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

  • ‘Make the Chilian economy scream’ is what Nixan said after the Chilean People casted their votes and rejected the US-backed candidates. When the Chilean Economy was in a recession but not yet ‘screaming’ enough to stop democracy, the US organized a coup d’etat and replaced the government, that was elected by the Chilean People, by a bunch of torturers and butchers that were more obedient to the American elite. I am curious to see if the usual apologists for US imperialism (Moses, Griffin etc.) are able to justify this foreign intervention which lead to thousands of people getting tortured and millions of people losing their right to vote.

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    • The difference between Castro apologists and Americans who support US democracy is that Americans are free to criticize our government when appropriate and support out policy when we believe our efforts are noble. With regards to Chile, American intervention was heavy-handed and absolutely lead to replacing one potential tyrant (Allende) with a worse one (Pinochet). That’s the beauty about American freedom. I am no less patriotic when I disagree with my government. No rum-soaked government thugs will surround my house screaming epithets and throwing paint and rocks simply because I choose to call my President an arse if I think the label is deserved. Our form of democracy is not dependent on absolutism. Majority rule by definition means there will be a minority who dissent. Reread this last sentence over and over again until it sinks in that the difference between Washington and Havana is that we can openly and actively disagree with our government, including what we did in Chile and yet remain in good standing with all of rights intact.

      Reply
      • What’s the start year for this freedom Moses ? I’m curious. I’m guessing that it is sometime after McCarthyism, COINTELPRO, and the PATRIOTACT. Are you saying that the actos de repudio are still going on in Cuba ?

        Reply
        • Despite the real and imagined intrusions on the personal freedoms of Americans due to the increased technological reach of ‘Big Brother’, the US is a paradise of freedoms in comparison to what Cubans are dealing with on a daily basis. Yes, acts of repudiation continue in Cuba to this day. Castros thugs still kick in doors in the middle of the night and threaten women and children with violence. The Castros are in many ways worse today than they were under the worse days when they nursed at the Soviet teat.

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      • I dont know why you highlight differences between Cuba and the US. If you value freedom of speech, why do you vote for a party that has installed dictators in a dozen of countries and killed millions people around the world?

        In case of Chile, the Democratic Party never renounced the US intervention, let alone paying reparations to Chile and let the imperialists politicians stand trial for their aggression against the Chilean people.

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        • I wholeheartedly believe comparisons between the US and Cuba are of little relevance to any discussion of the problems facing Cuba. However, in my earlier comment, I was responding to the question Dan posed regarding McCarthyism, COINTELPRO and the Patriot Act. I am a card-carrying registered Democrat and I can say with full confidence that the Democratic Party has never “installed” any dictators and certainly not killed anyone. Political parties in the US, unlike the Communist Party in Cuba (could not resist that comparison) do not run the CIA nor do they send political operatives abroad to destabilize foreign governments. If you have proof to the contrary you should do something about it. Otherwise, don’t just parrot that silly conspiracy crap.

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          • Indonesia 65, Carter Providing arms and diplomatic support for the genocide in East Timor in the 70s, Iran 53, Brazil 64 to list a few examples. You talk a lot freedom but when it comes to these events your chauvinism will probably be stronger than your respect for human rights.

          • If your gripe is that the US has inserted itself in the internal politics of other countries, then you must be equally perturbed with Cuba, most of Europe, China and too many more to list. The fact that we were better at it than others is an entirely different issue. Are you bothered by the heavy Cuban hand directed the internal politics in Venezuela? Or is you dislike of the US really the issue here? Either way, there are no innocents here.

          • As usual you declare critics of US atrocities to be anti-American. Generally I like American people and I would love to visit the US someday. I also appreciate the fact that most US citizens are well protected against political oppression, something you seem to agree upon since you find it necessary to highlight it in every HT topic.

            I am not equally bothered by Cuban influence in other countries because the threat that they pose is child’s play compared to US aggression. Fortunately, there are Americans who exercise their political rights and prevent foreign policy from being old school imperialism. If you appreciate the rights that have been won in your country you should not follow a political party that has made many people around the world subjects of dictatorships of one kind or another. I think you should support political movements which defend independence and democracy.

