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Was the United States responsible for the 1973 Coup in Chile?

Posted July 10th, 2011 at 04:16 AM by Son of Cathal

Salvador Allende must have struck an odd image wearing the gas mask, bullet proof vest and helmet that he donned during the siege of the Chilean presidential palace. In his hands, Allende carried a Kalashnikov rifle, a gift from Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The gun bore an inscription “To my friend and comrade in arms, Salvador.”[1] This would be the same gun that Allende would use to end his own life according to the eye witness account of his friend and personal surgeon Dr. Patricio Guijon Klein.[2] Shortly before this tragic event, Allende made his last speech to the people of Chile. In it he named foreign capital and imperialism as the cause of the situation he found himself in.[3] It is reasonable to assume that the foreign capital that Allende was referring to was the United States of America. Long before the shot that ended Allende's life was fired, it had been the goal of the United States to see that he did not attain the presidency. Formerly classified Central Intelligence Agency documents and records have revealed the extent that successive United States administrations went too to see that a socialist was not elected to government in Chile. However, these documents suggest that the United States may not have played as big a role in the 1973 Coup as is commonly thought. The role that the US is suggested to have played is the destabilising of the Chilean government to the point where the Chilean military felt it was necessary to intervene. The US achieved this through covert operations throughout Salvador Allende's three year term in office.

Salvador Allende first ran for the presidency in 1952, this first attempt was unsuccessful. He ran again in 1958. This attempt met with the same result but with one distinct difference, the United States had taken an interest in the Leftist candidate. Until 1958, the US had not seen Allende as a threat, now the threat of a communist Chile was a possibility.[4] Salvador was gaining popularity and as a result the CIA was directed to begin spoiling operations to prevent Allende from being elected to office. These operations included the funding of the Chile's Christian Democratic Party or the PDC.[5] Thanks largely to CIA support, which amounted to US$ 2.6 million, half of the party's official budget, the PDC was elected to office in the 1964 with Eduardo Frei as President.[6] However, Allende maintained his presidential aspirations and ran for the presidency in 1970. Unlike his previous attempts and despite the efforts of the CIA to prevent it, Allende received the majority of votes and was elected to office on September 4. It is worth noting that the KGB was funding Allende's campaign at the time, contributing to the United States' paranoia that Chile had the potential to become another Cuba.[7] Allende became the first 'socialist to be democratically elected to the position of president, setting a precedent the United States saw as unacceptable according to an transcript of a conversation that took place between Dr Henry Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers.[8] Two months after Allende's election, Henry Kissinger, the National Security Advisor to the Nixon Administration, published a memorandum outlining the position the US should take towards Chile.

In Kissinger's own words, the memorandum “considered the question as to what strategy the US should adopt to deal with an Allende Government in Chile.”[9] However, covert operations were already in place to prevent Allende from being voted in by Chile's congress. This came in the form of Track I, the plan by the state department to install Allende's political opponent Jorge Alessandri. A hand written note by CIA director Richard Helms records President Richard Nixon's orders to ensure this. Eleven days after being elected to power by the Chilean people, Nixon ordered the CIA to “save Chile!” and made ten million dollars available for the operation. Nixon also gave the infamous order to “make the economy scream,”[10] something the CIA would achieve later in Allende's three year term as president. The day after Nixon issued this order, Richard Helms held a planning meeting for what would become Project FUBELT, the CIA operation to unseat Allende through a military coup and part of the Track II plan. The minutes of this meeting detail the President's orders from the day before. The meeting set the groundwork for CIA operations against Allende including the possibility of a coup.[11] In truth, the CIA had begun monitoring possible coups in Chile as early as 1968. This included both ill fated Viaux Plots, one of which saw the Chilean constitutionalist army Commander-in-Chief General Rene Schneider shot and killed. Although the CIA was in contact with Viaux, a declassified Agency report states that the CIA had decided not to support the attempted coups as they had determined that such attempts would fail.[12] However the same document states that the CIA would support a military coup if it had a chance of succeeding. All CIA operations to prevent Allende gaining office failed, the blame for which fell on Helms and the US Ambassador to Chile Edward Korry.[13][14] However the Track II plan continued in the guise of economic pressure.

