CHILE COUP D'ÉTAT FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ
[7.07 p.m.]: September 11, 2013, marks the fortieth anniversary of the coup in Chile, which led to a reign of terror in which tens of thousands of opponents of the military dictatorship of August Pinochet were imprisoned, tortured, exiled and murdered or they disappeared. Salvador Allende, a Chilean physician and politician, became president of Chile through an open election with a clear representative mandate. However, at the height of the Cold War, the United States considered the empowerment of any socialist leader, democratic or otherwise, to be a direct threat to its interests. Throughout the 1960s the United States secretly spent millions funding political parties in Chile, including the Christian Democrats led by Eduardo Frei Montalva, to oppose the Allende Government.
In the early 1970s Washington decided to change tactics and President Nixon authorised a covert action program to promote a military coup to overthrow Allende. As part of this, they undertook a particularly unsophisticated effort to remove army officers who supported democratic rule. The Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] organised to kidnap Rene Schneider, a Chilean army general, but the plot was botched and Schneider died. The United States government claims it did not intend for Schneider to be murdered, only kidnapped. When Alexander Haig, Kissinger's aide, was asked, "Is kidnapping not a crime", he replied, "That depends." United States sentiment opposing the increasingly popular Allende was not only tainted by fears of a Chilean alliance with Cuba and the Soviet Union; Chilean industries were dominated by American corporations at the time and a Central Intelligence Agency report indicated that an Allende win would threaten United States private investment of more than $750 million. It is interesting to note the political mechanisms of Washington. A Central Intelligence Agency document from October 1970 reads:
It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup. It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the US government and American hand be well hidden … Some low-level over flights of Santiago and bomb drops in areas not likely to cause casualties could have great psychological effect and might swing balance as they have so many times in past in similar circumstances.
During the air raids and ground attacks that preceded the coup, Allende gave his last speech in which he vowed to stay in the presidential palace, refusing offers for safe passage should he choose exile over confrontation. After the coup the junta established a military dictatorship with support from the Central Intelligence Agency and Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, an agency that sensibly coordinated the activities of the intelligence services of the army, navy, air force, the Carabinaros and Investigations Police. Even when the full extent of the torture and executions in Chile were well known—after Pinochet assumed power—the United States Government sought to integrate the Pinochet regime into international business circles.
Notorious use of torture by the Pinochet regime against thousands of militants and civilians, including children, was widespread, and despite these reprehensible abuses of human rights the United States continued to support Pinochet. During the Pinochet regime the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs informed Henry Kissinger that the national stadium was being used to hold tens of thousands of political prisoners, and as late as 1975 the Central Intelligence Agency was still reporting that up to 3,811 prisoners were being held in the stadium. Pinochet was guilty of murdering people in horrific ways, including dropping pregnant women out of aeroplanes.
The Rettig report, commissioned in 1991 by then President Patricio Aylwin, outlined human rights abuses resulting in deaths or disappearances that occurred in Chile between 11 September 1973 and 11 March 1990. It concluded that 2,279 persons who disappeared during the military government were killed for political reasons or as a result of political violence. According to a later paper, the Valech report, 31,947 people were tortured. Some 30,000 Chileans were exiled. However, they were followed in their exile by the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional secret police in Operation Condor, which linked South American dictatorships together against political opponents. Pinochet justified his reign of terror, saying:
Sometimes democracy must be bathed in blood … Everything I did, all my actions, all of the problems I had I dedicate to God and to Chile, because I kept Chile from becoming Communist.
Juxtaposing Pinochet's grand excuse for the suffering of the Chilean people, Thor Halvorssen, President of the Human Rights Foundation, points out:
Pinochet shut down Parliament, suffocated political life, banned trade unions, and made Chile his sultanate. His government disappeared 3,000 opponents, arrested 30,000 (torturing thousands of them) … Pinochet's name will forever be linked to the Desaparecidos, the Caravan of Death, and the institutionalized torture that took place in the Villa Grimaldi complex.