On Salvador Allende's presidency in a conversation with one of his key political advisors
Joan Garces, a Spanish attorney who led the prosecution against General Augusto Pinochet, spent decades fighting Allende's adversaries. During the Unidad Popula government, he served as one of Allende's most-trusted political advisors and was with him in La Moneda on the day of the coup. On September 22, 2022, we spoke to Joan about Allende's legacy, the day of the coup in La Moneda, and the broader context surrounding Project Cybersyn.
evgeny: you served as a political advisor to allende. what exactly did this position involve?
Joan:From day one, I had a direct line of communication with the President. I had the privilege to engage in unannounced meetings with him, be it at his office or private residence. We openly discussed all matters, and Allende himself would communicate any outcomes from our discussions to other authorities.
cybersyn in its proper context
Joan: Project Cybersyn, as it was also called, needs to be understood within the context of the Chilean government of the 1970s. This government was democratically elected in a direct vote in September 1970. According to the Chilean constitution, the President was elected by Congress if there was not an absolute majority in the first vote. During this time, between September and October of 1970, the Nixon administration had already planned a coup d'état in Chile to prevent Allende from being elected by Congress.
The government was born into conflict with the United States, which sought to interfere with Chile's democratic institutions. Allende's administration planned significant social and economic transformations. Allende himself was a man deeply influenced by the values of the French Revolution and the United Nations Charter. Within this framework, the government intended to change the internal economic structure towards a democratic socialist perspective.
Under Allende, large strategic companies were brought under state control, creating a social property area. Congress unanimously approved this move in April 1971. Project Cybersyn, which aimed to improve the coordination of these state-controlled areas, was used for the first time during the truckers' strike in October 1972.
The government aimed to prioritize the role of workers, with companies under state control or ownership not being centrally directed but rather guided by committees elected by the workers themselves. Each company also had an independent union, separate from the committee.
To accommodate the changing social and economic dynamics in the country, Allende accepted a proposal for a new constitution in August 1972. A committee of experts from all government parties was tasked with drafting this new constitution, which would then be publicly debated and approved by Congress.
This new constitution proposed the Senate, the center of legislative power, be comprised exclusively of workers, defined broadly as those living off their labor. The workers could directly elect their representatives to the workers' chamber, ensuring they had a central role in legislative power.
Project Cybersyn was a part of this broader strategy to place organized workers at the heart of the economic and political system, with the goal of democratic planning generated from the bottom up. Cybersyn was one component of this overarching structure.
Evgeny: Can you describe your experience during the 1972 strike in Chile?
Joan: I was actually in Europe during most of the strike, having been invited to participate in a symposium with German intellectuals by a social-democratic foundation in West Germany. But I was well aware of the immediate context and the resolution reached by Allende. In order to maintain calm in the country, he formed a cabinet that included military participation, thus ensuring that the parliamentary elections planned for March 1973 would proceed normally. This allowed Chileans to democratically determine the course of the country through their votes.
The specific details didn't pass through me or my office, but our primary concern was to prevent the strike from achieving its goal of paralyzing the country, particularly its production system. Coordination within the area of social ownership, which was dominant in the country at the time, was essential.
Evgeny: What were the main disagreements between Allende and the forces behind the strike?
Joan: Allende's presidency was centered on the so-called "battle of production." He believed that the country's democratic development, both economically and socially, necessitated the continuity, and even the increase, of production. In contrast, the counterrevolution aimed to paralyze production and distribution. This conflict between the two forces was intensified by the support that the latter received from the United States, who employed financial blockades and subversive tactics such as bribery within the military and the media - with El Mercurio newspaper in particular, being funded by the CIA .
In this tense environment, when demand began to outweigh supply in 1973 due to various factors, President Allende appointed General Bachelet to ensure the distribution of essential goods throughout the country. That’s why, after the coup, General Bachelet was arrested, tortured, and killed by his own fellow servicemen for his role in ensuring this distribution. This example illustrates the intensity of the conflict and the hatred that the coup-plotters held for those who worked to keep the country's economic system functional against insurrectionist efforts.
In this context, coordination within the public system was crucial. Communications between the economic centers influenced by the government served as a nervous system, used for defensive mobilization against the insurrection. It was logical in a democratic and open system like Chile's. Consequently, the mobilization in support of the government and in opposition to attempts to paralyze the country and overthrow the government involved a significant mobilization of worker masses, particularly organized through unions.