Despite failing to prevent Allende's election to the presidency, The CIA nor the United States government stopped working against Allende. Henry Kissinger was the architect of the idea of an economic blockade of Chile. As Chile depended largely on the US dollar and US materials for its industries, The United States was able to cut loans, foreign aid, financing and materials, plunging Chile into an economic crisis.[15] President Nixon's order to “make the economy scream” was becoming a reality.[16] In August of 1972, a series of strikes began in Chile. At the head of these actions were the truck drivers. Chile had little in the way of a railway system so the vast majority of goods had to be moved by truck. The stop work action crippled the Chilean economy, stopping the delivery of food and sowing discontent amongst the population. According to a CIA intelligence bulletin, the Chilean Department of Investigation had received requests to investigate foreigners living in Chile who were manipulating the strikes.[17] It has since been discovered that the CIA were manipulating the strikes as part of the Track II plan to cripple Chile's economy.[18] The PDC was a strong supporter of the strikes and had been receiving funds from the CIA since Track I was put in place. These funds were passed onto the strikers, prolonging the strikes and bringing the Chilean economy to a halt. Striking truck drivers interviewed by Time Magazine admitted that money for food came from the CIA.[19] As a result of the strike, Allende was forced to use the military to bring an end to the strikes, reopen roads and stores who's owners had joined the truckers.[20] This hardline approach was not received well and Allende popularity fell as a result. It didn't help that the strikes had affected the planting of crops, causing a decrease of 16 percent in harvest forcing Chile to import more food, adding to the already mounting debt the country had.[21] While the CIA continued to strangle the Chilean economy, the US military continued to provide arms and armament to the Chilean military.

Despite a promise from US Ambassador Korry to Allende's predecessor Eduardo Frei in 1970 that “not a nut or bolt would be allowed to reach Chile under Allende,”[22] the US continued to provide assistance to the Chilean military in the form of hardware and training. This has been interpreted as encouragement for the Chilean military to intervene in the government.[23] This interpretation is strengthened by the actions of the Nixon administration in March of 1970. The Chilean military presented a shopping list of weapons and vehicles to the US valued at seven million dollars. This list included recoilless rifles, helicopters, artillery pieces and C-130 Hercules aircraft. Kissinger advised Nixon to offer the requested items to the military on credit as a refusal to supply the weapons could “cause resentment in the Chilean armed forces and sever our tenuous relations with them while there is still a possibility they might act against Allende.”[24] It is clear that the Nixon administration was planning to use the military against Allende. In direct violation of their own policy of strangling Chile's economy, the US increased assistance to the Chilean military from 3,221 million dollars in 1970 to 13,540 million dollars in 1972.[25] Assistance from the US government to the Chilean military was not only in the form of money but in training as well. Joint naval manoeuvres were held annually with the United States Navy and the training of Chilean personnel in the Panama Canal Zone.[26] Figures garnered from the Church report into the CIA's covert operations state that the number of Chilean
personnel trained in Panama increased in each consecutive year of Allende's term.[27] It is certain that the cooperation between the US and the Chilean military allowed the CIA to gather intelligence on possible coup plotting as well as approach Chilean officers about the possibility of organising a coup.[28]

It had always been the desire of the Nixon administration to see Allende unseated by a coup since 1970. The US however was unwilling to carry out the coup themselves so set the groundwork for the Chilean military under General Augusto Pinochet to carry out the coup for them. In 1975, the US Senate began an inquiry into CIA operations in Chile to determine whether the US was responsible for the coup in Chile and the death of Salvador Allende. The inquiry was headed by Senator Frank Church and the findings of the committee were published in what was called the Church report. The report determined that the United States was not responsible for the 1973 coup.[29] It is clear from a released transcript of a phone conversation between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger that the US did not have a hand in the actual September coup. However it is also made clear by Kissinger's admittance that the US set the groundwork for the coup to take place “We (the United States) didn't do it. I mean we helped them. (Omitted words) created the conditions as great as possible.”[30] The conditions that Kissinger alluded to in this conversation were the results of the covert operations the CIA was involved in during Allende's three year term.

