The Corner

Allende, Before the Fall

I meant to post this earlier in the week. It’s fascinating reading from Time magazine in 1972 from before the Pinochet coup. The e-friend who sent says the (then more liberal) Economist had a piece from a week before the coup saying such a coup would be necessary. But it ain’t online. Anyway, an excerpt:

At the same time Chileans have been hit by an inflation of violence. A carabinero (national policeman) was killed in a clash between pro-and anti-Allende forces in Conception in August, and a 17-year-old student died when a tear-gas grenade exploded in his face during a Santiago street brawl last month. As the violence increases, political parties have begun to organize for street warfare. The Communist Party has set up “self-defense committees” throughout Santiago. The Socialists talk of establishing “antifascist brigades.” On the other side, a youthful group of extreme rightists called Patria y Libertad talks vaguely of an organization of “shock troops” to combat leftists.

Patria y Libertad has joined the right-wing National Party in something called Proteco (community protection). Their handbook reads like a guide, if not an outright incitement, to civil war. It provides for block chiefs, first aid and surgical facilities, alarm systems and arms caches. “Neither waste nor unduly save your ammunition,” the handbook advises. “Concentrate your fire on whoever seems in command or carries the most dangerous weapons. Try to surround your enemies, firing without pity.”

Allende has ignored the advice given him by visiting Cuban Premier Fidel Castro last fall that he ought to “eliminate” his opposition. As Allende has publicly warned, civil war would mean “the destruction of our tranquillity for several generations.” Even so, there are daily rumors of uprisings. Allende last month announced that he had discovered a plot to overthrow the government. The rebels, he said on television, planned to split the country into eight isolated zones, paralyzing movement in Chile through a transport strike, which would also prevent food supplies from reaching major cities.

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