            The way you stick to the party line reminds me of watching Randy Alfonso in Mesa Redonda.

          • Hahaha! Did you proofread what you wrote? You say, “I am not equally bothered by Cuban influence in other countries because the threat that they pose is child’s play compared to US aggression.” In other words, because Cuba sucks at intervening in the politics of other countries, you’re okay with it. Really? I think I should support political movements of MY choosing. As you should support those of your choosing. That’s what you guys don’t understand about Americans. We don’t try to change what you believe, we just try to force OUR choice down your throat. The most insulting thing ever said about me here at HT is to compare me to that bootlicking, butt-kissing crater face Randy Alonso. Ouch!!

    • I am not an apologist for US imperialism. I am a strong supporter of democracy and freedom for all people. I am also a strong supporter of historical facts, and your comment is in error in a couple of places.

      The US did not organize the coup. Pinochet organized and led the coup. The US was supportive, of course. But the Chilean army was aware for the growing threat to Chile from Allende and his Soviet advisors and they were prepared to do something about it. While it is perfectly true the US interfered with Chilean political events, it is also true that the USSR has also interfered. The Chilean people were caught between the two superpowers in yet another front of the Cold War.

      You mentioned thousand of people getting tortured, and millions losing their voting rights. We should add, thousands being executed by the military, too as those tragic and criminal events occurred in Chile under Pinochet, just as they had occurred in Cuba during Fidel Castro’s revolution. The difference being far more people were executed by Fidel’s firing squads than by Pinochet’s.

      Eventually, the people of Chile were able to rise up and rid themselves of the dictatorship. Today, Chile is a free & prosperous democracy. The people of Cuba remain saddled with the same dictatorship which swindled them of their freedom and democracy 55 years ago and still mired in Stalinist socialist stagnation.

      Reply
      • It does not make much sense to me to start talking about Cuba and Fidel Castro. I suppose you would argue that US involvement in was intended to counter Soviet/Cuban involvement. Just like in many other Latin American countries there was some Soviet influence in during the second half of the 20th century. But It were the actions of the US government that lead to Chileans losing their right to vote. Just like Cubans lost the right to vote in 1952.

        The US government showed their contempt for democracy and independence long before the Russians came along and did not stop with the fall of the Soviet Empire. From John Quincy Adams’ famous statement about the Cuban apple to the 2002 failed Coup attempt in Venezuela. In the past 50 years out of 33 Latin American countries only Costa Rica escaped the horrors of US backed dictators.

        I doubt if you really support democracy and freedom for all people.

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        • I mentioned Cuba because Cuba was involved in supporting the Allende government in Chile. Cuban diplomats were smuggling large quantities of machine guns, ammunition and grenades into Chile for us by Allende’s supporters. I am no fan of Pinochet, but there can be no doubt that if Allende had stayed in power, Chile would not be a democracy today. It would be a Marxist dictatorship like Cuba.

          Yes, in fact I do support democracy and freedom for all nations. That includes those nations who have suffered under US backed dictatorships as well as those suffering under Marxist dictatorships. Unlike the Castro apologists, I do not close my eyes to the horrors of dictatorships of the Left.

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        • Hij, it makes sense to talk about Cuba and Fidel Castro because we are writing in the Havana Times. I realise that socialists will argue that Cubans have a vote – but they have no choice. In reality Cubans lost the right to vote AS THEY CHOOSE fifty five long years ago. As Fidel Castro Ruz said in 1959:
          Revolution first, elections later.
          The world knows that later never arrived.
          Dictatorship is evil! It is evil whether practised by Pinochet or a Castro.

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      • Your are right Mr. Griffin, the US did not organize the coup, CIA did. As they did in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Argentina, Egypt, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Columbia, Cuba (Bay of pigs) and currently in Syria, Ukraine…

        The list keep going longer and longer…

        In 1999, Pinochet went to United Kingdom for medical treatment and was detained by British Government, due to their obligation as member of European Union and allegation against Pinochet on crime against humanity. This thing going on and on for a whole year, till was released after the Queen “pardon” him, which was shortly after the Queen visited by former US President George H Bush, who was and head of CIA for 10 years in the 80’s…

        Indeed, that has nothing to do with the US government!