ANTICIPATING THE COUP
Evgeny: In the final weeks of his presidency, how aware was Allende that a coup was already in the works?
Joan: During the final weeks and days, Allende saw the coup coming and tried to prevent it. He didn't consider himself defeated until the morning when the Carabineros withdrew from La Moneda.
I had lunch with him on Monday the 10th at La Moneda and dinner that night at his home. During those crucial hours, he was planning measures that looked beyond the present moment, which, by no means suggested that his government could end abruptly. For instance, on the night of the 10th, he discussed changing the military command to displace generals and admirals suspected of conspiring, suggesting he was thinking of the future. He was also preparing a speech to deliver at the State Technical University at 11 AM on Tuesday, where he planned to announce a national vote on the country's future, including a new constitution and transition to socialism.
He had also spoken with the military and police about taking drastic measures to suppress the wave of terrorist attacks led by the far-right group, Patria y Libertad . Hence, on the night of the 10th to the 11th, Allende was fully exercising his presidential powers and determined to move forward. What he didn't foresee was the betrayal by the army chief, which occurred on the 11th but was planned 48 hours earlier on the 9th of September. As a Mexican journalist friend, Villa, said, "There is no defense against betrayal." In that sense, Allende was left defenseless in September.
EVGENY: WOULD YOU SAY ALLENDE WAS NOT ALONE IN ANTICIPATING A COUP?
Joan: Towards the end of our term, there was widespread knowledge within the government of a conspiracy in progress. It had various offshoots in the media, conservative trade organizations, certain businesses, and even within the armed forces. Clearly, a military coup was in the works. I sought to anticipate the development of this conspiracy and establish coordination between those loyal to the government, the democratic system, the constitutional system, and society at large.
During that time, the head of the Carabineros remained loyal to the government till the very end. There were also generals within the army who stayed true to the government. Hence, a hierarchical line from the State Chief to the Army Chief and the head of Carabineros could have been organized to counteract the conspiratorial spiral and support the loyal parts of the army in protecting the state.
This came up in conversations I held with Allende. He largely agreed with this approach. Judging by what I saw in the memoirs of General Prats , I infer that the President had relayed these ideas to the army chief in early August '73. However, this approach wasn't well understood within the government as it was foreign to their historical culture and tradition.
My reflections were largely based on my knowledge of the the 1936 Spanish uprising . But Chile had never experienced such an uprising, hence, this approach was not well received. Nevertheless, the President ordered the reinforcement of the Carabineros in Santiago with over 4,000 men in the days leading up to September 11th. He was of the belief that, in the event of a street clash, the Carabineros were better equipped to handle the situation than regular army troops in urban warfare. This was all under the understanding that the constitutional sector of the armed forces would stand by the government in the event of an insurrection.
Evgeny: What role did the intelligence services play in Chile’s political system at that time?
Joan: The high command of the Carabineros had the responsibility to prevent what transpired. What I witnessed was the President's reaction to the Director General of the Carabineros, when the Carabineros' tanks stationed in Plaza de la Constitución for government defense withdrew from the square. The President asked the top general of the Carabineros what was happening. The general replied that he would find out and came back reporting that the telecommunications center had been overtaken by conspirators.
The actual command of the armed forces and Carabineros was in the hands of professional soldiers and policemen. The Head of State in Chile was a political figure, but the day-to-day running, structure, and organization of the military and the Carabineros were managed by respective professionals. As long as these responsible figures remained loyal to the government, the system functioned properly.
For example, in July '73, the assassination of Commander Araya was blamed on President Allende's escort by a media campaign in El Mercurio. This campaign was immensely effective in undermining the moral integrity of the executive, but it failed. The intelligence service had intercepted a conversation between a Carabinero and the ones who had assassinated Commander Araya. If the army's intelligence service had not been loyal to the government in July '73, the media campaign would have succeeded and implicated Allende in the assassination.
This highlights the vital role played by the military and Carabineros' top brass in the political system that existed in Chile at that time, where each of these institutions had control over its intelligence services. The government realized the importance of this information for either fuelling or preventing conspiracy. On September 10, during a luncheon at La Moneda Palace, the President decided that the different intelligence services would be coordinated by José Tohá , the Defense Minister. This was so that the President could be aware of the information circulating within the intelligence services. However, this initiative was too late. It was initiated when the coup operation was already underway.
