A hammer and sickle stamped on your child's forehead
excerpted from the book
by William Blum
When Salvador Allende, a committed Marxist, came within three
percent of winning the Chilean presidency in 1958, the United
States decided that the next election, in 1964, could not be left
in the hands of providence, or democracy.
Washington took it all very gravely. At the outset of the
Kennedy administration in 1961, an electoral committee was established,
composed of top-level officials from the State Department, the
CIA and the White House. In Santiago, a parallel committee of
embassy and CIA people was set up.
"U.S. government intervention in Chile in 1964 was blatant
and almost obscene," said one intelligence officer strategically
placed at the time. "We were shipping people off right and
left, mainly State Dept. but also CIA, with all sorts of covers."
All in all, as many as 100 American operatives were dedicated
to the operation.
They began laying the groundwork for the election years ahead,
a Senate investigating committee has disclosed, "by establishing
operational relationships with key political parties and by creating
propaganda and organizational mechanisms capable of influencing
key sectors of the population." Projects were undertaken
"to help train and organize 'anti-communists"' among
peasants, slum dwellers, organized labor, students, the media,
After channeling funds to several non-leftist parties, the
electoral team eventually settled on a man of the center, Eduardo
Frei, the candidate of the Christian Democratic Party, as the
one most likely to block Allende's rise to power. The CIA underwrote
more than half the party's total campaign costs, one of the reasons
that the Agency's overall electoral operation reduced the U.S.
Treasury by an estimated $20 million-much more per voter than
that spent by the Johnson and Goldwater campaigns combined in
the same Year in the United States. The bulk of the expenditures
went toward propaganda.
The operation worked. It worked beyond expectations. Frei
received 56 percent of the vote to Allende's 39 percent. The CIA
regarded "the anti-communist scare campaign as the most effective
activity undertaken", noted the Senate committee. This was
the tactic directed toward Chilean women in particular. As things
turned out, Allende won the men's vote by 67,000 over Frei (in
Chile men and women vote separately), but amongst the women Frei
came out ahead by 469,000... testimony, once again, to the remarkable
ease with which the minds of the masses of people can be manipulated,
in any and all societies.
What was there about Salvador Allende that warranted all this
feverish activity? What threat did he represent, this man against
whom the great technical and economic resources of the world's
most powerful nation were brought to bear? Allende was a man whose
political program, as described by the Senate committee report,
was to "redistribute income [two percent of the population
received 46 percent of the income] and reshape the Chilean economy,
beginning with the nationalization of major industries, especially
the copper companies; greatly expanded agrarian reform; and expanded
relations with socialist and communist countries."
A man committed to such a program could be expected by American
policy makers to lead his country along a path independent of
the priorities of US foreign policy and the multinationals. (As
his later term as president confirmed, he was independent of any
other country as well.)
"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country
go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people."
Thus spoke Henry Kissinger, principal adviser to the President
of the United States on matters of national security. The date
was 27 June 1970, a meeting of the National Security Council's
40 Committee, and the people Kissinger suspected of Imminent Irresponsibility
were Chileans whom he feared might finally elect Salvador Allende
as their president.
The United States did not stand by idly. At this meeting approval
was given to a $300,000 increase in the anti-Allende "spoiling"
operation which was already underway. The CIA trained its disinformation
heavy artillery on the Chilean electorate, firing shells marked:
"An Allende victory means violence and Stalinist repression."
Black propaganda was employed to undermine Allende's coalition
and support by sowing dissent between the Communist Party and
the Socialist Party, the main members of the coalition, and between
the Communist Party and the [communist dominated]CUTCh.
Nevertheless, on 4 September Allende won a plurality of the
votes. On 24 October, the Chilean Congress would meet to choose
between him and the runner-up, Jorge Alessandri of the Conservative
National Party. By tradition, Allende was certain to become president.
The United States had seven weeks to prevent him from taking
office. On 15 September, President Nixon met with Kissinger, CIA
Director Richard Helms, and Attorney General John Mitchell. Helms'
handwritten notes of the meeting have become famous: " One
in 10 chance perhaps, but save Chile! ... not concerned with risks
involved ... $10,000,000 available, more if necessary ... make
the economy scream.
Funds were authorized by the 40 Committee to bribe Chilean
congressmen to vote for Alessandri, but this was soon abandoned
as infusible, and under intense pressure from Richard Nixon, American
efforts were concentrated on inducing the Chilean military to
stage a coup and then cancel the congressional vote altogether.'
