Arriving a year after the brutal coup against the elected socialist government, GRAHAM HOLTON experienced first hand the all-encompassing oppression of the military dictatorship as he travelled — until he too was arrested as a leftist
IT has been nearly 50 years since the infamous coup in Chile on September 11, 1973. The world became aware of the heinous birth of Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’etat when the international television networks showed the Chilean air force’s Harrier jets attacking the Palace de La Moneda, the seat of government.
Truckloads of soldiers across the country arrested thousands of people, who wound up in 13 concentration camps where many were tortured and killed. Some supporters of the Popular Unity (UP) government sought refuge in embassies. Others went into exile.
The life of president Salvador Allende, the world’s first democratically elected socialist president, ended that day. The Pinochet regime tore the fabric of Chilean society asunder, wrenching out the heart of the left. A sinister veil had fallen upon the country, like a plague of locusts devouring everything in its path.
US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean continued in a seamless transition from Trump to Biden, but the terrain over which it operated shifted left. The balance between the US drive to dominate its “backyard” and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, continued to tip portside in 2021 with major popular electoral victories in Chile, Honduras, and Peru. These follow the previous year’s reversal of the coup in Bolivia.
Central has been the struggle of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) countries – particularly Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua – against the asphyxiating US blockade and other regime-change measures. Presidential candidate Biden pledged to review Trump’s policy of US sanctions against a third of humanity. The presumptive intention of the review was to ameliorate the human suffering caused by these unilateral coercive measures, considered illegal under international law. Following the review, Biden has instead tightened the screws, more effectively weaponizing the COVID crisis.
We spoke to Bruno Sommer, founder of El Ciudadano, one of Chile’s leading progressive media outlets. We discussed what Chile and the world can expect from Gabriel Boric and the broad movement that delivered Sunday’s landslide electoral victory.
I imagine there is still a sense of elation on the streets of Chile now!
Of course, the victory of Boric and his Frente Amplio group is not only a victory for their sector, but for all the social movements that came out to back him. This election was unique, it had the highest rate of participation since the ‘return to democracy’. Boric is the youngest President in history, 35 years old, and received more votes than any other president since the return of democracy. His 55.9% of the vote was 12 points higher than Kast, which gives the program of transformation a better chance at governability. There’s a sense of deep joy among the left, and serious anger among the right. Kast came out to concede defeat, but his supporters are, as we say in here; ‘con un aji en el trasero’ (with a chili pepper up their behind), that is to say, they are furious. This presents a number of opportunities for the future of our country.
Editorial note: Orinoco Tribune does not publish articles that are over two weeks old, but sometimes we make exceptions. The following note was originally published almost three years ago; however, with the victory of Gabriel Boric in the Chilean presidential race on Sunday, we consider it important to take another look at it. In the midst of the joyous celebrations in Chile for Boric’s win against pinochetista Kast, and perhaps as a response of memory to some who are exaggerating too much about the president-elect to compare him with Salvador Allende, with Pablo Neruda or with other icons of the international left, a text by doctor Pablo Sepúlveda Allende, grandson of Chile’s former President Salvador Allende who was overthrown and assassinated in 1973, has been circulating on social media as well as on some online publications. Said text was an “open letter” in response to statements made by the Frente Amplio deputy—now president-elect—Gabriel Boric, who has repeatedly called on the Chilean left to “condemn the human rights situation” in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, all of them Latin American countries with socialist projects. It is worth rereading it, in order to have all the information at hand and not just those which are being amplified by the logical enthusiasm generated by Kast’s defeat.
Doctor Sepúlveda Allende’s open letter to Boric is translated and reproduced below:
Deputy, I dare to respond to you because I see the danger that it represents for important leaders like you, young referents of the “new left” that has emerged in the Frente Amplio, to make simplistic, absurd and misinformed comparisons on issues as delicate as that of human rights.
It is very biased and rude that you equate—without the slightest argument—the supposed “weakening of the basic democratic conditions in Venezuela,” the “permanent restriction of freedoms in Cuba” and “the repression of the Ortega government in Nicaragua” with the proven atrocities of the military dictatorship in Chile, the evident criminal interventionism of the United States around the world, and the State of Israel’s terrorism against the people of Palestine.
Latin America has become the epicenter of the greatest political struggles of the 21st century because it was the epicenter of neoliberalism in the world. It was the region with the most neoliberal and radical governments. Therefore, it became the region where the anti-neoliberal governments developed, thus becoming the fundamental scenario of the most important disputes in the world in the 21st century.
The first decade of the century in Latin America was marked by the emergence of anti-neoliberal governments, which implemented a set of measures that attacked the main factor affecting the continent: social inequalities. The second decade saw the resumption of the right-wing initiative, which re-established neoliberal governments in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador, either through coups d’état, as in Brazil and Bolivia, or through elections, as in Argentina and Ecuador.
Even at the end of that decade, in some of these countries -Argentina and Bolivia- anti-neoliberal governments were reestablished through democratic elections. Meanwhile, Mexico joined the group of anti-neoliberal governments and other countries such as Peru and Chile began to experience open political disputes.
In an open letter to Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, Marise Payne, a group of campaigners representing the Chilean exile community and victims of the Augusto Pinochet regime have condemned Australia’s role in Chile’s violent military coup, which overthrew democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.
Newly declassified files, released to Canberra academic and intelligence analyst Clinton Fernandes, detail how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) requested assistance from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) during the Allende administration in undermining the president’s authority and sabotaging Chile’s socialist project.
The political and human thought of Salvador Allende continues to be valid for the people of Latin America and the world, who struggle today for a more just and equitable society.
Salvador Allende is one of the most important and remembered personalities in the history of Chile. He was elected president of that country in 1970 to serve until 1976, but on September 11, 1973, Augusto Pinochet – in complicity with the United States – led a civilian-military coup against his government. That morning, President Allende died in the palace of La Moneda defending “the mandate of the people”, as he said in his last words.
Mikis Theodorakis, anticipating the end of his life, had contacted by telephone the Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, giving him the stigma of his last wishes.
“Now at the end of my life, at the time of reckoning, the details fade from my mind and remain the big picture. So I see that my most critical, strong and mature years were spent under the banner of the KKE. That is why I want to leave this world as a communist.”
The great composer and fighter of social justice, democracy and peace, Mikis Theodorakis, died yesterday, 2 September, at the age of 96. Read here the statement of the Communist Party of Greece.