Evgeny: can you provide some context on the tumultuous events of october 1970, when allende's enemies tried to prevent his ascent to the presidency?
Joan: The October '70 conspiracy resulted in the tragic murder of Commander-in-Chief Schneider , who opposed the efforts to prevent Allende from assuming the presidency. It is believed that the order came directly from Kissinger to the CIA's chief in Chile, upon request by the owner of the Mercurio, Edwards. The way this coup was orchestrated was uncovered through two paths.
Firstly, Allende immediately initiated an investigation into the attack on General Schneider. He presented his findings to then-president Eduardo Frei , confronting him with evidence of an ongoing coup and challenging him to prevent it. Allende insisted that the investigation should also involve someone from his own trusted circle, Eduardo Paredes of the Socialist Party, who later became the director-general of the civil police.
This investigation led to the perpetrators of the attack on Schneider, including General Viaux and an intermediate officer named Marshall. However, a more comprehensive understanding of the conspiracy came from American journalist Anderson. In 1971, Anderson published a series of articles about ITT's interference, shedding light on the American dimension of the coup.
Evgeny: How did Allende perceive the forces working against him?
Joan: Allende was very aware of the effects and obstacles. I recall a conversation with him in '72 where he remarked, "Here we are, a small country resisting the mighty CIA." He knew that there were forces working against him, but it was challenging to pinpoint specific individuals involved due to Chile's open nature. This openness made it easy for spies and destabilizers to infiltrate the country, making it remarkably easy to conspire against and attempt to overthrow the government.
Joan: I must admit that I'm not in a very good position to answer this question. It's one that I have asked myself as well. From what I've gathered, Flores had a good relationship with General Prats; the institutional command of the army at that time respected the ideas he was advancing, particularly in the fields of cybernetics and coordination.
Furthermore, Flores discussed military budgets from an economic perspective, particularly in relation to defense investments within his ministerial purview. However, as for the conversations he held with the military in the hours and days preceding September 11th, and his role in bridging the gap between the military and the president, that area remains entirely opaque to me. I've asked myself many questions about this, but I do not have the answers.
An interview with Juan Garcés
Joan: Yes, I vividly recall that around January-February of 1971, I received a letter from ITT addressed to the President concerning the negotiations you mentioned. ITT was negotiating an agreement to withdraw from the country. However, their double-dealing was quite apparent.
For instance, during one negotiation, ITT representatives came to La Moneda, the presidential palace, and offered to check for hidden microphones in the President's office. The President agreed, and indeed, a hidden microphone was found. This was ITT's modus operandi with the Allende government - ostensibly engaging in civilized negotiation, while secretly fostering unrest. Unbeknownst to the government, ITT had been involved in the weeks preceding to promote a coup.
Evgeny: How did the Chilean government react upon learning of ITT's covert activities in the country?
Joan: Journalist Anderson's revelations were the first to expose the conspiracy to the Chilean public. The government responded by having the documents revealed by Anderson translated from English to Spanish. A team, consisting of members from the three branches of the military, was tasked with the translation. This was an effort by the President to inform the military about the failed coup attempt of 1970.
The translated document, published under the title "The ITT Papers," sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Another manifestation of the government's response was President Allende's speech at the United Nations in December 1972, openly denouncing ITT's involvement and that of American agents in the failed coup. Furthermore, in a conversation with then U.S. Ambassador to the UN, George Bush, Allende rejected the appeal to suppress this issue at the UN.
Evgeny: Did you accompany Allende on his trip to the UN?
Joan: During Allende's journey to the UN in 1972, I remained in Santiago, keeping the President updated about the developments back home. It was during this time that MAPU , one of the government coalition parties, underwent a radical shift in control . I remember sending a message to the President about the severity of this change since this faction advocated for what I called an "insurrectional path." They sought to deviate from our legal and democratic transformation, proposing instead to resolve conflicts through force and violence.
Evgeny: What prompted you to move to Chile? And how did you get acquainted with Allende?
Joan: I came to Chile from Paris where I was working on my doctoral thesis at Sciences Po. It was a comparative study of political and economic development in Chile and Colombia, which has since been published. During my 1968 trip, when I was a professor at the Latin American division of social sciences based in Santiago and associated with UNESCO , I established relationships with various individuals in Chile for my research. One of those individuals was Allende, then president of the Senate, with whom I had numerous discussions and a shared perspective on my analysis.