At the same time, Nixon and Kissinger made it clear to the CIA
that an assassination of Allende would not be unwelcome. One White
House options-paper discussed various ways this could be carried
Meanwhile, the Agency was in active consultation with several
Chilean military officers who were receptive to the suggestion
of a coup. (The difficulty in finding such officers was described
by the CIA as a problem in overcoming "the apolitical, constitutional-oriented
inertia of the Chilean military.) They were assured that the United
States would give them full support short of direct military involvement.
The immediate obstacle faced by the officers was the determined
opposition of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Rene Schneider,
who insisted that the constitutional process be followed. He would
have to be "removed".
In the early morn of 22 October the CIA passed "sterilized"
machine guns and ammunition to some of the conspirators. (Earlier
they had passed tear gas.) That same day Schneider was mortally
wounded in an attempted kidnap (or "kidnap") on his
way to work. The CIA station in Santiago cabled its headquarters
that the general had been shot with the same kind of weapons it
had delivered to the military plotters, although the Agency later
claimed to the Senate that the actual assassins were not the same
ones it had passed the weapons to.
The assassination did not avail the conspirators' purpose.
It only served to rally the army around the flag of constitutionalism;
and time was running out. Two days later, Salvador Allende was
confirmed by the Chilean Congress. On 3 November he took office
The stage was set for a clash of two experiments. One was
Allende's "socialist" experiment aimed at lifting Chile
from the mire of underdevelopment and dependency and the poor
from deprivation. The other was, as CIA Director William Colby
later put it, a "prototype or laboratory experiment to test
the techniques of heavy financial investment in an effort to discredit
and bring down a government."
Although there were few individual features of this experiment
which were unique for the CIA, in sum total it was perhaps the
most multifarious intervention ever undertaken by the United States.
In the process it brought a new word into the language: destabilizatlon.
"Not a nut or bolt [will] be allowed to reach Chile under
Allende", warned American Ambassador Edward Korry before
the confirmation. The Chilean economy, so extraordinarily dependent
upon the United States, was the country's soft underbelly, easy
to pound. Over the next three years, new US government assistance
programs for Chile plummeted almost to the vanishing point, similarly
with loans from the US Export-Import Bank and the Inter-American
Development Bank, in which the United States held what amounted
to a veto; and the World Bank made no new loans at all to Chile
during 1971-73. US government financial assistance or guarantees
to American private investment in Chile were cut back sharply
and American businesses were given the word to tighten the economic
What this boycott translated into were things like the many
buses and taxis out of commission in Chile due to a lack of replacement
parts; and similar difficulties in the copper, steel, electricity
and petroleum industries. American suppliers refused to sell needed
parts despite Chile's offer to pay cash in advance.
Multinational ITT, which didn't need to be told what to do,
stated in a 1970 memorandum: "A more realistic hope among
those who want to block Allende is that a swiftly deteriorating
economy will touch off a wave of violence leading to a military
In the midst of the near disappearance of economic aid, and
contrary to its warning, the United States increased its military
assistance to Chile during 1972 and 1973 as well as training Chilean
military personnel in the United States and Panama. The Allende
government, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, was
reluctant to refuse this "assistance" for fear of antagonizing
its military leaders.
Perhaps nothing produced more discontent in the population
than the shortages, the little daily annoyances when one couldn't
get a favorite food, or flour or cooking oil, or toilet paper,
bed sheets or soap, or the one part needed to make the TV set
or the car run; or, worst of all, when a nicotine addict couldn't
get a cigarette. Some of the scarcity resulted from Chile being
a society in transition: various changeovers to state ownership,
experiments in workers' control, etc. But this was minor compared
to the effect of the aid squeeze and the practices of the omnipresent
American corporations. Equally telling were the extended strikes
in Chile, which relied heavily on CIA financial support for their
In October 1972, for example, an association of private truck
owners instituted a work-stoppage aimed at disrupting the flow
of food and other important commodities, including in their embargo
even newspapers which supported the government (subtlety was not
the order of the day in this ultra-polarized country). On the
heels of this came store closures, countless petit-bourgeois doing
their bit to turn the screws of public inconvenience- and when
they were open, many held back on certain goods, like cigarettes,
to sell them on the black market to those who could afford the
higher prices. Then most private bus companies stopped running,
on top of this, various professional and white-collar workers,
largely unsympathetic to the government, walked out, with or without
Much of this campaign was aimed at wearing down the patience
of the public, convincing them that "socialism can't work
in Chile". Yet there had been worse shortages for most of
the people before the Allende government-shortages of food, housing,
health care, and education, for example. At least half the population
had suffered from malnutrition. Allende, who was a medical doctor,
explained his free milk program by pointing out that "Today
in Chile there are over 600,000 children mentally retarded because
they were not adequately nourished during the first eight months
of their lives, because they did not receive the necessary proteins."
