Chile's 9/11: Remembering Pinochet's Rise to Power and End of Chile's Democracy
Sept. 11 of course marks the terrible anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City by al-Qaida. The attack resulted in 3,000 deaths and several wars. However, many in Latin America alive in 1973 will remember the date 9/11 for another reason.
Forty-two years ago in Chile, armed forces overthrew the sitting president Salvador Allende, which led to the immediate rise of the right wing dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Allende, a promoter of socialism, subsequently committed suicide under suspicious circumstances inside the presidential palace of La Moneda.
For 17 years, Pinochet lorded over Chile with authoritarian prowess.
It is generally believed the United States was pivotal to Pinochet’s power grab. Over the years, the CIA has acknowledged knowing of Pinochet’s plot, although they have denied any direct involvement.
Jack Devine, a CIA agent in Chile during the time of Pinochet’s coup, spoke to contributing editor of the Atlantic, Moisés Naím, about how the CIA supported Allende’s right wing opposition. Devine said that instructions to support Pinochet came from Nixon’s White House and that the policy was “not a CIA decision."
Leonardo Véliz, a former Chilean soccer player, recalled the day his country came under Pinochet’s power. “The coup was coming, we knew the coup was coming,” Véliz said, as reported in the Guardian, “And that morning everything changed.”
President Michelle Bachelet, a member of the Socialist Party, was one of the 27,000 people detained and tortured by the regime. More than 3,000 others were killed.
In a speech commemorating the overthrow of the Allende government, Bachelet held a ceremony at La Moneda palace on Friday to honor Allende and those who fought against the coup forces.
"It is hard to contain our emotions when recollecting the names of the 38 of our compatriots who died or were disappeared at the Palace of La Moneda," she told the crowd. "It is hard, but it is our duty to do so. Because, if we don't remember, there is no meaningful present or future with hope."
The ceremony brought members of Allende's family as well as other dignitaries and government officials together to remember the day in which "tore out Chile's soul."
Pinochet resigned from office in 1990, but still served as commander in chief of the Chilean army until March 10, 1998. That year, on a visit to London, he was placed under an international arrest warrant in connection with numerous human rights allegations. Released for health reasons, he returned to Chile in 2000. Placed under house arrest in 2004, Pinochet died two years later.
There were approximately 300 criminal charges against him in Chile at the time of his death.
Subscribe to Latin Post!
Sign up for our free newsletter for the Latest coverage!