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.