Pinochet's Enablers in US, Brazil

Published on
by
The Miami Herald

Pinochet's Enablers in US, Brazil

by
Heraldo Muñoz

The news media has reported that in 1971 the Nixon administration discussed with Brazilian military ruler, General Emilio Garrastazu Médici, a cooperative effort to overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile.

The secret talks made public this week reveal another dark side of the Nixon-Kissinger contribution to the bloody overthrow of the Allende government on Sept. 11, 1973, and to the emergence of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

Some indications were known regarding the Brazilian connection in the Chilean coup d'etat even before this recent public disclosure.

The Chilean navy coup plotters had maintained secret contacts with the Brazilian military and had even gauged the Brazilian reaction to a possible coup against Allende, which the Brazilians supported, as told by former Chilean navy officer Roberto Kelly in his memoirs.

Copying '64 Brazilian coup

Brazilian businessmen from Sao Paulo gave money to right-wing paramilitary groups like Patria y Libertad, while Brazilian ambassador to Santiago, Antonio Castro da Camara Canto, hosted coup plotters at his residence so that they could quietly prepare plans for the overthrow of Allende.

In 1973 the White House was copying in Chile the 1964 Brazilian coup against the left-leaning Joao Goulart, with the help of the original perpetrators. On the late afternoon of the coup against Allende, the Brazilian ambassador was at the military school where the members of the Chilean Junta first assembled.

Brazil was the first country to deliver diplomatic recognition to the Pinochet-led junta -- the United States had agreed with Pinochet that, for practical purposes, it should not be the first to do so, though it welcomed the military regime.

A few days later, Brazil gave Pinochet an emergency $100 million loan. The Nixon administration's ``invisible blockade'' against Allende also ended, and American economic and military aid, under preferential terms, began to flow generously to the Pinochet regime.

The Brazilian generals requested ``interrogating,'' and eventually transferring out of Chile, Brazilian refugees who had been taken as prisoners to the National Stadium in Santiago.

From then on, Brazilian military officers were seen at the stadium advising in torture techniques and picking up their detained compatriots. Some Brazilian prisoners recognized the chief Brazilian interrogator: Alfredo Poeck, a known torturer.

``Brazil is the key to the future,'' President Nixon had confided to the British prime minister in 1971. It surely seemed so, as more military dictatorships were born in Latin America, promoted by Washington, with a little help from Brasilia, guided by a Cold War mentality.

Forces unleashed

History should teach lessons. That of 1973 was that the White House, in contributing to the overthrow of a democratic government, like a sorcerer's apprentice, unleashed forces that it could not control as the Pinochet secret police would even perpetrate terrorist attacks against dissidents on the streets of Washington, D.C.

After all these years and so much evidence revealed about U.S. covert action against a democratically elected government, perhaps a formal apology is due to the Chilean people.

Heraldo Muñoz is the ambassador of Chile to the United Nations and the author of The Dictator's Shadow: Life under Augusto Pinochet.

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