On the morning of September 11, 1973, the CIA informed the then US president, Richard Nixon, of the Chilean Army’s plan to “trigger military action against the Allende Government” imminently.
At noon, armored cars, planes and helicopters unloaded their bombs and projectiles against the Chilean presidential palace, in the center of Santiago. At 6:30 p.m., President Allende was dead. The military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet had begun.
50 years have passed since the violent coup d’état in Chile. Democracy returned to the country after 16 years of courageous resistance and the resounding “No” with which the people rejected the military regime in the national plebiscite of 1988. Pinochet died at the age of 91 of a heart attack in 2006 and a new generation of leaders has come to power with the mission of guaranteeing the right of Chileans to health, housing and a habitable planet.
But in Chile the wounds of the coup remain open. There are still families searching for their loved ones disappeared by the Pinochet dictatorship. The crimes perpetrated by the dictator’s secret police continue to be tried in the courts and the national Congress continues to pressure for the documents that detail the US intervention “in the sovereignty of Chile before, during and after the 1973 coup to cease to be confidential.” “.
The US Government has just made public two White House documents related to the coup d’état in Chile. Dated September 8 and 11, 1973, the documents confirm Washington’s prior knowledge of and support for the conspiracy to overthrow Allende, the democratically elected president. But they are only part of the documents that Chileans demand in their search for justice and truth.
Documents that had been previously published show Nixon’s enthusiasm for the possibility of a coup as a formula to protect the interests of American businesses and crush his rivals in the Cold War. “Yeah [hay] some way to unseat A[llende]”Better to do it,” Nixon said, according to the CIA director’s notes included in documents obtained by the National Security Archive. “A full-time job – the best men we have,” he said.
Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Advisor, who some still consider a wise advisor, was equally committed to the idea of overthrowing Chile’s elected government. “We will not let Chile go down the drain,” he assured.
But not enough is still known about the role that the United States played in coordinating the international campaign to overthrow Allende or in the serious human rights violations committed by Pinochet’s coup government. The secrecy surrounding US policies in Chile fits a general pattern for the entire region.
In August we joined a delegation from the US Congress visiting Chile, Brazil and Colombia to meet with representatives of the governments and parliaments of those countries and members of the social organizations that have led their respective democratic transformations.
In all three countries they told us about the legacy of US intervention, from the covert actions in support of the military coup in Brazil (1964) to the weapons that were exported to Colombia to fuel paramilitary violence. But they also told us about the interest of the three Latin American countries in leaving behind that dark chapter of history to forge new alliances around issues such as climate, workers’ rights, and corporate taxation.
During our trip with the Congressional delegation, we repeatedly heard our interlocutors in Latin America talk about another important anniversary: the 200 years of the Monroe Doctrine. It was in 1823 when President James Monroe declared US dominance over the Western Hemisphere.
To maintain its dominant position, Washington has supported and carried out dozens of assassinations, blockades, invasions and coups d’état in the many decades since. Although then-Secretary of State John Kerry said in 2013 that “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over,” U.S. policymakers continue to get angry when Latin American nations sign alliances with “external” powers like China.
We have no need to continue down this interventionist path. In the US Congress the number of progressive representatives is a record and interest in making a bold change to our foreign policy is growing. As Senator Bernie Sanders said, referring to the delegation that traveled to Latin America, we are facing an opportunity to “present a new face to the (southern) hemisphere, based on commitment to the good of people and the planet.”
Hemispheric cooperation is not an abstract theory of high diplomacy. As environmental degradation accelerates, our partnerships in Latin America are critical to protecting a planet that remains habitable with a thriving Amazon rainforest. Now that capital freely crosses borders, workers’ rights can only be guaranteed with a coordinated economic policy that confronts the transnational oligarchy.
But the only way the US will be able to achieve this level of cooperation will be from a foundation of trust. And that trust can only be earned by being transparent about the measures and policies that Washington adopted in the past and that continue to torment our neighboring countries.
Removing the confidential category of all these documents will not only serve to strengthen our alliances abroad. Bringing to light the crimes, permitted by the confrontational climate of the Cold War, will also serve to strengthen our democracy in the United States and pave the way to turn the page on the Monroe Doctrine once and for all.
Translation of Francisco de Zárate