So much so, in November '68 he invited me to accompany him to Chiloé, where he was preparing his electoral campaign for re-election in the parliamentary elections of March '69. We traveled together to various locations in Chiloé, and I distinctly recall a conversation about Richard Nixon's election that month. We pondered the potential implications for Chile, recognizing it as a negative outcome for the country.
In 1968, guerrilla warfare was a reality in several Latin American countries. Some factions in Chile were in favor of guerrilla struggle. I can share what Allende said on the matter in '68. He declared that given Chile's geography, it is not a country for guerrilla warfare. Moreover, he pointed out the presence of constitutionalist officers, particularly masons, within the Chilean army. Allende held that Nixon's election in November of '68 and the unrealistic notion of armed struggle in Chile were pressing issues. These are positions he maintained until his last day. We had numerous in-depth discussions during our travels, finding common ground in our analysis of the Chilean and international situation.
When I returned to Paris in '69 to write my doctoral thesis, he was named the single candidate of the left-wing coalition for the elections scheduled for September '70. He wrote to me in Paris, inviting me to implement the ideas we had discussed during our travels in '68. These conversations formed the basis of my thesis, which I defended at the Sorbonne in July '70. In my conclusion, I predicted that Allende would win the elections three months later, which surprised the jury.
On July 7, I was in Santiago, and two weeks later, I was landing with Allende's personal secretary at Pudahuel Merino Benítez Airport. From there, I went to Allende's house on Guardia Vieja Street to join his personal team for the election campaign. I was initially there for the campaign only, as I had to return to Europe in October to teach theory of the state at university. However, our joint work over those months had been so harmonious that on the afternoon of September 4, while Chileans were voting, Allende asked me during lunch with his family to change my plans and stay with him throughout his term. That's why I decided to stay in Chile - a succession of fortuitous circumstances if you will.
Evgeny: How would you evaluate Allende's personality in terms of political aptitude? Do you think he was ready for the challenges that arose upon his election?
Joan: Allende was a person who deeply understood the political system of Chile and Chilean society. With 40 years of public service, he served as a minister, deputy, and senator. He was the only Chilean politician who had been elected in all constituencies, from the north to the extreme south of the country. No one else held that record.
Moreover, Allende was very open socially, with easy communication. He knew all the key players in Chilean political life, whether they were in the senate or held other institutional roles. He was well-connected in the intellectual world and influential sectors of society. Despite declaring himself an atheist, he was respected by religious communities due to his respect for religious beliefs.
When he came to power, he knew the country's reality in all aspects and knew the establishment in all its dimensions. This knowledge allowed him to articulate a series of resolutions to many problems that arose, giving birth to the phrase "Allende's wrist." This referred to a man who knew how to handle and find agreements and solutions to problems that would have been impossible for a person without such knowledge.
For instance, he sought and established an agreement with his electoral rival Radomiro Tomic in the September 1970 elections. They agreed that whoever won between them, the other would immediately support against conservative Alessandri . Once Allende's victory was clear, Tomic publicly expressed his support, ahead of his own Christian Democratic Party .
Throughout his three years in office, Allende maintained his desire for agreement with the Christian Democrats. His last efforts as president were aimed at getting the Christian Democratic Party to agree to overcome the crisis the country was experiencing.
When he encountered resistance from conservative leaders Frei and Aylwin of the PDC, he requested the Cardinal of Santiago to mediate with the Christian Church's leadership to facilitate the agreement. Yet they flatly refused.
Inside the Chilean Church, a significant sector led by the Cardinal sought an understanding with the government to avoid a crisis. This was also supported by Pope Paul VI and the Society of Jesus. The General of the Society of Jesus, Father Arrupe, visited Allende in La Moneda a few weeks before September '73, signifying that the Society considered Allende a legitimate interlocutor.
When you ask me whether Allende was prepared to face the realities of those years, I can confidently answer that he was as prepared as anyone could be.
Evgeny: Can you share some anecdotes that illustrate Allende's personality?
Joan: Allende was a man with a sense of humor. Even in the most challenging situations, he was capable of making a joke, not out of superficiality or ignorance, but as a coping mechanism.
