Latin Americans remember Sept. 11 as the date in which the Chilean Army, supported by the U.S.' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), carried out a coup against the socialist President Salvador Allende. His death marked the beginning of the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the general who opened a cycle of neoliberal reforms, authoritarianism and violence against the South American peoples.
Thousands of Chileans March in Memory of Pinochet's Victims
At 7:30 A.M. on Sept. 11, 1973, the democratically elected President Salvador Allende arrived at the Palacio de La Moneda in Santiago to be informed about the insubordination of the Navy in the city of Valparaiso. In the Chilean capital at that time, there was not much traffic or people in the streets; everything seemed normal
A couple of hours later, however, the armed forces and the military police, "Los Carabineros", carried out a coup against the socialist government of the Popular Party.
From the government headquarters, Allende addressed the Chileans at 9:20 A.M. through Radio Magallanes; this would be his last speech.
“I will pay for loyalty to the people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seed which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever,” said the President who was entrenched in the Palacio de La Moneda.
Two years earlier, in December 1971, while facing sabotage and intrigues from the Chilean extreme right, Allende had already anticipated what his behavior would be in extreme situations.
“I will not step back. And let them know: I will leave La Moneda when I fulfill the mandate the people gave me.”
The Dirty Hands of the United States
Based on Cold War logic, Salvador Allende's democratic administration meant a direct and immediate communist threat.
To overthrow it, then U.S. President Richard Nixon allocated millions of dollars, a fact which was confirmed decades later when declassified documents revealed the U.S.' participation in the rise of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, which kiled more than 40,000 people at the start of its reign.
"Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent President Allende from taking over the presidency," admitted Edward Korri, who was U.S. Ambassador to Chile from 1967 to 1970.
In an interview for the “Allende's last decision” documentary, Korri recalled that at a meeting with Nixon in Washington, the U.S. President spoke of the Chilean socialist politician, stating “how he was going to crush Allende, while hitting his hand with his fist. He called him a son of a bitch, too."
A few years later, a CIA document dated October 1, 1973, praised the coup d'état in Chile and called it almost "perfect."
The Words that Will Never be Forgotten
For Latin Americans, September 11 is the day when Salvador Allende died. This democratic politician and physician was the first Marxist to ever be elected to the presidency in Chile.
“I address, above all, the modest woman of our land, the campesina who believed in us, the worker who labored more, the mother who knew our concern for children. I address Chilean patriotic professionals, those who days ago continued working against the sedition sponsored by professional associations, class-based associations, which also defended the advantages that a capitalist society grants to a few.”
For Latin Americans to forget its 9/11 would be to forget thousands of men and women who were tortured, killed and disappeared because of the military dicatorships of the 1970s and 1980s.
“I address the youth, those who sang and gave us their joy and their spirit of struggle. I address the man of Chile, the worker, the farmer, the intellectual, those who will be persecuted, because in our country fascism has been already present for many hours -- in terrorist attacks, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railroad tracks, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to protect them. They were committed. History will judge them.”
Long Live the People! Long Live the Workers!
The coup that ended the life of thousands of Chileans was led by Augusto Pinochet, the man appointed by Allende as the Army Commander in Chief just a month before the 9/11.
Under his orders the army planes dropped more than 20 bombs on the Palacio de La Moneda. President Allende asked his cabinet members to leave; they did not. They remained there until their last moments.
Shattered crystals and walls turned into rubble. Dust and fire. One bomb after another. All the noise and images of this ignominy were captured and remain as historical records.
Amid the chaos generated by the military's belligerence, Allende fulfilled his words: "I am not going to give up." While waiting for the final attack, the socialist politician continued addressing millions of citizens.
"Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society."
"Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers! These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain."