Allende, 50 years later – II

Image: Stela Grespan


With his governmental work and heroic sacrifice, Allende inherited the peoples of Our America an extraordinary legacy, without which it is impossible to understand the path that, at the end of the last century, the peoples of these latitudes would begin to take

There are dates that constitute indelible milestones in the history of Our America. Today, September 04th, is one of those days. Like January 1, 1959, triumph of the Cuban Revolution; or April 13, 2002, when the Venezuelan people took to the streets and reinstalled, in the Miraflores Palace, a Hugo Chávez prisoner of the coup leaders; or October 17, 1945, when the Argentine popular masses gained the release of Colonel Perón and began to write a new page in national history. Today's, object of this text, fits into this select category of epic events of Latin America. In 1970, Salvador Allende prevailed in the Chilean presidential elections, obtaining the first minority, defeating the right-wing candidate, Jorge Alessandri, and relegating third place to Radomiro Tomic, of the Christian Democracy.

The 1970 was the fourth presidential election in which Allende competed: in 1952, he had made his first foray, collecting just over 5% of the votes, far from the winner, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, who won with almost 47%. He was not discouraged and in 1958, as a candidate for the FRAP, Frente de Ação Popular, an alliance of the socialist and communist parties, he received 29% of the votes and was close to snatching the triumph from Jorge Alessandri, who received 32%. Already at that moment, all the alarms in the State Department began to sound, as evidenced by the growing traffic of memos and telegrams related to Allende and the future of Chile, which saturated the communication channels between Santiago and Washington.

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution projected the FRAP as an unexpected threat not only to Chile but to the region, as Salvador Allende appeared in the eyes of senior Washington officials – the White House, the State Department and the CIA – as a “left-wing extremist”. not unlike Fidel Castro and just as harmful to US interests as the Cuban. As the crucial 1964 presidential election approached, US involvement in Chilean politics increased exponentially. Previous reports from various missions that visited that country agreed that there was a worrying ambivalence in public opinion: a certain admiration for the “American way of life” and recognition of the role played by US companies based in Chile. But, at the same time, they noticed, underneath this apparent sympathy, a latent hostility that, together with the marked popularity enjoyed by Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, could embark the South American country on a revolutionary path that Washington was not willing to tolerate. Therefore, support for the Christian Democracy candidacy was brazen, torrential and multifaceted. Not just in financial terms (to support Eduardo Frei's campaign), but also in diplomatic, cultural and communicational terms, appealing to the worst propaganda ruses to stigmatize Allende and the FRAP and extol the future Christian Democratic government as a hopeful "Revolution in Freedom". ”, in opposition to the so hated (by Washington, of course) Cuban revolutionary process.

A memo sent by Gordon Chase to McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson, and dated March 19, 1964, reveals the unrest that the next Chilean presidential election aroused in Washington. Chase argued that at this juncture four possible scenarios opened up: a) a defeat by Allende; b) a victory for the FRAP candidate, but without winning an absolute majority, which would allow maneuvering in the Full Congress to elect Frei; c) Allende could be defeated by a military coup, but that would have to happen before he took over the government, because it would be much more difficult afterwards; d) Allende's victory. Faced with this unfortunate contingency, wrote Chase, “we would be in trouble because he would nationalize the copper mines and bow to the Soviet bloc seeking economic help”, and concluded that “we must do everything possible to get the people to support Frei”. In fact, that is what the United States did, and the longed-for victory of Frei (56% of the votes) over Allende came true, who, despite the “campaign of terror” of which he was a victim, collected 39% of the votes.

The victory of Christian democracy was hailed in Washington with great relief and as a definitive blow not only against Allende and his cronies, but as ratification of the continental isolation of the Cuban Revolution. However, the so acclaimed “Revolution in Freedom” ended in a complete failure, leaving the Palace of La Moneda with a balance of just over thirty militants or popular demonstrators hit by the security forces. Economic failure, political frustration, setback in the cultural battle to such an extent that the candidate of the official continuity, Radomiro Tomic, had to jump into the electoral arena raising the motto of the “non-capitalist path to development” to compensate for the growing adherence that the Popular Unity's socialist proposals exerted on the Chilean electorate and captured part of those who could incline in favor of Popular Unity in the September 4 dispute. But, in this fourth attempt, the results smiled on Allende, who, despite the phenomenal campaign of discredit and defamation launched against him, managed to prevail, albeit minimally, over the right-wing candidate Jorge Alessandri: 36,2% of the votes against 34,9, 4% of your opponent. Everything was now in the hands of the Full Congress, because, not having won an absolute majority, it would have to decide by choosing among the candidates who obtained the greatest number of votes. The alternatives managed by Washington were those that Chase had conceived for the previous election, and, with Allende's triumph, now there were only two cards left on the table: a preventive military coup, hence the assassination of the constitutionalist general René Schneider, or manipulating the legislators of the Full Congress (appealing to persuasion and, in the event that this did not launch good results, bribery and extortion) to break with tradition and designate Alessandri as president. Both plans failed and, on November 1970, XNUMX, the Popular Unity candidate assumed the presidency of the republic. He thus established himself as the first Marxist president elected within the framework of bourgeois democracy and the first to try to advance in the construction of socialism through a peaceful path, a project that was violently sabotaged and destroyed by imperialism and its local pawns.

In spite of these enormous obstacles, Allende's unfinished government opened a gap through which, thirty years later, others would begin to pass. It was a government that had been besieged since before joining La Moneda, and had to face a brutal attack by the “embassy” and its infamous local allies: the entire right, old and new (the Christian Democracy), business corporations, big business and its means of communication, the ecclesiastical hierarchy and a sector of the middle classes, helpless victims in the face of a media terrorism that had no precedent in Latin America. Despite this, it was able to make significant progress in strengthening state intervention and planning the economy. He managed to nationalize copper through a law passed almost without opposition in Congress, putting an end to the phenomenal looting practiced by US companies with the consent of previous governments. For example, with an initial investment of around 30 million dollars, after 42 years Anaconda and Kennecott remitted earnings of more than 4 billion dollars abroad. A scandal! It also placed coal, saltpeter and iron under state control, recovering the strategic ironworks of Huachipato; accelerated agrarian reform by granting land to around 200.000 peasants in nearly 4.500 settlements and nationalized almost the entirety of the financial system, private banking and insurance, acquiring, under conditions advantageous to his country, the majority of shares in its main components.

It also nationalized the corrupt International Telegraph and Telephone (IT&T), which held the communications monopoly and which, before Allende's election, had organized and financed, together with the CIA, a terrorist campaign to frustraterair the inauguration of the socialist president. These policies resulted in the creation of an “area of ​​social property” in which the main companies that conditioned Chile's economic and social development (such as foreign trade, production and distribution of electricity; rail, air and maritime transport; communications; production, refining and distribution of oil and its derivatives; steel, cement, petrochemicals and heavy chemicals, cellulose and paper) came to be controlled or, at least, strongly regulated by the state. All these impressive achievements went hand in hand with a food program, in which the distribution of half a liter of milk for children stood out. It promoted health and education at all levels, democratized access to university and carried out, through a state publishing house, Quimantú, an ambitious cultural program that resulted, among other things, in the publication of millions of books that were distributed free of charge or at ridiculous prices.

With his governmental work and heroic sacrifice, Allende inherited the peoples of Our America an extraordinary legacy, without which it is impossible to understand the path that, at the end of the last century, the peoples of these latitudes would begin to take and which culminated in the defeat of the main geopolitical and strategic project of the United States for the region, the FTAA, in Mar del Plata in 2005. Allende was, therefore, the great precursor of the progressive and left-wing cycle that moved the Latin America at the beginning of this century. He was also an uncompromising anti-imperialist and an unconditional friend of Fidel, Che and the Cuban Revolution when such thing amounted to political suicide and turned him into cannon fodder for the media sicarios teledirected from the United States. But Allende, a man of exemplary personal and political integrity, overcame such adverse conditions and opened that gap that would lead to the “great avenues” through which free women and men would march. Our America, paying with his life and loyalty for the great banners of socialism, democracy and anti-imperialism. Today, in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of that victory, it is worth remembering with due gratitude the founding fathers of Great Homeland and those who inaugurated the new stage that leads to the Second and Definitive Independence of our peoples.

*Atilio A. Borón is professor of political science at the University of Buenos Aires. Author, among other books, of Minerva's Owl (Voices).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves

Originally published in the newspaper page 12



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