In terms of anecdotes, one story that demonstrates his principled nature occurred in '70. An assassination attempt was made on René Schneider, a former interior minister of Christian Democracy, causing his death and leading to nationwide shock. In Chile, such political assassinations were unheard of. Allende was traveling for the electoral campaign at that time, and while he was staying at a friend's house in Castro, a police officer arrived, offering to have a pair of officers guard the door for his protection. Allende graciously declined, insisting he'd been traveling the country for 40 years without even a penknife for protection.
When the assassination occurred, there was a significant shock. Government parties met with the president and requested drastic measures, even reestablishing the death penalty for those responsible for the attack. Allende responded by saying that such a measure would contradict his principles. In a moment of great tension, Allende stayed true to his trajectory and his view of the world. His insistence on maintaining principles, even in the face of demands for harsher measures, is a clear example of his character.
Talking about anecdotes, I have a couple more. One from '68 and another from August '73. In '68, we were discussing why Allende received the majority of male votes but not female votes in the previous presidential elections of '58 and '64. He jokingly observed: "All my efforts with women have been in vain!" He did have a reputation as a Don Juan.
In a different context, during the first days of September '73, there was a Non-Aligned Countries conference in Algiers. Chile was a member, and President Allende was invited. We met at his Air Force Dean's office to discuss whether he should go to Algiers to participate. I opined that his absence could trigger a coup, and he responded, "If that happens, I'll go fight in the mountains," implying that he wouldn't have quietly stayed in exile if a coup occurred during his absence.
ALLENDE'S FOREIGN AND ECONOMIC POLICY
Evgeny: What was Allende’s approach to foreign policy?
Joan: Allende was an internationalist in the broadest sense of the word, seeking relationships for his country with all nations worldwide, without what he called ideological borders. As soon as he came into government, he established relationships with all countries that Chile didn't previously recognize due to ideological reasons, like some Eastern European countries, Vietnam, Cuba, and even People's China. In fact, Allende's Chile was the first continental American country to recognize People's China.
He had a good relationship with the Roosevelt administration during his leadership in Chile. Roosevelt had ended the “big stick” policy in the United States, which Allende appreciated. However, he disagreed with and criticized the United States' policy of intervening in internal affairs post-Roosevelt, especially after the Cuban revolution, the American intervention in Cuba, the North American coup against Goulart in Brazil in '65, and the coup against Guatemala's Árbenz .
He was a strong advocate of effectively implementing the principles of the United Nations Charter, specifically non-intervention and respect for all countries, especially Latin America, to choose their form of government and economic system. This clashed with Nixon's interventionist government and led to the American attack on and aggression against Allende's government.
Evgeny: What were the main influences on Allende's economic policies?
Joan: Firstly, it's important to recognize that Allende was not an economist. He left the economy of his government to a team from CEPAL. The Ministers of Economy and Planning, Max Nolff and the Deputy Director of ODEPLAN, Ibarra, were all from Codelco. So, the economic team was fundamentally from CEPAL, as you mentioned, Prebisch . Indeed, Prebisch's school of thought greatly influenced Allende's government. They were all disciples or followers of Prebisch.
The economic transformation had a socialist orientation but in the context of how socialism was perceived at that time. It meant greater democratization of economic resources and nationalization of basic resources for national development within a somewhat dependent international context. The traditional Marxist-Leninist categories, which are commonly used in Europe in relation to the Soviet experience, were not present in Allende's economic policy.
It was a continuation of the developmental stages Chile had been going through since the 1930s when CORFO was created and state intervention began in support of industrialization and the creation of economic elements within the country. Therefore, the influence of the CEPAL team was significant during Allende's government. Vuskovic , the Minister of Economy, was especially influential in the early months of the government. Carlos Matus also came from CEPAL.
To illustrate the extent of CEPAL's influence on Allende, I can share an anecdote. In late August of 1973, when a right-wing campaign called for division and was making a significant media push, Allende requested a meeting with Vuskovic and myself to contemplate whether he should resign. After deliberation, we explained why it would be detrimental to the country, himself, and the Chilean popular movement for him to resign at that time of mobilization and right-wing backlash.
Joan: I moved to Santiago from Paris where the influences of the Chicago School were virtually non-existent at the time. In Paris, the economic debate centered on the proposals of François Perroux about the development poles and other economists in which the state assumes a significant role. Remember that in France in the 1960s and beyond into the 1970s, the idea of indicative planning, where the state played a dominant role, was developing.
