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On This 9/11, Remembering Allende

By Farooque Chowdhury

11 September, 2013

On this day, September 11, people standing for democracy remember Allende, people recollect the tortured, disappeared, and the systematically murdered thousands of citizens of Chile, people recall Victor Jara, the poet-singer-activist. And, on this day, people reiterate their denouncement of Pinochet, the mass murderer, the general leading a gang of killers during the murderous days of Chile.

The bloody days began on September 11, 1973 through coup backed by the US, and brutalized on for years and years till the people of Chile forced the murderers to submission.

Still today, the photograph of the body of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile, being carried from the bombed presidential palace of La Moneda, Santiago on September 11, 1973, during the Pinochet-coup, is fresh in memory.

The people of Chile under the leadership of Allende ignited their dream for equality, justice and peace; the people of Chile began their journey for democracy that reverberates with the voice of the majority and opposes interest of the privileged.

The bloody coup was organized to crush all these hopes and dreams, and to secure interests of the privileged minority classes. The political system that the coup organizers shaped took the form of dictatorship. The ruling machine began to move around through a valley of repression and persecution.

Recalling the coup-hours, Hugh O'Shaughnessy writes in The Observer, UK:

“Admiral Gustavo Carvajal, one of the plotters, was on the phone to Allende offering him a plane if he would leave the country. But the president was trenchant: ‘Who do you think you are, you treacherous shits? Stuff your plane up your arses! You are talking to the president of the republic! And the president elected by the people doesn't surrender.’” (“Chilean coup: 40 years ago I watched Pinochet crush a democratic dream”, September 7, 2013)

Hugh, who was in the Chilean capital during those disastrous days, saw “the flames continuing to consume the Moneda. Under curfew the stadium began filling with Pinochet's prisoners: some were summarily shot, others were sent to concentration camps in the Atacama deserts of the north or the frigid sub-Antarctic south.

“Over the weeks at the Moneda the flames consumed what they could, leaving a thick layer of ash.” (ibid.)

As background, the veteran journalist presents some facts that bring shame on the political establishment and on the interests standing against the people around the globe:

“On 21 September 1970, Allende had been declared victor of clean elections, but before he took over the presidency, after a fruitless effort by Chilean conservatives and their US allies to have the victory declared unconstitutional, Edward Korry, the US ambassador in Santiago, reported to Henry Kissinger, the foreign strategist of President Richard Nixon: ‘Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty’.

“A few days earlier Richard Helms, director of the CIA, had scribbled notes on a meeting in Washington with Nixon, Kissinger and John Mitchell, the US attorney general, where the president demanded a coup. They read: ‘One in 10 chance perhaps, but save Chile! /worth spending /not concerned risks involved /no involvement of embassy /$10,000,000 available, more if necessary/ best men we have/ game plan/ make the economy scream /48 hours for plan of action.’” (ibid.)

The journalist sketches the murderers’ post-coup job:

“Pinochet and his cohorts, well favoured now by Washington, turned to making themselves fortunes from the privatisation of public services and, quietly, from the trade in cocaine from Bolivia which the US never seemed to want to criticise or attack.” (ibid.)

Bloody hands of the coup organizers’ deadly campaign were long. Hugh, the author of Pinochet, The Politics of Torture (Latin America Bureau and New York University Press) also describes a few of those facts in short and throws a question:

“So confident was Pinochet in his protectors in ‘the free world’ that on 17 September 1976 he ordered the killing of Orlando Letelier, Allende’s former defence minister, with a bomb planted in his car in Sheridan Circle in the diplomatic heart of Washington itself. Such an atrocity, had it been committed by any Arab or Iranian, or indeed a Muslim of any persuasion, would have brought down instant punishment, or even war. But Pinochet was in no danger. After all, he had been Nixon's man all along.” (ibid.)

Allende’s “original sin” was the initiative to build up a political system, in which people will have space and opportunity to participate, to articulate dreams for a better life, in which political institutions uphold people’s interests. Allende’s “original sin” was to claim people’s property: the mines, telephone companies, etc. so that people have opportunity to build up a prosperous life.

So, ITT stepped in in the regime change game. The company owned telephone companies in Chile. The ITT-CIA alliance got activated. More than 40 meetings between CIA and ITT officials were held. ITT wanted to start funneling secret funds to Allende’s opponent in the 1970 election. One of the first documents that came out on US intervention in Chile was the ITT memos recording ITT’s meetings with the CIA and the US ambassador.

