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Salvador Allende

Salvador Allende Gossens (July 26, 1908 - September 11, 1973) was President of Chile from 1970 until overthrown in a military coup in 1973.

Salvador Allende

Born in Valparaiso, Chile, Allende was a co-founder of Chile's socialist party and served as minister in his party's governments and as the Chairman of the Chilean Senate. In his fourth Presidential election in 1970 as the leader of the Unidad Popular[?] coalition party, he obtained a narrow plurality of the vote. As he only had 36% of the vote and not a clear majority, the Chilean Congress had to decide between him and the second place candidate, Jorge Alessandri[?]. Congress chose to appoint Allende, on the condition that he would sign a "Statute of Constitutional Guarantees" affirming that his socialist reforms would not undermine any element of the Chilean Constitution[?].

Allende was an ardent socialist and a strong follower of Marxist philosophy. As an outspoken critic of the capitalist system he would often openly declared his intentions to reform the institutions of the bourgeois state into that of a socialist utopia. He remained coy on how exactly he planned to implement such reforms, leading some of his opponents to fear Allende had intentions of creating a Communist dictatorship.

Such socialist rhetoric, combined with Allende's close friendship with Cuban President Fidel Castro caused fears among high-ranking members of the United States government that Chile was in danger of turning Communist, and falling under the influence of the Soviet Union. The US made a series of attempts to prevent Allende's election, mostly through widespread financial assistance to any political parties that opposed him, including ironically enough, the somewhat moderate Chilean Communist Party.

Shortly after the 1970 election, the CIA ran propaganda operations to incite President Eduardo Frei Montalva to veto Allende's Congressional ratification as the new President. The efforts failed, and Allende was approved, although only after signing the declaration to maintain democracy.

After his inauguration, Allende began to carry out his platform of implementing socialist programs in Chile, which accelerated the process of polarization within the country and Congress. Many corporations were nationalized, and a new "excess profit tax" was created. A moratorium on foreign debt payments was announced, with debts being defaulted to international creditors and foreign governments.

In 1971 following a month long visit of Fidel Castro, Allende announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, violating a previously established Organization of American States convention that no nation in the western hemisphere would ever do so.

Throughout much of his presidency, Allende remained at odds with the Chilean Congress, which was dominated by the conservative Christian Democratic Party. Many Christian Democrats believed Allende was leading Chile down the road to a Cuban-style dictatorship, and as a result sought to overturn many of his more radical constitutional reforms. Some members even called for the normally apolitical Chilean military to stage a coup to "protect the constitution."

The president's job was further complicated by dealings with the economical pressure that the US imposed on his government via multilateral organisations, and the more radical forces in his own coalition of supporters, who wanted to see a more rapid acceleration of Chilean socialism.

In 1973, when high inflation and economic shortages had plunged the country into near chaos, the Chilean military led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, staged a coup against President Allende. During the capture of the Presidential Palace, Allende was said by his personal doctor to have committed suicide, with a submachine gun given to him by Fidel Castro, although some believe he was killed in the defense of the Presidential Palace.

Ironically, the coup that many hoped would protect the constitution from futher destruction actually accelerated the process. A long period of dictatorship ensued, and bloody shoot outs following the revolution left over 3,000 Chileans dead.

Following the coup many Allende supporters began to allege that the president's overthrow had been the result of an American orchestrated scheme. Although the CIA denies actively supporting in the coup and claims that it was merely informed of it, recently declassified documents have raised the possibility that the CIA was much more actively involved in the coup than it has previously admitted.

Quotes on Allende:

  • "Allende is seeking the totality of power, which meant Communist tyranny disguised as the dictatorship of the proletariat." -- Statement from the National Assembly of the Chilean Christian Democratic party, May 15, 1973

  • "As for the bourgeois state, we are seeking to overcome it, to overthrow it." -- President Allende, speaking to French Journalist Regis Debray[?] in 1970

  • "Not a nut or bolt shall reach Chile under Allende. Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and all Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty." -- Edward Korry[?], US Ambassador to Chile, upon hearing of Allende's election

  • "Of all of the leaders in the region, we considered Allende the most inimical to our interests. He was vocally pro-Castro and opposed to the United States. His internal policies were a threat to Chilean democractic liberties and human rights." -- Henry Kissinger, Years of Renewal

Alleged US Involvement in Allende's Overthrow

The United States has long been the dominant economic and military power in North and South America, and it is known that the American CIA assisted the Chilean opposition with money and propaganda. Many people believe American support went much further and see Pinochet[?] as essentially a proxy for the CIA.

Officially, the United States opposed President Allende's policies because he was an agent of the international communist conspiracy[?] and represented a threat to the US, as well as a would-be tyrant seeking to undermine Chilean democracy. In this respect he was regarded much as controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is today.

Some have suggested the real motivations were related to American corporations such as Pepsi, or extensive Chilean investments by the Kennedy family. Others believe that US policy on Chile had more to do with a long-term desire to prevent democracy and popular movements in the hemisphere to ensure the hegemony of capitalism and protect the interests of the rich[?]. Journalist Greg Palast estimates that, at the time of the coup, American corporations controlled over 85% of Chile's industries, and that it was in the interests of these corporations that the US overthrew the Chilean government. ( 1 -- p.92-97)

Alleged Soviet/Cuban Involvement in Allende's Presidency

Many people opposed to Salvador Allende have claimed that he intended to bring Chile into the Soviet orbit as the tip of a Communist spear aimed at subjugating the hemisphere. These accusations are widespread but most do not bear scrutiny.

Just before the coup, the Chilean Congress passed a resolution accusing Allende of numerous illegal, unconstitutional, and dictatorial actions and calling for his removal. They did not make any mention of Cuba or the Soviet Union. No Cuban or Soviet troops were ever stationed in the country. The extent of Allende's official dealings with Communist countries were normal diplomatic and trade ties.

Though the Soviet threat is gone, present day accusations against Venezeulan[?] President Hugo Chavez bear a striking resemblance to those made in the late 1970s about Salvador Allende.


See also:

· ITT Corporation[?]

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