9/11: Remembering Chile’s Fascist Coup

Elio Delgado Legón

HAVANA TIMES — September 11th is a calamitous date that holds different meanings for different people (in dependence of their experiences). In the United States, it is a day of mourning for thousands of families who lost a relative in the terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers, whose planning still raises questions and doubts.

For me, September 11th is a date that brings back many memories, for I was in Santiago de Chile 41 years ago, when the fascist coup against Salvador Allende’s constitutional government took place. Allende had been elected by the people and enjoyed the support of the majority of the population.

I had arrived in the Chilean capital on the 1st of June to take a year-long course on communications theory, as part of a convention between Santiago de Chile’s State University and its counterpart in Havana, where I was a professor of journalism.

I’d begun to sense the tense atmosphere in the country and the media campaign against Allende’s government (and Cuba) from the moment I arrived. There isn’t a single fascist and counterrevolutionary movement in Latin America that does not lash out against Cuba, a country that is an example of dignity and revolutionary firmness.

I had been in Santiago de Chile only a few days when the first coup attempt – which was thwarted by forces loyal to Allende’s government – took place. The fascist military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet, however, continued to conspire to carry out the coup later on, with the unwavering support of the right-wing, fascist press.

They murdered General Carlos Prats (who was loyal to President Allende) on August 23, 1983 and the army began a campaign to recover all weapons in the hands of the population.

There are many details I won’t be able to include, for they would make this post unnecessarily long (and are also widely known).

I awoke on September 11th to hear the news that a coup d’etat was underway and that military planes were bombing the La Moneda presidential headquarters where President Allende was located.

I immediately called the Cuban embassy and they told me to head for Cuba’s diplomatic headquarters, which was some 11 blocks from where I was staying. When I arrived at the embassy, I noticed that the surrounding areas were being seized by the military. They took the home across the embassy and a three-story school to one side. The military had also taken the embassy’s water tanks. In short, the embassy had been completely surrounded.

At noon, the military officers behind us fired several shots at the diplomatic headquarters. Luckily, no one was wounded. As of that moment, we began to organize a defense strategy, in case we were attacked. A colleague and I were assigned to a booth next to the main entrance.

At night, we received the news of Allende’s death. The embassy then received a phone call from the army, which requested that ambassador Mario Garcia Inchaustegui and Allende’s son-in-law come out of the embassy to meet with an officer at the main entrance and arrange for the transportation of the president’s body.

The ambassador did as instructed, but, when he opened the door, he was fired upon. Miraculously, he was only wounded in the arm. Every position immediately opened fire on the embassy. The attack lasted around 15 minutes.

The ambassador then phoned the Swedish ambassador, senior member of the diplomatic corps and he, several other ambassadors and a high-ranking military officer headed to the Cuban embassy to arrange for all Cuban diplomatic personnel in Santiago de Chile to leave the country.

At midnight on the 12th, we left on buses escorted by the military. They took us to the airport, where an Aeroflot plane that had been grounded the day of the coup was waiting for us. Following arrangements made by the Cuban government, Moscow had authorized the plane to take us to Havana. That is how my communications theory course ended.

33 thoughts on “9/11: Remembering Chile’s Fascist Coup

  • May 17, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    To say that the US government or the CIA or Kissinger & Nixon – with no Marines, drones nor “Shock and Awe ” operations to get the job done like in current times – replaced “our government”, implies that we were a stupid people living in a nation of about 9,000,000 – 10,000,000 retards incapable of generating our own social and historical movements and momentums.
    A government elected with a little more than a third of valid votes, cast on a Three Men race, to boot.
    I lived through that. I took active part in armed street strifes that got carried out on a daily basis by Allende supporters and the oposition. By the time of the Coup, the few industrial and private services Companies who did business in an historically centralised economy (comunications, foreign exchange, public transportation, energy, were state-run monopolies) , they had all been requisitioned by Allende’s cronies (nationalised said the government). Using a 1933 extraordinary emerngency powers decree that most – but not all – had forgotten about. Shortly before the Coup I heard Allende on the state-run radio network, announcing that the country had a flour supply only for the next three days. In fact all agricultural and industrial production had come to a total stop because workers were busy debating La Revoución , setting up “resistance comittees” and calling for an end to “bourgois democracy”, meaning by that a political system made of free and frequent elections, check and balances, separation of powers.
    In fact Chile was terribly close to Civil War.
    All these things taken into consideration, to this day I fail to see how or when was it necessary for the US/CIA to stage coup.

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