Chile is a very particular place. As I already wrote before, it is a continental island. Geographic isolation, as it always does, has led to the development of various idiosyncratic features, absent in other places. One of them is the history of Chile, which is quite unique, and most importantly very alive, in the sense that the battle of historic antagonists rages on in the political arena to this very day. In this sense the history and politics of Chile is radically different from say that of Argentina, where there is no such burning polarisation.
In 1970 Chile became the first country on Earth where a socialist leader won democratic elections and subsequently assumed power. Dr Salvador Allende only won 34% of the vote, but due to Chilean tradition of the time the winner of the first and only tour of the election was anointed automatically by the parliament. In the context of the Cold War Allende becoming the president of Chile was an insufferable blow to the American interests, as Latin America was seen the immediate sphere of influence for the United States, with the painful exception of Cuba of course. Therefore from the moment of the election the Americans started looking for ways to displace Allende. In 1970 CIA was actively developed a plan of an immediate military coup, which however failed. For the following three years Allende systematically kept nationalising major companies, mostly owned by the Americans. The Americans on the other hand did everything to deteriorate the economic situation in Chile, including an economic blockade. By 1973 the economy was in tatters, fuel, bread and milk were in deficit. Population was unhappy and blamed Allende’s government.
Finally on 11 September 1973 an event took place that would shape the Chilean history forever. In Chile this date is repeated over and over, it is repeated on street signs and museums have whole rooms devoted to it. On that faithful day the four military commanders organised a military coup. Armed forces surrounded La Moneda, the presidential palace, and at a certain point the bombarding of the palace started from air and from tanks and snipers. President Allende asked all the personnel to leave, and surrounded by his closest comrades who chose to remain he gave his famous final speech on the radio. Right before the soldiers entered the palace he (probably) shot himself from a rifle. The putsch was headed by General Augusto Pinochet.
(The restored) La Moneda palace. The buildings around it however bear the traces of bullets to this day.
Continue reading Chilean politics