Salvador Allende was a Chilean physician and politician. He ruled as the President of Chile from 1970 to 1973. A self-proclaimed "militant socialist" and demagogue, his overthrow and death are very controversial.
Allende, representing a coalition of Marxist parties, came to power in 1970 after narrowly beating his closest opponent with 36.3 percent of the vote. Allende was outspoken in his intent to dramatically "transform" Chile according to socialist principles, which concerned moderate voters and politicians. The Chilean Congress voted to give Allende the presidency, in accordance with run-off rules in place at the time, but required Allende to sign a special statement promising that his reforms would always respect the constitution.
During his government, Allende instituted a plan called the "Chilean way to socialism" (La vía chilena al socialism) or "socialism within pluralism" in attempt to address the unequal distribution of wealth in the Chilean economy, but which led to widespread disruption and social polarisation. Upon assuming power Allende expropriated private sector business, middle class and bourgeois property and began to implement an agrarian reforms and a program to nationalise vital industry. Allende posted some of his supporters to oversee these expropriations and nationalisation, including David Silberman  (disappeared) who was assigned to oversee the "nationalization" of Chile's largest copper industry: Chuquicamata. The media wrote extensively of Allende's failures. Strikes and shutdowns caused massive inflation and unrest, and the conservative-controlled Chilean Congress sought to reject Allende's proposals whenever possible, causing considerable political gridlock.
US intelligence reports implicated Allende in the assassination of several opponents, while KGB files smuggled out of Russia by Vasily Mitrokhin indicate that Allende received funds from the Soviet Union. Allende was formally condemned by Chile's parliament for systematically destroying democracy in Chile. The Chilean Chamber of Deputies Resolution of August 22, 1973, accused Allende of support of armed groups, torture, illegal arrests, muzzling the press, confiscating private property, and not allowing people to leave the country. In the infamous "Cuban Packages Scandal" that precipitated the coup, large quantities of weapons were sent from Castro's Cuba to arm pro-Allende terrorists in Chile. Kissinger privately told Nixon that Allende might declare martial law. By 1973, as a result of covert US aid to Chilean dissidents and financing of pro-democracy protestors, US intelligence indicated Allende would likely lose the next Chilean election if it was held.
Volodia Teitelboim, the chief ideologue of the Communist Party in Chile, declared that if civil war came, "it probably would signify immense loss of human lives, between half a million and one million."
On September 11, 1973, Allende committed suicide during a military coup launched by Army Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet, who became President.
The Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation concluded in its 1991 report, "Within hours Chile's elected president, Salvador Allende, lay dead (this report concludes that he committed suicide), and a military junta presided by Augusto Pinochet took power." Many in the US vigorously protested both the CIA's alleged involvement in the coup, and the appalling human rights violations that followed, including the murder of Victor Jara, a popular songwriter and musician and ardent supporter of Allende. Jara was one of several thousand Chileans who were taken into custody the day after the coup. He was tortured for several days, then shot to death.
- “Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy,” Resolution of the Chamber of Deputies, Chile, August 22, 1973.
- Church Report. Covert Action in Chile 1963-1973. United States Senate. 94th Cong. 1st Ses. GPO 63-372. Washington. 1975.
- Falcoff, Mark, Kissinger and Chile, Commentary Magazine, 10 November 2003.