Financial aid was not the CIA's only input into the strike
scene. More than 100 members of Chllean professional associations
and employers' guilds were graduates of the school run by the
American Institute for Free Labor Development in Front Royal,
Virginia-"The Little Anti-Red Schoolhouse". AIFLD, the
ClA's principal Latin America labor organization, also assisted
in the formation of a new professional association in May 1971:
the Confederation of Chilean Professionals. The labor specialists
of AIFLD had more than a decade's experience in the art of fomenting
economic turmoil (or keeping workers quiescent when the occasion
called for it).
CIA propaganda merchants had a field day with the disorder
and the shortages, exacerbating both by instigating panic buying.
All the techniques, the whole of the media saturation, the handy
organizations created for each and every purpose, so efficiently
employed in 1964 and 1970, were facilitated by the virtually unlimited
license granted the press: headlines and stories which spread
rumors about everything from nationalizations to bad meat and
undrinkable water ... "Economic Chaos! Chile on Brink of
Doom!" in the largest type one could ever expect to see in
a newspaper ... raising the specter of civil war, when not actually
calling for lt., literally ... alarmist stories which anywhere
else in the world would have been branded seditious ... the worst
of London's daily tabloids or the National Enquirer of the United
States appear as staid as a journal of dentistry by comparison.
The government contingency plans were presumably obtained
by the Agency through its infiltration of the various parties
which made up Allende's Unidad Popular (UP) coalition. CIA agents
in the upper echelons of Allende's own Socialist Party were "paid
to make mistakes in their jobs" In Washington, burglary was
the Agency's tactic of choice for obtaining documents. Papers
were taken from the homes of several employees of the Chilean
Embassy; and the embassy itself, which had been bugged for some
time, was burgled in May 1972 by some of the same men who the
next month staged the Watergate break-in.
In March 1973, the UP won about 44 percent of the vote in
congressional elections compared to some 36 percent in 1970. It
was said to be the largest increase an incumbent party had ever
received in Chile after being in power more than two years. The
opposition parties had publicly expressed their optimism about
capturing two-thirds of the congressional seats and thus being
able to impeach Allende. Now they faced three more years under
him, with the prospect of being unable, despite their best and
most underhanded efforts, to prevent his popularity from increasing
During the spring and summer the destabilization process escalated.
There was a whole series of demonstrations and strikes, with an
even longer one by the truckers. Time magazine reported: "While
most of the country survived on short rations, the truckers seemed
unusually well equipped for a lengthy holdout." A reporter
asked a group of truckers who were camping and dining on "a
lavish communal meal of steak, vegetables, wine and empanadas"
where the money for it came from. "From the CIA," they
There was as well daily sabotage and violence, including assassination.
In June, an abortive attack upon the Presidential Palace was carried
out by the military and Patria y Liberatad..
In September the military prevailed. "It is clear,"
said the Senate investigating committee, "the CIA received
intelligence reports on the coup planning of the group which carried
out the successful September 11 coup throughout the months of
July, August, and September 1973."
The American role on that fateful day was one of substance
and shadow. The coup began in the Pacific coast port of Valparaiso
with the dispatch of Chilean naval troops to Santiago, while US
Navy ships were present offshore, ostensibly to participate in
joint maneuvers with the Chilean Navy. The American ships stayed
outside of Chilean waters but renamed on the alert. A US WB-575
plane-an airborne communications control system-piloted by US
Air Force officers, cruised in the Chilean sky. At the same time,
American observation and fighter planes were landing at the US
air base in Mendoza, Argentina, not far from the Chilean border.
Washington knows no heresy in the Third World but independence.
In the case of Salvador Allende independence came clothed in an
especially provocative costume-a Marxist constitutionally elected
who continued to honor the constitution. This would not do. It
shook the very foundation stones upon which the anti-communist
tower is built: the doctrine, painstakingly cultivated for decades,
that "communists" can take power only through force
and deception, that they can retain that power only through terrorizing
an brainwashing the population. There could be only one thing
worse than a Marxist in power-an elected Marxist in power.