.”