from the book

The CIAs Greatest Hits

by Mark Zepezauer


In 1973, the CIA destroyed the oldest functioning democracy in South America. Twenty years later, the agency is still trying to deny its involvement.

The CIA intervened massively in Chile's 1958 and 1964 elections. In 1970, its fears were realized-the socialist candidate, a physician named Salvador Allende, was elected president.

Horrified, President Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Allende's inauguration. The agency did its best to promote a military coup, but the Chilean military's long history of respect for the democratic process made this virtually impossible. One of the main impediments was the Chilean army's chief of staff, General Rene Schneider, so the CIA plotted with fanatics in the military to assassinate him. The killing backfired, solidifying support for Allende, who took office as scheduled.

That approach having failed, the CIA was ordered to create a "coup climate." ("Make the economy scream," President Nixon told CIA Director Helms.) CIA-backed acts of sabotage and terror multiplied. The agency trained members of the fascist organization Patria y Libertad (PyL) in guerrilla warfare and bombing, and they were soon waging a campaign of arson.

The CIA also sponsored demonstrations and strikes, funded by ITT and other US corporations with Chilean holdings. CIA-linked media, including the country's largest newspaper, fanned the flames of crisis. The military's patriotism was gradually eroded by endless stories about Marxist "atrocities" like castration and cannibalism, and rumors that the military would be purged or "destroyed" and Soviet bases set up.

When the coup finally came, in September 1973, it was led by the most extreme fascist members of the military, and it was unrelenting in its ferocity. Allende was assassinated (some CIA apologists maintain he committed suicide-by shooting himself with a machine gun!). Several cabinet ministers were also assassinated, the universities were put under military control, opposition parties were banned and thousands of Chileans were tortured and killed, many fingered as "radicals" by lists provided by the CIA.

Under the military junta headed by General Pinochet, torture of dissidents became routine, particularly at a gruesome prison called Colonia Dignidad. It drew expatriate Nazis from all over South America, one of whom told a victim that the work of the Nazi death camps was being continued there.

No wonder the CIA tries to deny it was involved in the Chilean coup. It turned a democratic, peace loving nation into a slaughterhouse.

CIAs Greatest Hits

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