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        • Remember the first invasion of Afghanistan was by the USSR – so that must have been a plot by Colonel Putin’s KGB. Vietnam along with the Phillipines is currently trying to prevent the aggressive endeavors of China to claim the territorial waters of those countries in the South China Sea – the Bully Boy syndrome so typical of socialism. Argentina invaded the sovereign territory of another nation and deservedly got beaten. It is the socialist regime initiated by Chavez and now led by Maduro that has developed in Venezuela the second highest inflation rate in the world. Columbia has had to fight the Marxist FARC terrorist organization which compelled children into being child soldiers – a war crime. You obviously consider that ISL in Syria should be allowed to form a Caliphate and admire Vladamir Putin for annexing Crimea and invading Eastern Ukraine counter to International law -that obviously is the KGB.
          The list gets longer and longer.
          The difference between you and I is that I believe in democracy, the freedom of the individual, the right to openly express opinion, free media and all human rights. You support communism, dictatorship and control of the people by the State. as inthe USSR,China and Cuba. Why cannot Hong Kong select its own candidates for Governor? What do you favour?

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          • Invasions of Afghanistan go back a very long time:

            Persians: 6th century BC
            Sassanid Persians: 3rd century BC
            Alexander the Great in 330 BC
            Ummayad Arab Conquest: 7th Century
            Mongol invasion: 1219—1221
            Timur: 1383 to 1385
            Mughal Empire by Babur in 1526
            Britain: First Anglo-Afghan War of 1838–1842
            Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878–1880

            It must come as a huge surprise to our historically ignorant Marxist friends to learn that the US is not the greatest imperialist power in all of history. Not even of the 20th century.

          • “Why cannot Hong Kong select its own candidates for Governor?”

            For someone who grown up as Hong Kong’s neighbor of Hong Kong, let me correct you buy saying these is not Governor in Hong Kong any more. Maybe it is due to the fact that no Governor of Hong Kong were democratically elected ever! They were all pointed by the Queen. Indeed, where was the democracy when you need them?

        • Are you seriously saying the CIA organized a coup in Ukraine? You may not have noticed, but those are Russian tanks and Russian Spetsnaz soldiers who have invaded Ukraine and annexed territory.

          There are now thousands of Cuban Black Wasp troops in Venezuela helping their puppet Nicolas Maduro crush the Venezuelan people’s protests against his growing Marxist dictatorship.

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        • Mr. Zhao, you are what is described in Scotland as “a blether”. To suggest that the USA is responsible for the seizure of the Crimea by Putin;s Russia and the subsequent invasion by Russian troops “on leave” from the Russian Army is so ridiculous that it makes my dog laugh.
          The Asad family regime in Syria,like the Kim family regime in North Korea and the Castro family regime in Cuba, maintained over three generations a policy of socialist repression. Eventually, the people rose up against the dictatorship and the ensuing mess is the consequence.
          Your final sentence is correct!
          “Indeed that has nothiong to do with the US government

          Reply
          • Mr. MacDuff, these are plenty of evidence to suggest CIA is behind whole thing. Remember how the whole thing started? A democratically elected president to driven out of office by force! Remember that part?

            Calling name does not help your case at all Mr. MacDuff and for which reason I will, from now on, ignore your opinion

            Good day Mr. MacDuff!

    • 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.

      Reply
  • Thanks for this personal account.
    For an overview, you may
    be interested in my video, PHIL WHEATON ON CHILE —

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRZiA1ktQCQ

    Phil Wheaton discusses the political and
    economic history of Chile, focusing on the 1973 US-supported military coup
    which toppled the government of socialist Pres. Salvador Allende.