There is no doubt that the US wanted to see a coup take place in Chile, the Track II plan proves that. However, as previously stated, the US was unwilling to organise a coup itself due to the ramifications overthrowing a democratically elected government would have on the international stage.[31] When news of the planned coup reached the CIA operatives in Chile days before it took place, it saw years of work destabilising the Allende administration come to fruition. When the coup did happen, it happened without the intervention of the CIA, the telephone conversation between Kissinger and Nixon supports this and the findings of the Church committee confirms it. Support for the coup however was obvious. Soon after Allende was overthrown and Pinochet installed himself as Chilean leader, the US resumed financial aid to the country as well as allowed US financial institutions to begin offering loans to the indebted Pinochet regime.[32] This is an obvious show of support for the Pinochet regime and approval for the overthrowing of the Allende government.
CIA documents and records suggest that the role the United States played in the overthrow of the Allende administration was to destabilise the government through the use of covert operations conducted by the CIA. These operations included the funding of opposition parties such as the Christian Democrats, the funnelling of money to striking workers which prolonged the strike causing major damage to the Chilean economy. The economic blockade proposed by Henry Kissinger prevented Chile from importing materials required for the production of goods resulting in further damage to the already crippled economy. These covert operations resulted in a weakened Allende government and dissatisfaction within the military. It is clear than that the real role the US played in the fall of Allende's government was not to overthrow Allende itself but to destabilise the government to the point that the Chilean military felt it was necessary to remove Allende themselves.










Bibliography
Primary Sources

Broe, William V. "Genesis of Project FUBELT." Washington D.C., 16/09/1970.
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/ch03-01.htm
Access: 27/03/2011
Christian, Shirley. "Chile Ends Exile of Allende Family" The New York Times, Sep. 2 1988.
"CIA Intelligence Bulletin: Truckers Strike." Washington D.C., 13/10/1972.
http://foia.state.gov/documents/Pcia2/00000744.pdf
Access: 27/03/2011
"CIA Report on Chilean Department of Investigation Investigations into Foreign Intereference with Strikes." Washington D.C., 31/101972.
http://foia.state.gov/documents/Pcia2/000006f6.pdf
Access: 27/03/2011
Helms, Richard. "President Nixon's Orders to Begin Covert Operations in Chile." Washington D.C., 15/09/1970.
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/ch26-01.htm
Access: 26/03/2011



Karamessines, Thomas. "Operating Guidance Cable on Coup Plotting." Washington D.C., 16/10/1970.
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/ch05-01.htm
Access: 26/03/2011
Kissinger, Henry. "Memorandum for the President." Washington D.C., 05/11/1970.
Course reader, wk 18/4
"Transcript of Conversation between Henry Kissinger and William Rogers." Washington D.C., 14/09/1970.
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB255/19700912-1215-Rogers3.pdf
Access: 25/03/2011
"Transcript of Conversation between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger." Washington D.C., 04/07/1973.
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB255/19730704-1100-Nixon4.pdf
Access: 25/03/2011
"Transcript of Conversation between President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger." Washington D.C., 16/09/1973.
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB255/19730916KP5.pdf
Access: 25/03/2011
US, Senate. "Church Report." Washington D.C., 1975.
U.S. Department of State FOIA Electronic Reading Room.

Secondary
Andrew, Christopher M. The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. New York: Basic Books, 2005 pp. 72.
Cockcroft, James D. Salvador Allende Reader: Chile's Voice of Democracy. Melbourne: Ocean Press, 2000.
Davis, Nathaniel. The Last Two Years of Salvador Allende. New York: Cornell University Press, 1985.
Gustafson, Kristian. Hostile Intent: U.S. Covert Operations in Chile 1964 - 1974. Dulles: Potomac Books, 2007.
Kaufman, Edy. Crisis in Allende's Chile: New Perspectives. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1988.
Oppenheim, Lois Echt. Politics in Chile: Socialism, Authoritarianism and Market Democracy. Boulder: Westview Press, 2007.
Qureshi, Lubana Z. Nixon, Kissinger and Allende: U.S. Involvement in the 1973 Coup in Chile. Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2010.
Sigmund, Paul E. The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964 - 1976. London: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977.


[1]Paul E. Sigmund, The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964 - 1976 (London: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977).

[2]Shirley Christian, "Chile Ends Exile of Allende Family " The New York Times, Sep. 2 1988.

