Magazine article New African

A Chilean Example

Magazine article New African

A Chilean Example

Article excerpt

"Sign no new loans and make no more commitments. Retain Chile in Eximbank's Group D [worst risk] category, requiring all decisions to be made in Washington and raising fees on guarantees ... Examine each Chilean request to international financial institutions on its merits and in the context of the political situation at the time. [Do] not encourage private investment in Chile;" declassified CIA documents show Henry Kissinger and his staff ordering American officials to tighten the screw against Salvadore Allende's government in Chile. Zimbabwe now suspects that it is being subjected to the same treatment. Mabasa Sasa reports from Harare.


Chile has a very short future and after 4 November it will only have a past," wrote America's point man in the country, one Frei, according to declassified CIA documents now being studied in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. Another American intelligence officer based in Chile added: "There is a graveyard smell to Chile, the fumes of a democracy in decomposition. They stank in my nostrils in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and they are no less sickening here today."

With hindsight, it is safe to conclude that Salvador Allende's Chile did not have a prayer once America's arsenal of resources were deployed against the Latin American country. According to the declassified CIA documents, the wheels of the machine that was to depose and murder Allende were set in motion the day he rose to the helm of Chilean politics and it was only a matter of time for the inevitable to happen.

From day one, senior bureaucrats in Washington resolved that "Chile was on a dead end street" and the removal of Allende was the only way US interests in Latin America could be protected and promoted.

On 15 September 1970, the CIA was "directed to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende's assent to the Chilean presidency on 3 November. This effort was to be independent of concurrent endeavours being undertaken through, or with the knowledge" of the State Department, according to a report issued by the CIA's Chile Taskforce.

"Given the dismal prospects of a political formula being worked out to prevent Allende's designation as president by Congress," the report said, "[the] remaining alternatives centred around overcoming the apolitical, constitutional-oriented inertia of the Chilean military."

The minutes of a meeting of senior intelligence officers on 17 September 1970 read: "The director [of the CIA, Richard Helms] told the group that President [Richard] Nixon had decided that an Allende regime in Chile was not acceptable to the United States ... The president asked the Agency to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him. The president authorised US$10m for this purpose, if needed. Further, the Agency is to carry out this mission without coordination with the Departments of State and Defence."

As is now known, the attempt to stop Allende from rising to the presidency were ill-fated and the focus was now on ensuring his stay at the top would be as brief as possible.

A restricted handling document dated 16 November 1970 and authored by William V. Broe (CIA chief, Western Hemisphere Division) reads in part: "It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup ... We are to continue to generate maximum pressure toward this end utilising every appropriate resource. It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the [US government] and American hand (sic) be well hidden."

The document goes on to detail how the CIA advised renegade members of the military when the best time to stage the coup would be. However, in the early days, a military coup looked very unlikely and Washington knew this.


Among the factors working against a coup were the tradition of military respect for the constitution and General Schneider's (army commander in chief) publicly stated esteem for the constitution. …

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