So, when I arrived in Santiago and interacted with the Latin American School of Political Sciences (FLACSO), which was closely linked to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), there was considerable interaction. I found a think tank deeply engaged with the international debate and seeking innovative economic propositions and analysis. This was a time when the Dependencia School, aiming to liberate Latin American countries from a long tradition of dependency, was being developed by the people you mentioned.
I had connections with all of them, and in the lead-up to the 1970 elections, I actively participated in the discourse, also being a professor at FLACSO. I was privy to the opinions of ECLAC, and even weeks before the coup, I recall giving a lecture at FLACSO alongside ECLAC members, including my friend Calcaño, another disciple of Prebisch.
Joan: Varsavsky was a very bright and intelligent person. He was particularly concerned about the penetration of major imperialist centers via satellite television during its developmental phase. Varsavsky developed several economic models in Chile in collaboration with others whom I considered friends. He was a man I greatly admired—intelligent, kind, yet closely monitored by the Chilean army intelligence services, who viewed him unfavorably.
Joan: Darcy Ribeiro was a close friend of Allende and played a direct role during the early weeks and months of Allende's government. Ribeiro contributed his experience as Brazil's Prime Minister during the coup against João Goulart. Ribeiro lived in Santiago for a long period and frequently discussed the Brazilian coup with Allende and me. He analyzed the mistakes made, like how Goulart's direct approach to the navy's non-commissioned officers without respecting the chain of command was exploited to legitimize the insurrection against him.
Allende took this analysis into account, especially in August 1973 when there were some movements within the navy. Allende was careful to avoid giving the coup plotters a pretext, as they had in Brazil, by maintaining direct contact with lower-ranked sailors. This example illustrates how the conversations with Ribeiro and the Brazilian experience were present in Chilean analysis and even in Allende's own speeches.
Ribeiro also played a role in drafting Allende's inaugural speech and his first address to the nation in May 1971. If you knew Ribeiro, you would know he was a man of great intelligence and many ideas.
Joan: I knew Gunder Frank very well and can share a story about dining with him on the eve of the elections on September 4, 1970. The night before, or perhaps two nights before, while dining, he was convinced and presented many reasons why Allende would lose the elections. As you can imagine, the conversation between Gunder Frank and me revolved around this topic as I was of the opinion that Allende could win. Frank tended towards pessimism in his forecasts. The thesis he maintained in those 24 to 48 hours before the elections was that Allende's victory should be the small engine that would start the large engine of the Revolution. This was the approach Gunder Frank had.
THE COUP D'ETAT
Juan Garcés recounts his experience during a U.S.-backed coup that overthrew Chile's elected government, leading to 17 years of dictatorship and thousands of deaths.
Evgeny: Can you recall what you were doing on the day of the coup?
Joan: On the night of the 10th to the 11th, the President was chairing a meeting with the Minister of Defense, the Minister of the Interior, the director of national television, and me to prepare his message to the country, offering citizens a choice at the polls between the project proposed by the government and the one proposed by the opposition from the legislature. I spent the night at the presidential residence and was awakened by the director of television, Augusto Olivares , just after seven in the morning, informing me that there was a coup in progress.
I dressed quickly and went to the President's office. He was just getting out of bed, announcing that the navy had revolted and that the army chiefs were not responding to his direct calls. He then spoke with the chief of the Second Division and the Santiago garrison, General Brady, who was a key person at that moment and a mason, a connection that had elevated him to this critical position.
At 7:30 am, General Brady asserted that the army remained loyal to the government and would send military units to Valparaíso to quell the navy's revolt. This was the information the President had when he left his residence around 7:30 am and arrived just before 8 am at La Moneda Palace, where I joined him.
What happened next was unexpected: the army chief, who had been loyal until then, led the coup. This became known when I informed the President just after 8:30 am, after hearing the first decree broadcasted by the military junta on my portable radio. Pinochet appeared as the signer of the decree.
Despite this, the President continued to trust in the support of the police force, since the highest-ranking officers were with him inside the La Moneda Palace. The situation began to change around 9:05 am when an internal coup occurred within the police telecommunications centers, and units began receiving orders from the coup leaders.
During those minutes, the President adapted his assumptions to the events unfolding. After the police withdrew from defensive positions around the presidential palace, he issued his last radio communication, his farewell message, affirming his stance. However, he had already visited different positions in the palace and directed the defense plan, organizing the socialist party members within the palace between 8 and 9 am.
