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La Moneda, Chile's presidential palace in Santiago, is bombed by the nation's armed forces on September 11, 1973. Salvador Allende, the country's democratically elected socialist president, died during the U.S.-backed coup that brought to power Augusto Pinochet, who imposed neoliberalism through military dictatorship. (Photo: Bettmann via Getty Images)

La Moneda, Chile's presidential palace in Santiago, is bombed by the nation's armed forces on September 11, 1973. Salvador Allende, the country's democratically elected socialist president, died during the U.S.-backed coup that brought to power Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who imposed neoliberalism through military dictatorship. (Photo: Bettmann via Getty Images)

'The Other 9/11': Progressives Remember Allende's Chile

"On this day in 1973, Salvador Allende's democratically elected socialist government was overthrown in a military coup led by the U.S.-backed fascist Augusto Pinochet."

Kenny Stancil

As people reflect on the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, progressives drew attention to another horrifying event less well-known in the U.S. but referred to elsewhere as "the other 9/11": the bombing of Chile's presidential palace on September 11, 1973 by the nation's armed forces during a right-wing coup supported by Washington and other capitalist regimes.

Salvador Allende, Chile's democratically elected socialist president, died during the assault on La Moneda in Santiago, which brought to power Gen. Augusto Pinochet, whose brutal military junta imposed neoliberalism through deadly force, torture, and the "disappearance" of thousands of leftists. Despite its awareness of Pinochet's human rights abuses, including his execution of political opponents, the U.S. continued to support the pro-market dictator during his bloody, 17-year-long reign.

"On this day in 1973, Salvador Allende's democratically elected socialist government was overthrown in a military coup led by the U.S.-backed fascist Augusto Pinochet," Progressive International, a global coalition of social justice groups fighting for a more egalitarian and sustainable world, said Saturday on social media.

Journalist Alan Macleod pointed out that "Chile would be ruled by a gruesome fascist dictatorship for decades, the scars of which are still very fresh."

"But people in the West," MacLeod argued, "are largely insulated from the realities of empire thanks to a pliant media, which never shows you the effect of the bombs, sanctions, coups, etc."

Progressive International noted that "Allende was elected Chile's first socialist president in 1970 as the candidate of Popular Unity, a socialist-communist coalition. He quickly went to work reorganizing the society he inherited, characterized by poverty and confined by the greed of international corporations."

The organization highlighted some of what the Popular Unity government accomplished during its three years in power:

The Allende government nationalized Chile's foreign-owned copper industry, which was responsible for 75% of exports. Rather than compensate the former owners, Allende sought payment for the unfairly extracted resource. He did not stop with copper.

In its first year, the government nationalized 91 industries, redistributed 5.5 [million] acres of land, granted wage rises to the working class, and built quality homes for the poor.

Allende hoped to build a sovereign, developed, democratic, and humane nation—and one whose foreign policy was built on principles of friendship.

The democratic socialist alternative pursued in Chile, however, "was intolerable to the forces of empire," Progressive International added. "Fearing that Allende would set a good example for other nations to follow, U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered the Central Intelligence Agency to 'make the economy scream,'" in an effort to bring down the Popular Unity government.

Other rich and powerful countries also worked to sabotage the Allende administration. As The Guardian reported Friday, declassified government documents verify how the Australian Secret Intelligence Service opened a base in Santiago in 1971 and conducted covert operations alongside the U.S. CIA for 18 months, contributing to the destabilization of Chile's economy that preceded Pinochet's violent overthrow of Popular Unity.

As his offices were being bombarded on September 11, Allende gave his last speech. MacLeod on Saturday shared a clip from John Pilger's 2007 documentary, The War on Democracy, showcasing the former Chilean president's "final words, broadcast to the nation."

"At this definitive moment, the last moment when I can address you, I wish you to take advantage of the lesson: foreign capital, imperialism, together with the reaction, created the climate in which the armed forces broke their tradition... victims of the same social sector who today are hoping, with foreign assistance, to reconquer the power to continue defending their profits and their privileges," said Allende.

"Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny," Allende continued. "Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again and free men will walk through them to construct a better society."

"Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!" he added. "These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain."

If recent events in Chile are any indication, it would appear that Allende's sacrifice was not made in vain.

Last October, as Common Dreams reported, Chileans voted in a 4-to-1 landslide to rewrite the country's right-wing constitution, which was implemented under anti-democratic conditions in 1980 with long-lasting negative repurcussions.

While there have been attempts to curb market fundamentalism in Chile since the post-dictatorship period began in 1990, the neoliberal constitution crafted during the Pinochet era has continued to exacerbate inequalities and put up barriers to egalitarian reform long after the murderous dictator's demise.

Progressives worldwide rejoiced as the nation once deemed the "laboratory" of neoliberalism—where University of Chicago-trained economists experimented with widespread privatization on an unwilling population—had, through a massive popular rebellion against years of austerity, created an opportunity to "bury Pinochet's legacy... and rebuild the country on a truly democratic basis," as political theorist Melany Cruz put it at the time.

Following last year's historic referendum—the product of a decades-long revolt against the denial of guaranteed access to public goods such as water, education, healthcare, pensions, and other necessities—Chileans earlier this year took another major step toward defeating Pinochetismo once and for all.

As Common Dreams reported, Chilean voters in May elected a progressive slate of delegates to the constituent assembly tasked with rewriting Pinochet's constitution.

A large majority of the 155 delegates responsible for reshaping the nation's political framework over the next several months are expected to bring progressive perspectives rather than pro-corporate orthodoxy to the table, giving Chileans—who will be asked next year in another national referendum whether they accept the new constitution—a real shot to turn neoliberalism's birthplace into its graveyard.


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