U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
Turns out U.S. intervention began as
early as 1958, when the leftist physician Salvador Allende first came close to being
elected Chile’s president. Can’t have that. So up to 100 CIA and State Department
operatives were dedicated to an ongoing operation, "creating propaganda and
organizational mechanisms capable of influencing key sectors of the population."
Pretty soon, the CIA began to bankroll El
Mercurio, Santiago’s leading rightist newspaper. Dozens of CIA radio messages linking
Allende to everything from Stalin to the kidnapping of children were produced and
broadcast daily. The CIA even stage-managed and underwrote expenses for Allende’s
political opposition in the 1964 election–as historian William Blum notes, at a greater
cost per voter than LBJ and Goldwater campaigns spent here in the U.S.
How come? Was Salvador Allende some evil
pro-Soviet nutball, hell-bent on giving the Russkies a beachhead in the West?
Hardly. The CIA knew perfectly well that
their propaganda about the pressing need to "save" Chile from Soviet influence
was a lie. To quote from their own classified report, prepared within days of Allende’s
eventual election: "The U.S. has no vital national interests within Chile… The
world military balance of power would not be significantly altered by an Allende
Fact is, the CIA knew damn well the
Soviets didn’t actually like Allende all that much, fearing another confrontation with the
U.S. like the one in Cuba. Allende wasn’t even supported by many Marxists in his own
country, who considered him too conservative.
So why the ruckus? Go ahead and try to
find the evil in what the guy was doing: Chile’s new Popular Unity government began trying
to deliver food, health care, and education to the poor. Allende, a medical doctor, also
initiated a program to give free milk to poor children. In one of the most inequitable
societies on the planet, the new president dared to advocate income redistribution to the
poor, expanded trade with the Soviet Bloc, and, most worrisome, nationalization of Chile’s
enormously powerful mining corporations.
Aha. Wall Street was about to lose a few
bucks. There you go.
Never mind that he was freely elected,
followed the Chilean constitution, and had the support of the Chilean people. Never mind
that in spite of the CIA’s best propaganda efforts, the popularity of Allende and his
programs continued to increase. Never mind that the CIA’s own analysis eventually showed
no national secuity reason to proceed.
So the U.S. began an economic
destabilization program designed to, in the words of CIA director Richard Helms,
"make the economy scream"–a particularly brutal and pointless strategy, given
that widespread poverty was precisely the major reason Allende was elected.
In addition, the option of a coup
including the murder of Allende was also discussed in the Nixon White House as early as
1970, the year of Allende’s first election. In preparation, the CIA assembled arrest lists
of potential dissidents, lists of which stuff the new regime would need to seize
immediately in order to consolidate power, and other contingency plans.
While aid and trade with the civilian
sectors of the economy were largely curtailed, U.S. arms and advisors continued to flow to
the Chilean military, eventually making it the strongest sector of society, although the
army’s respect for law and the nation’s integrity–what the CIA termed an
"apolitical, constitutional-oriented inertia"–would have to be overcome. The
CIA even began slipping anti-personnel and assassination weapons to more fanatical
The game was on.
In 1973, shortly after Allende’s
re-election–gaining eight percent more of the public’s support than he had in 1970–the
Chilean army marched. As the U.S. Navy and Air Force monitored the action from just over
the border, the country was essentially closed off–much like Panama after the U.S.
invasion–and thousands of potential opponents of the new regime were rounded up and
At least 3,000 people died or
"disappeared" in roundups of political opponents. Tortured and discarded, their
bodies were reportedly hidden in pits of lye, buried in mass graves, or even dropped into
the ocean with their bellies slit open so they wouldn’t float and would never be found.
Tens of thousands more were imprisoned,
the constitution was abandoned and eventually re-written to permanently enshrine the
Generals’ power, and the Chilean people learned quickly that Pinochet’s secret police, the
DINA, was the law of the land.
Opposition wasn’t even allowed outside
the country’s borders. Coordinating with the intellignce agencies of other South American
dictatorships in "Operation Condor," the DINA contrived to eliminate even
opponents living in exile throughout the continent. In 1976, the DINA even staged the
carbombing assassination of dissident leader Orlando Letelier right on Embassy Row in
Bottom line, here’s what this horrifying
price managed to buy from Augusto Pinochet and his regime:
In Chile today, after 17 years of grim
dictatorship and 8 years of a government in which the killers and torturers retain
respect, power, and immunity, many Chileans are fully aware of the sham democracy they
live under. In some precincts, as many as 20 percent of election ballots are turned in
defaced in protest.
Twenty-five years after the coup, after a
quarter-century of economic policies to benefit First World investors, Chile now has the
seventh-most unequal distribution of income on earth, tied with Kenya and Zimbabwe.
One-fourth of Chile lives in absolute
poverty and a third of the nation earns less than $30 a week. Education, health care, and
other social institutions the citizens of most developed nations take for granted are
privatized, and so are about as available to the tin shanty poor as a Fabergé egg.
This is the country the Clinton
administration wants to include in NAFTA. Not that you’re gonna read the whole story in
corporate media outlets that have rarely criticized the ongoing U.S. policies that helped
create the situation. Some even question whether Pinochet belongs under arrest.
Believe it or not, the Washington
Post’s editorial admitted that Pinochet overthrew a democratic government and killed
thousands, but then actually added that "he also saw to the rescue of his
Excuse me? Rescue from what?
Bob Harris is a political humorist who
has spoken at over 275 colleges nationwide.