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Salvador Allende Gossens (1908-1973) was a Chilean physician and politician who served as the democratically-elected President of Chile from 1970 until his death in 1973 when a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet overthrew his government.
Allende was a Marxist, one of the few Marxist leaders elected by democratic means, and was openly attempting to make Chile a socialist state. Despite his election victory being legit (his presidency was made possible by the support of the centrist but worker-friendly Christian Democratic Party in turn for concessions), Chile's right-wing sections immediately had a hissy fit from day one of his rule and already made a botched coup attempt even before he was sworn in as president by killing the national army's Commander in Chief and maintaining a considerable propaganda campaign funded by the CIA during the entirety of his short presidency. He palled about with the establishment communists of the era, for example by inviting Fidel Castro for a tour of Chile. Interestingly enough, his first name is the Spanish word for "savior."
Structure of government
Allende led a Popular Unity coalition government, which included various left-wing parties with shared socialist objectives, but it excluded parties of the far-left (such as the MIR-Chile) which advocated any form of armed struggle. However, Allende did call on the Chilean people to strengthen their grass-root social and workers' organizations and trade unions with the aim of getting them to support his government. Often these social "popular power" organizations were at odds with his socialist government, which had to balance itself between the demands of his supporters and the powerful lobby groups that opposed him.
The Soviet Union made repeated demands that he introduce more hard-line measures, which Allende was largely unwilling to do, insisting on what he called the "Chilean way to socialism" or the "peaceful way to socialism within pluralism."
His economic policy included the nationalization of the copper industry and of many banks, a redistribution of lands, cogestion of enterprises and a programme of free milk for children; inflation subsequently decreased from 33% to 19% from 1970 to 1971.
However his record was not spotless, as shortly before the Pinochet coup the Chilean legislature passed a resolution accusing his administration of unconstitutional activities such as passing laws by decree, removing cabinet ministers from legislative oversight, harassing opposition media outlets, making illegal arrests, and torturing detainees. Armed supporters of his government also roamed the country harassing and searching those they suspected of opposition. As well, foreign leftist guerrillas took up residence in Chile, using it as a base for their activities. The legislature also implored the Chilean military to "restore order" (i.e., remove Allende, as Chile did not have a formal means of impeaching a president at the time). They obliged on September 11, 1973, with Allende shooting himself (although there were claims that he was killed by the military, his suicide was later confirmed by the Chilean Supreme Court in 2011).
Pinochet went on to do everything they accused Allende of and more, dissolving the legislature, appointing all judges, authorizing trial (with death sentences) by military courts, killing around 5,000 Chileans in the next 17 years (most were "disappeared"), with thousands more imprisoned or fleeing the country. Milton Friedman went to Chile with his "Chicago Boys" to overhaul the economy, which with the military junta in power was easier to do. These "reforms" have been maintained under the following democratic administrations.
Henry Kissinger didn't like him very much, either. Richard Nixon specifically told the CIA to do something to get him out of power. The exact connections between the CIA and Pinochet's coup have never been exactly proved, but the connection is well-attested.
- Augusto Pinochet
- The Venus Project, which proposes an utopian society with elements strikingly similar to a system which has been partially implemented during Allende's time in office.
- Hugo Chavez, also a democratically elected Latin-American Marxist who, contrary to Allende, has survived a CIA-backed coup.
- Profile: Salvador Allende, 8 September 2003, BBC. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- Ewin Martínez Torre. History of Chile under Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity: Salvador Allende wins the elections: first coup attempt, 18 October 2001. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- Ewin Martínez Torre. History of Chile under Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity: The Government of the Popular Unity, 18 October 2001. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- WordReference.com: English translation of salvador
- Upi Chile, "Now it's definitive: Experts determined that former president Allende committed suicide" (in Spanish), El Mostrador, Jul 19, 2011