[3]James D. Cockcroft, Salvador Allende Reader: Chile's Voice of Democracy (Melbourne: Ocean Press, 2000).

[4] Kristian Gustafson, Hostile Intent: U.S. Covert Operations in Chile 1964 - 1974 (Dulles: Potomac Books, 2007).

[5]Senate US, "Church Report," (Washington D.C.1975).
U.S. Department of State FOIA Electronic Reading Room.

[6] Sigmund. The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964 – 1976. pp. 34

[7]Christopher M. Andrew, The World Was Going Our Way: The Kgb and the Battle for the Third World (New York: Basic Books, 2005 pp. 72).

[8] "Transcript of Conversation between Henry Kissinger and William Rogers," (Washington D.C.14/09/1970).
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB255/19700912-1215-Rogers3.pdf

[9]Henry Kissinger, "Memorandum for the President," (Washington D.C.05/11/1970).

[10]Richard Helms, "President Nixon's Orders to Begin Covert Operations in Chile," (Washington D.C.15/09/1970).
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/ch26-01.htm

[11] William V. Broe, "Genesis of Project Fubelt," (Washington D.C.16/09/1970).
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/ch03-01.htm

[12] Thomas Karamessines, "Operating Guidance Cable on Coup Plotting," (Washington D.C.16/10/1970).
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/ch05-01.htm

[13] "Transcript of Conversation between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger," (Washington D.C.04/07/1973).
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB255/19730704-1100-Nixon4.pdf

[14] Andrew, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. pp. 79

[15]Edy Kaufman, Crisis in Allende's Chile: New Perspectives (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1988).

[16] Helms. "President Nixon's Orders to Begin Covert Operations in Chile."

[17] "Cia Report on Chilean Department of Investigation Investigations into Foreign Intereference with Strikes," (Washington D.C.31/101972).
http://foia.state.gov/documents/Pcia2/000006f6.pdf

[18] US Senate. "Church Report." Washington D.C., 1975.
U.S. Department of State FOIA Electronic Reading Room %20the%20Allende%20Years,%201970-1973

[19] Kaufman, Crisis in Allende's Chile: New Perspectives. pp. 80-81

[20] "Cia Intelligence Bulletin: Truckers Strike," (Washington D.C.13/10/1972).
http://foia.state.gov/documents/Pcia2/00000744.pdf

[21] Sigmund. The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964 – 1976. pp. 140

[22] Kaufman. Crisis in Allende's Chile: New Perspectives. pp. 10

[23] Gustafson, Hostile Intent: U.S. Covert operation in Chile 1964 – 1974, pp. 153

[24] Lubana Z. Qureshi, Nixon, Kissinger and Allende: U.S. Involvement in the 1973 Coup in Chile (Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2010).

[25] Kaufman. Crisis in Allende's Chile: New Perspectives. pp. 119

[26] Nathaniel Davis, The Last Two Years of Salvador Allende (New York: Cornell University Press, 1985).. pp. 96).

[27] US Senate. "Church Report."
U.S. Department of State FOIA Electronic Reading Room %20the%20Allende%20Years,%201970-1973

[28] Karamessines, Thomas. "Operating Guidance Cable on Coup Plotting." Washington D.C., 16/10/1970.

[29] US Senate. "Church Report."

[30] "Transcript of Conversation between President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger," (Washington D.C.16/09/1973).
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB255/19730916KP5.pdf

[31] "Transcript of Conversation between Henry Kissinger and William Rogers."

[32] Sigmund. The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964 – 1976. pp. 261
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  1. Old Comment
    Gile na Gile's Avatar
    Nice work, Son of Cathal and well researched - I wasn't aware of the extent of economic sabotage that preceded the Pinochet coup.
    Posted July 10th, 2011 at 12:37 PM by Gile na Gile Gile na Gile is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Son of Cathal's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gile na Gile View Comment
    Nice work, Son of Cathal and well researched - I wasn't aware of the extent of economic sabotage that preceded the Pinochet coup.
    Thanks mate. This was actually a research essay I did for University. My tutor was similiarly surprised by the economic stranglehold the US put on the country
    Posted July 11th, 2011 at 12:03 AM by Son of Cathal Son of Cathal is offline
 

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