Chile: The Forgotten Past is Full of Memory

excerpted from the book

State Terrorism and the United States

From Counterinsurgency to the War on Terrorism

by Frederick H. Gareau

Clarity Press, 2004, paper


The CIA revealed that as early as 1964 American businessmen with interests in Chile offered the agency money to prevent Allende from being elected... The agency refused the money, but advised the businessmen how they could funnel the funds to opposition candidates. It admitted secretly creating political action programs, political workshops, and "mechanisms" for 'placements" in radio and news media, and conducting what it chose to call "spoiling operations" against the Allende forces. "The overwhelming objective-firmly rooted in the policy of the period was to discredit Marxist-leaning political leaders, especially Dr. Salvador Allende, and to strengthen and encourage their civilian and military opponents to prevent them from assuming power. "

Nonetheless on September 4, 1970 Allende was successful in the general elections in his third bid for the presidency of Chile. While he garnered only 36.2 percent of the vote, it was a three-cornered race, and he received a plurality of the popular vote. The constitution of Chile required congressional approval before a plurality winner could assume office. On September 15, 1970 six weeks before the Chilean Congress was scheduled to vote, "President Nixon informed the DCI (the Director of Central Intelligence) that an Allende regime in Chile would not be acceptable to the United States. He instructed the CIA to prevent Allende from coming to power or unseat him...

"Under 'Track II' of the strategy the CIA sought to instigate a coup to prevent Allende from taking office after he won a plurality in the(4 September) election(and before... the Chilean Congress reaffirmed his victory.') Numerous contacts were made with key military and national police officers to persuade them to carry out a coup. The U.S. Army's attaché was placed under the operational control of the agency, and he relayed similar messages to his military contacts. Four CIA officers were sent under non-official cover to meet with the most sensitive of the Chilean military officers who were plotting the coup. The agency worked with three groups of plotters. All three conspiring groups agreed that any successful coup would require the kidnapping of General Rene Schneider, a staunch defender of constitutional government. Although the agency agreed with this assessment and although it provided weapons to two of the groups, it could find no evidence that the agency or any of the groups sought to kill the general. He was mortally wounded by one of the groups that supposedly sought to kidnap him, evidently by the group led by General Viaux. General Schneider's death shocked the armed forces and those civilians intent on a coup, and plans for military action were put on hold.

On October 24, 1970 the Chilean Congress approved of Allende by a vote of 153 to 35, and soon thereafter he was inaugurated. Allende himself was a socialist and an admitted Marxist, and his coalition government included other leftists and the communist party. The CIA report reveals that the coming to power of this coalition government resulted in a shift in Washington's policy. Its long-term objective then became to keep the opposition active so that it would prove victorious in the 1976 election. The CIA's role "was primarily to provide funds and influence opposition political parties." It supported two conservative parties, and it continued its propaganda activities, inter alia by "media placements" in support of opposition parties and against the Allende regime. Covert funding during the Allende regime totaled $6.5 million. But a strategy of encouraging, supporting, or perhaps even inaugurating a coup was not ruled out. "The CIA was instructed to put the U.S. Government in a position to take future advantage of either a political or military solution to the Chilean dilemma, depending on how developments unfolded."

Asserting that it did not instigate the successful coup of September 11, 1973, the agency [CIA] allowed that it was aware of military coup-plotting. Indeed, it maintained ongoing intelligence collection relations with some of the plotters, and it "probably appeared to condone" the coup. If the CIA document was hesitant to state bluntly that Washington's policy was to support the coup, the issue was cleared up in a statement by Secretary of State Cohn Powell in February of 2003. While trying to pressure Chile, then serving as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, to support a resolution calling for a war on Iraq, Powell admitted that encouraging the coup that brought Pinochet to power for 17 years was "not part of American history we are proud of. Santiago expressed pleasure at hearing the remark.

Making the Chilean Economy "Scream"

Washington's efforts to undermine the Allende government were not confined to the activities of the CIA. These efforts contained a large economic component. As the architect of "Nixon's secret policy" toward Allende, [Henry] Kissinger originated the idea of an economic blockade The prospects for its success were good. since Chile depended upon the United States for supplies for its industries.

In contrast to its economic policy toward Santiago, Washington did not reduce military aid and sales nor curtail its military training program during the Allende years. Actually, both were increased. The number of Chilean officers trained at the School of the Americas in Panama increased from 63 to 107 in the period from 1966 to 1969.13 During the Allende years from 1970 to 1973 this number increased from 181 to 257. The number for 1974 was 260. Military assistance and sales totaled 3.2 million in 1970, increased to 8.9 million in 1971, and reached 13,5 million in 1972.

The purposes of the aid and training went beyond the functional and the technical, however, to include the establishment and maintenance of fraternal relations between the personnel of the two military establishments. In the words of Colonel Narin, the director of the School of the American Fleet, "We are in contact with our graduates and they are in contact with us." Cooperation between Washington's and Santiago's military intelligence services was maintained and Washington's military attaches continued to have access to the highest Chilean officials.

On the morning of the coup President Allende arrived early at work in the La Moneda Palace, because he had been forewarned of troop movements in Valparaiso. At dawn the palace was surrounded by police forces and at ten A.M. by tanks from an armored regiment. After capturing a local radio station, the junta used it to announce its first decrees and to warn that the palace must be evacuated by 11 A. M. Otherwise, the palace would be bombed. The first decree of the junta was read by a military spokesman who said in part:

First, the President of the Republic must immediately surrender his office to the armed forces and the carabineros of Chile. Second, the armed forces and carabineros are united in order to begin the historic and responsible mission to fight for the liberation of the Fatherland, and to prevent our country from falling beneath the Marxist yoke.

