US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, admitted Washington's participation in Chile coup of 1973
"It is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Powell said to an American student, who had asked about the role of Nixon's administration in the coup that toppled the democratic government of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. After his honest words, Powell quickly added that reforms instituted since then make it unlikely that the policies of that Cold War era will be repeated, but it was enough to provoke the reaction of his hard-wing officials.
In a highly unusual move, the State Department issued a statement that put distance between the department and its top official. The statement asserted that the U.S. government "did not instigate the coup that ended Allende's government in 1973". The problem is that there is a pending law suit against the US government and Powell's comment was not helpful.
During the brutal coup in which the Chilean military, with Augusto Pinochet at the head, seized power, at least 1,500 were killed and human rights organizations across the world claim for other 2,000 "disappearances" under Pinochet's regime. This would be a serious problem for the United States of America if that country becomes member of The Hague international tribunals.
In fact, despite US disclaims, there is enough evidence to point out US then-administration as part of the plot against the Chilean Socialist leader. According to unclassified documentation, President Richard Nixon and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were aware of the movements to oust Allende and had contacts, through their Ambassador in Santiago, with local plotters.
A recent investigation of Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at the US National Security Archive, proves that these documents describe how "angry Nixon demanded a coup, if necessary, to block the inauguration of Marxist Salvador Allende following his victory in the 1970 Chilean elections". Kornbluh also revealed that an early coup plan, known as "Track II", "continued through the assassination of pro-constitutional Chilean Gen. Rene Schneider, who was gunned down by military plotters on Oct. 22, 1970".
Kornbluh, also a student of Latin American issues, whose book, "The Pinochet File," will be released in September, disputed US official account. "The U.S. government carried out a clear effort to undermine and destabilize Allende's ability to govern, creating the climate necessary for a coup to take place," Kornbluh said.
Documents, show that the CIA kept on plotting against Allende's government all along his three years of mandate until got what Nixon had demanded at the beginning. Even when at the start of the Chilean tragedy almost three decades ago, the U.S. government wasn't even sure that Chile was important to American national interests, except for some multi-national corporations which had mining and other business interests, Nixon went ahead. He wanted to show the world how strong were the United States of America, no matter the cost the Chilean people had to pay.
Backing dictators in Latin America was a US pattern since the 1954 coup in Guatemala, but Chile inaugurated a new deadly combination: dictatorship plus neo-liberalism. Pinochet's ruling was a leading case for the policies implemented some years later by Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in USA; the same policies that led to poverty to millions across the world during the nineties.
Blames on Nixon administration involvement in the post-Sept. 11, 1973, period was reinforced last November when 11 residents of Chile filed a complaint against Kissinger and the U.S. government seeking damages for deaths and other rights abuses by the Pinochet government. This explains State Department's immediate reaction to Powell's words.
The Socialists are in power again in Chile. The current President, Ricardo Lagos, is the former Allende's Ambassador to Moscow and his administration made efforts to bring Pinochet to courts. However, the octogenarian Gen. is still free, as well as Kissinger. Both, the masterminds of Chile's September 11 tragedy can tell a story that still shames the world almost 30 years later.
Photo: Pinochet (center) and Kissinger (left), an historical picture.