He then persisted in defending the Palace, the supreme command post of the country and a symbol of his constitutional legitimacy. His perspective changed dramatically at 11:15 am, just before the air bombardment that shocked him. Not just because the state's bombs were falling on the headquarters of the state, but also because a few weeks earlier, during a tank uprising on June 29, he had discussed an aerial attack on the rebellious tanks with the chief of the air force. The air force chief had informed him that they could not bomb the insurrectionists, as it could destroy several blocks in the center of Santiago.
Consequently, when the air force's bombs began to fall on him, it was a shock. From that moment, the Palace was ablaze because incendiary bombs were also being thrown inside. We had a few smoke protection masks that we passed around to each other to breathe. It was then that he told his civilian collaborators to leave and save their lives. And that was the end.
Evgeny: Can you describe your personal experiences and emotions during and after the coup d'état?
Joan: During that time, I felt the breath of death multiple times. Somehow, I survived and can only rationalize it by thinking a deity protected me. To speak more concretely, there are several individuals I owe my life to, such as Enrique Iglesias, then Secretary-General of ECLAC, who intervened on my behalf when my name was on a list that the rebellious military had made. He went to the Minister of Defense under the flag of the United Nations. His efforts, however, were not fruitful, as they were specifically looking for Carlos Altamirano and me. With that information, Enrique Iglesias sought help from the Spanish Ambassador, Enrique Pérez Hernández, who agreed to harbor me at his residence, showing great humanity.
On entering, I expressed regret that my first meeting with the Ambassador was under such circumstances. I had previously declined his invitations to receptions at the embassy because I was anti-Franco. The Ambassador clarified that Spain didn't have an asylum treaty with Chile, so my stay could be indefinite, but he promised to do all he could to help me leave.
A few days after my arrival at the embassy, an aid plane from the Spanish government arrived. General Pinochet, head of the military junta, thanked the Spanish Ambassador for the aid, and during this conversation, the Ambassador requested safe conduct for me. Initially, Pinochet was hesitant, saying he didn't have sufficient authority for such a decision, but after the Ambassador appealed to Pinochet's pride, saying that I was a Spaniard on Spanish territory and it was a matter of honor, Pinochet agreed to consider it.
Eventually, despite opposition from the Chief of the Air Force, I was granted safe conduct because Pinochet had committed to the Ambassador. The following Saturday, the Ambassador gathered embassy staff and led a convoy to the Pudahuel airport. However, he had requested protection from the Carabineros because he knew there were uncontrollable elements. Upon reaching the airport, an Air Force patrol stopped us, intending to take me from the car. However, when one of the Carabineros showed resistance, the officer let us proceed.
We continued to the airport where the Ambassador escorted me up the aircraft's stairs with an Air Force official. A year later, when I met him in Madrid, he told me about the standoff with the Air Force patrol, a stark reminder of those tumultuous times.
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The national law enforcement police of Chile, tasked with maintaining order and enforcing Chilean laws since 1927. More
A Chilean Army General and politician under President Allende, loyal to constitutionalist principles. He mediated between Allende's government and the military. Assassinated in Argentine exile by Pinochet's secret police, DINA. More
The Spanish coup of 1936 initiated the Spanish Civil War, as Nationalist military factions led by General Franco rose against the democratically elected, left-leaning Second Republic.MORE
The Chilean presidential palace. Originally a colonial mint, it became the presidential palace in 1846. Bombed during the 1973 U.S.-backed coup that installed Gen. Augusto Pinochet. More
A Chilean Socialist Party politician who served under Allende as Minister of Interior and Defense. His reform efforts led to his imprisonment and death following the military coup in 1973. More
Chilean Army Chief under Allende, Schneider's assassination in 1970, orchestrated by opponents of Allende, dramatically heightened political tensions and precipitated the 1973 military coup. More
US Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford, renowned and controversial for his foreign policy strategies during the Vietnam War and Cold War. More
A significant figure in Chile's political landscape, serving as president from 1964 to 1970 as a member of the Christian Democratic Party. Supported by Washington, his presidency saw sweeping social reforms and economic modernization. However, he faced criticism from the Chilean left and center due to perceived inadequacies in his policies. His death in 1982, initially attributed to septicemia, spurred controversy and investigations due to allegations of possible foul play. More
A Chilean physician and socialist activist known for shaping Chile's political landscape and becoming a human rights violation victim during the 1973 military coup. More