    Joe Mulligan
    Nicaragua

    Reply
  • Very interesting reminiscience, Elio.
    And you have partially answered my question on one of your previous articles, about whether you had ever been in another country other than Cuba.
    Surely, no one with any real knoweldge of history, can dispute the disgraceful sordid record of 20th century US foreign policy throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and South America. But all that doesn’t make the Cuban version of “socialism” either a successful or viable alternative to a true non-imperialistic modern democracy (which, I might add, the US is not, despite all the flag-waving noise to the contrary). And there are indeed such non-imperialistic modern democracies in the world.

    Reply
    • “Surely, no one with any real knoweldge of history, can dispute the disgraceful sordid record of 20th century US foreign policy throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and South America” C.f. Moses, supra.

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      • Read my comment Dan. Why must life be so black and white for you Castro bootlickers? I can vigorously disagree with my government on a variety of issues and still remain no less a patriot. If a Cuban disagrees with the Castros, it is practically “off with their head”. That is the difference.

        Reply
        • Wow. Moses, are you really that disingenious ? How many rendiciones de cuenta you been to ?

          Reply
  • There is a factual error in Elios’ piece. He wrote:

    “Allende had been elected by the people and enjoyed the support of the majority of the population.”

    In fact, Allende obtained a narrow plurality of 36.2 percent to 34.9 percent over Jorge Alessandri, a former president, with 27.8 percent going to a third candidate, Radomiro Tomic, of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). According to the Chilean Constitution of the time, if no presidential candidate obtained a majority of the popular vote, Congress would choose one of the two candidates with the highest number of votes as the winner. Tradition was for Congress to vote for the candidate with the highest popular vote, regardless of margin. Congress chose Allende on October 24th, 1970.

    Therefore, Allende was not elected by a majority, but by a plurality. His election was constitutional.

    The interference by the US in Chilean politics of this era is well known, although somewhat overstated. The CIA did not direct the coup against Allende, but they were certainly in favour of it.

    Less well known was the involvement of the USSR and the KGB in Chilean politics.

    “Material based on reports from the Mitrokhin Archive, the KGB said of Allende that “he was made to understand the necessity of reorganising Chile’s army and intelligence services, and of setting up a relationship between Chile’s and the USSR’s intelligence services”. It is also claimed that Allende was given $30,000 “in order to solidify the trusted relations” with him.[69] According to Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB major and senior archivist in the KGB intelligence central KGB office in the Yasenevo area of Moscow, Allende made a personal request for Soviet money through his personal contact, KGB officer Svyatoslav Kuznetsov (codenamed LEONID), who urgently came to Chile from Mexico City to help Allende.[70] The original allocation of money for these elections through the KGB was $400,000, a personal subsidy of $50,000 was sent directly to Allende, with an additional $100,000 funneled through funds provided to the Chilean Communist Party.[70]

    Historian Christopher Andrew has argued that help from the KGB was a decisive factor, because Allende won by a narrow margin of 39,000 votes of a total of the 3 million cast. After the elections, the KGB director Yuri Andropov obtained permission for additional money and other resources from the Central Committee of the CPSU to ensure an Allende victory in Congress. In his request on 24 October, he stated that the KGB “will carry out measures designed to promote the consolidation of Allende’s victory and his election to the post of President of the country”. In his KGB file, Allende was reported to have “stated his willingness to co-operate on a confidential basis and provide any necessary assistance, since he considered himself a friend of the Soviet Union”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende#Soviet_involvement

    Cuba’s involvement in Chile was perhaps even more crude:

    The Cuban packages (1972) was a Chilean smuggling scandal, involving President Salvador Allende, his Minister of the Interior, Hernán del Canto and the Director of the Civil Police Eduardo Paredes. It was cited by the authors of the Chamber of Deputies’ Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy as one of the instances of government officials’ illegality.