El Mercurio, a mass media group, asked for US intervention. The media group had relations with business houses that had private investments in Chile.

Intrigues were wider and deeper. In an October day in 1970, General René Schneider, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Chile, was murdered in daylight on a street. In The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, Peter Kornbluh has documented these. The assassination was part of a CIA operation to instigate a coup, to create a coup-climate so that Allende could be stopped from being inaugurated. The Pinochet File also tells: CIA paid the assassins of Schneider $35,000 to close their mouths about the US role and to help them escape from Chile.

The Church Committee, the US Senate committee led by Senator Frank Church, investigated US intervention in Chile in the mid-1970s, and it was found that the CIA funded an institute that was preparing for a coup, that did compile lists of both civilians and people inside the Allende government that would need to be taken care of in the event of a coup.

During the Pinochet-era, Amnesty International says, “[t]ens of thousands of people were detained, tortured, killed or disappeared. The total number of people officially recognized as disappeared in Chile or killed between 1973 and 1990 stands at over 3,000 and survivors of political imprisonment and/or torture at around 40,000.” To date, at least 262 individuals have been sentenced for human rights violations and there are more than 1,100 open judicial proceedings. (September 10, 2013, “Chile: 40 years on from Pinochet’s coup, impunity must end”)

Still, all the killers have not been awarded justice. The human rights organization says: It is not acceptable that 40 years after the coup the search for justice, truth and reparation in Chile continues to be hampered.

Amnesty has urged the “authorities to repeal the 1978 Amnesty Decree Law and any other measures granting amnesty to perpetrators of human rights violations; to reform the Military Code of Justice to ensure that human rights abuses by military personnel and security forces in Chile are investigated and tried under the civilian courts; to support and strengthen the initiatives aimed at preserving the historical memory of the gross human rights violations and to put human rights at the forefront of all policies and programs.” (ibid.)

This issue is alive in many other countries also. And, this has turned part of democratic struggle.

The process of plunder moved along with the Generals’ killing mission.

Pinochet secretly took more than $26 million from Chile, hid these in more than hundred bank accounts. He, in this “sport”, used false passports, and different variants of his name – Augusto Ugarte P., or Augusto Ugarte, or Ramón Ugarte. His full name was Augusto Ramón Ugarte Pinochet. A few of his aides’ names and variants of his children’s names were also on these accounts. But the name Pinochet was not mentioned in these accounts. This man was considered honest by CIA and neo-liberals.

The continent, Latin America, witnessed coups; difficult to recollect number of those. Then, the coup-masters calculated cost-benefit ratio of the coup-enterprise. These were not profitable all the time. Rather, all of these coups ultimately produced losses. Credibility along with other political assets was lost. Lost were a lot of levers. Even, death squads and proxy wars were not always producing desired result.

New tact was adopted: “democracy” enterprise, a soft approach. It has a nice face, humanitarian face. It gets concerned with labor welfare; it gets involved with the youth. But main players remain the same, the same smiling sober appearing faces. Goals remain the same: control countries with geostrategic resources, control countries positioned geostrategically, have a hand on source of cheap labor, organize labor in export oriented areas.

Countries in the Third and Fourth Worlds, not only Chile, basically face the same questions: questions of peace, prosperity and stability, questions related to control over own destiny and own resources, questions related to claiming looted resources, questions related to progress and backwardness, questions related to intrigues and organizations and leadership, questions related to mass mobilization and alternate media. These make Chile and Allende relevant issues of study.

In his final address to the people of Chile, President Allende said: Go forward knowing that sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society.

Better society is a cherished dream of all peoples of all countries. It’s a question of not only of ensured food, health care and education, but also of an environment of free expression, an environment free from surveillance on all aspects of life and political and intellectual activities.

Víctor Jara was tortured by the coup-sters. His hands were broken, and after the “civilized” act, Victor was ordered to play his guitar. Victor sang part of Venceremos, We Will Win. Victor was murdered.

Juan Garcés, author of Allende, and Allende’s one of closest advisers until September 11, 1973, describes: The presidential palace was being bombed by the Pinochet forces and Salvador Allende was surrounded by advisers. Allende walked Juan Garcés to the door and said, “Tell the world”.

One of the tasks is to tell the world, tell the fact, tell the truth.

Farooque Chowdhury is Dhaka-based freelancer.




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