A major global telecommunications corporation, controversial for its involvement in Latin America and political influence. It tried its best to prevent Allende from winning in 1970 - and then did its best to destabilize his rule. More
Chilean philosopher, politician, and entrepreneur. As a high-ranking official in the Allende administration - he would eventually rise to be his minister of economy and finance - Flores was instrumental in Project Cybersyn. He is known for his work on speech acts and commitment-based management, blending philosophy, linguistics, and business. More
A major global telecommunications corporation, controversial for its involvement in Latin America and political influence. It tried its best to prevent Allende from winning in 1970 - and then did its best to destabilize his rule. MORE
A leftist party formed in Chile in 1969 by Christian Democrat defectors. It was a key ally under Allende's administration (1970-73), advocating for extensive land and industrial reforms. More
The actual split of the party happened a few months later, in March 1973
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, founded in 1945, aimed at promoting international collaboration, despite Cold War era controversies. More
Chilean Christian Democrat politician and diplomat. He was a presidential candidate in 1970 and played a significant role in promoting a reformist agenda in Chilean politics. More
The 26th President of Chile who served from 1958 to 1964, and was a critical candidate in the 1970 presidential election, losing to Salvador Allende. More
A centrist political party in Chile, advocating for principles of social justice and progressive Christian values. Notable for its influential role in Chile's political history, including the presidency of Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964-1970), who championed significant social reforms and economic modernization during his tenure. More
The democratically elected Guatemalan President (1951–1954) who implemented agrarian reform, leading to his overthrow in a U.S.-backed coup, marking a pivotal moment in the history of Cold War Latin America. More
CEPAL: Established in 1948 to assist Latin American governments with economic development, improving living standards, and strengthening commercial relations, both regionally and globally. Later included Caribbean countries. More
Max Nolff: A friend and colleague of Salvador Allende. A senior executive in Chile's state-run copper company during the Unidad Popular government. His expertise in mineral economics was integral to Allende's nationalization program.
ODEPLAN: An agency founded during the presidency of Eduardo Frei Montalva to systematically organize the country's planning activities. It sought to promote and coordinate planning systems at national, sectoral, and regional levels, devising short-term programs and policies. More
Codelco: Originated from the Chilean government's Copper Office, established in 1955, transformed into the Copper Corporation of Chile (Codelco) in 1966, and nationalized in 1971. More
Raúl Prebisch: Argentine economist known for his contributions to structuralist economics, including the Prebisch-Singer thesis that posits developing countries should diversify their economies to avoid over-reliance on commodity exports. More
The Chilean government's Production Development Corporation, founded in 1939 to promote economic growth and responsible for nationalizing and managing diverse sector enterprises during Salvador Allende’s presidency. More
Chilean economist and politician who served as Minister of Economy under Salvador Allende, architecting the economic policy of nationalization and industrialization known as the "Chilean Path to Socialism." More
Chilean politician, economist, and planner who developed the 'situational planning' approach and influenced Latin American strategic planning. More
A group from the University of Chicago's Department of Economics, known for promoting free-market principles, monetarism, and deregulation. More
Argentine scientist who made significant contributions to the field of science and technology policy, emphasizing the social responsibility of scientists. MORE
Brazilian anthropologist, politician, and writer known for his studies on indigenous cultures and commitment to education. He championed efforts to reduce socio-educational inequalities and preserve cultural diversity. More
Brazil's democratically elected President, overthrown in a 1964 military coup due to his progressive policies and alleged leftist sympathies. More
A German-American economic historian and sociologist recognized for his work on dependency theory and world systems theory, focusing on Latin America. More
A trusted advisor and media liaison to President Salvador Allende, known for his ardent defense of Allende's policies. Died in La Moneda Presidential Palace during the 1973 military coup. More
Originally appointed by President Salvador Allende as commander-in-chief of the Chilean army, he led the military junta that overthrew Allende, initiating a 17-year dictatorship marked by human rights abuses. More
A Chilean lawyer and influential socialist politician, served as the general secretary of the Chilean Socialist Party from 1971 to 1979. More
El Estado y los problemas tácticos en el Gobierno de Salvador Allende
(2018) Salvador Allende's government as a path to democracy and social justice in Chile.Link to site
Allende y la experiencia chilena
(2013) On Salvador Allende's government and events leading to the 1973 coup in Chile.Link to site