    The packages turned out to have contained automatic weapons, grenades and ammunition destined to form a small “revolutionary” army in Chile. These specific packages were just the tip of the iceberg of a constant smuggling of weapons from Cuba that were delivered regularly twice a week via Cubana de Aviación, hidden inside the diplomatic pouches.[3][4][5]

    Later it was found that the packages contained heavy Cuban weaponry for Allende’s militant supporters. At least 3000-4000 ak-47s were delivered this way.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_packages

    Reply
  • To revert to discussion about Cuba, I noted with a marked degree of amusement the description by Elio Delgado Legon of Cuba:
    “a country that is an example of dignity and revolutionary firmness.”
    My dictionary describes dignity as follows:
    “the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect”
    Certainly Senor Delgado Legon worships a the shrine of dictatorship, which he so glibly describes as “revolutionary firmness”. Why else would he ever have been a professor of journalism at the University of Havana where his students could eagerly look forward to working for the State TV, the State radio, Granma or Juventad, no alternative being permitted due to revolutionary firmness. How does he expect free peoples to respect or honour a regime which slaughtered fellow Cubans without trial?
    I detest ALL dictators whether in Chile, China, North Korea or Cuba.

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  • Today Chilean economy is the strongest in Latin America,
    under a communist regime this certainly wouldn’t’ be the case. Today there is
    democracy in Chile, people express their ideas freely. Workers, employers and
    students enjoy the freedom to fight for their convictions. The government and
    people of Chile don’t feel and are not a Neo-colony of the USA and they manage
    their foreign policy independently, without being a satellite of the USA. They
    have overcome a sad and difficult time in their history and are now moving
    forward.

    Today Cuba is in the past and ruled by the same family, old communists
    who have denied its people the right to move on. The dictators in Chile gave
    way to young generations, the dictators in Cuba haven’t. Many people were killed
    in Chile by the dictator 2000-3000, about the same amount that were shot
    in Cuba by the communists.

    The right of many people were ignored in Chile, the right of many people were ignored in Cuba, many gays and people with “ideological
    problems” were by force sent to labour camps, a country which held the
    record of having the longest time in jail political prisoners. No one can express their sympathy for the many cubans whose right were violated, chileans can.

    There were many Cubans in Chile in those days; some of them had a harder time.

    Reply
    • It is informative to make the comparisons you mention. However, the data is not complete. The Pinochet dictatorship was guilty of executing some 2000 to 3000 people, out of a population of almost 10 million Chileans.

      The number of people executed by Castro’s dictatorship is widely disputed. The figures cited range from 4074 (Armando Lago, 2006) to 17,000 (Black Book of Communism. p. 664). This was from a population of about 6 million at the time of the Revolution.

      A similar disparity exists in the number of people driven into exile by the dictatorships. Some 200,000 Chileans fled Pinochet, while almost 2 million Cubans have gone into exile since Castro seized power.

      This is not to make excuses for Pinochet, but the comparison points out the fact that the Castros have done much greater harm to Cuba, and for a much longer time, that Pinochet did to Chile.

      Reply
  • The difference between criminal dictatorships like Pinochet’s and Castro’s is that the first after bringing the country’s economy near the first world made a referendum and asked the people if they wanted to have democracy and left the power to obey the people’s will……….. Castro after 55 years destroying the country and bringing the economy down among the poorest economies in the world still want to stay in power killing and repressing.

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  • It is always amusing to read an “open minded” piece on Chile’s 911.
    Frankly, you give the Americans too much credit for the coup. $1 million dollars in propaganda didn’t make the inflation got up 600% + $1 million dollar didn’t force people to stay in line to get a piece of bone while party comrades ate meat. $1 million dollars didn’t make people go hungry. Free milk didn’t fill children’s stomachs in pain of hunger. People lost their jobs so that party comrades that said they could count to 10 could manage factories, businesses and mines.
    Chile killed Chile. The “financial” reforms killed Chile. The socialist dream was slaughtered by its own because it simply killed freedom and the economy. It just does not work. Face the facts. China is rich and prosperous because it is embracing yes – Capitalism.
    The single only good thing that Allende did was to nationalise the copper mines. Thanks to that Chile is one of the largest copper exporters.
    Other than that, Mr Delgado Legon described Cuba perfectly when describing Pinochet’s Chile. The land where nobody is free. Where dignity does not exist. Where your neighbour is your executioner. Pinochet’s fascist regime is a mirror to Castro’s Cuba. They are part of the same family. The pest of this earth.
    When will Latin America finally move to this century and become modern?
    A good advice for Mr Delgado. Do your homework next time.

    Reply

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