Allende gave those in the palace the choice of staying or leaving. His closest aides, his security guards, and officials of the investigative police chose to stay. The bombing started at 11:52, and this set the palace on fire. Allende did have a chance to address the nation on television:

This will be my last opportunity to speak to you.. Given these developments I can only say to the workers: I am not going to resign. Set upon a historic path, I will pay for my loyalty to the people with my life ...These are my final words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain.

These were, indeed, his final words to the nation. According to the Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, he committed suicide a few hours after the successful coup to overthrow him. With Allende's death went the demise of what has often been called the first freely elected Marxist president. Also battered, if not murdered, was the Chilean myth that the inhabitants of this South American country are the "Englishmen of Latin America." According to the myth, political violence, torture, and massive human rights violations are reserved for the "banana republics." The national anthem of

Chile adds to the myth with the claim that the country is an asylum for the oppressed. This is, or was, a South American variation of the myth of national "exceptional ism," still in vogue in the United States.

The Pinochet Regime

The Pinochet dictatorship was installed in 1973, and it lasted until 191 "Actually, however, what emerged was a new institution, unprecedented in Chile: the President of the Republic/Commander in Chief." Pinochet ruled and administered the country and presided over the junta. Without him no laws could be passed, nor could the constitution be amended. He was also the commander in chief of the army, and his powers were enhanced by the fact that the country was in a state of emergency during practically the whole period. He took over the executive branch, dissolved the legislative branch, and prohibited leftists parties in 1973 and all other parties in 1977.

Pinochet preserved the judiciary, but the judiciary did not preserve the human rights of Chileans-this, because this branch of government lacked the necessary dedication to human rights and because of the restrictions put on it by the army. Most members of the Supreme Court sympathized with the dictatorship. The dictatorship issued decrees, for example, forbidding habeas corpus for political crimes. The media were censored, recalcitrant newspapers were closed, and some journalists disappeared. Much of the media preferred to stay open by engaging in self-censorship. The class bias of the regime was shown by its treatment of labor unions. A decree of December 10, 1973 ordered labor unions to refrain from all political activity. Meetings were allowed only if they were of an informational nature or if they were concerned with the internal management of the institutions. Moreover, the nearest police station had to be notified in writing two days in advance of such meetings. The president/commander in chief accepted an economic plan for the country formulated by a young group of liberal and neoliberal economists who had done post graduate work in economics at American universities, notably the University of Chicago. Pinochet imposed the plan against all who resisted it, "granting its authors the power, support, and time they said they needed to apply it." The Pinochet years thus represented a period of right-wing dictatorship, motivated by an anti-labor bias and the class struggle.

... the guerrillas were responsible for a total of 99 victims during the three periods into which the commission divided its study, i.e., during the entire Pinochet dictatorship. These 99 victims constitute 4.3 percent of the total victims. The government was responsible for the remaining 2180 victims, 95.7 percent of the total. The Pinochet years appear to be much better described as a period of government repression rather than guerrilla terrorism, similar to Guatemala and El Salvador. The evidence presented in the report undermines the Pinochet government's attempt to rationalize its repressive behavior by contending that it was engaged in counterinsurgency warfare, an unorthodox type of warfare ...


National Intelligence Directorate (DINA)

The commission singled out a group within the military whose ideas and activities had a singular impact upon the human rights record of the Pinochet regime. Composed mostly of army majors and colonels, it was remarkably coherent in its anti-communist sentiments and later in its activities as well. Formed on the day of the coup, it was called the "colonels committee." It functioned for a few weeks after that in the Military Academy, but it became the "DINA Commission" in November 1973, and in June 1974 it was upgraded to the level of a government agency and called the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA). An army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Juan Manuel Contreras, formulated the plan for its creation as a government institution, and he served as its head during the three years of its existence." All three military branches gave their approval prior to its formation, and the police provided personnel as well. Civilians were hired, but the highest positions were held by army officers, and a few by navy and air force officers. The commission revealed that doctors were hired not merely to take care of sick victims, but also to assess the ability of victims to withstand torture.

DINA was an intelligence organization, responsible for collecting information, but it was also an operational institution. It was the agency directly responsible for most of the political repression that occurred during its life span, during the most oppressive years of the dictatorship.

Lieutenant Colonel Contreras, the founder and head of DINA, had tended the Army Career Officers School in Fort Belvoir, Virginia for two years .41 it . was not unusual for a Chilean officer to attend a military school in the United States. The CIA publication CIA Activities in Chile revealed that: "Thousands of Chilean military officers came to the United States for training, which included presentations on the impact of global communism on their own country. 1143 A sizeable number attended the School of the Americas when it was located in Panama. Between 1966 and 1974 this number totaled 1,437.

Evaluating the Extent of Washington's Complicity

Washington's training of thousands of military personnel from Chile who later committed state terrorism again makes Washington eligible for the charge of accessory before the fact to state terrorism. The CIA's close relationship during the height of the terror to Contreras, Chile's chief terrorist (with the possible exception of Pinochet himself), lays Washington open to the charge of accessory during the fact. That he was a graduate of an American military school and received at least one payment from the agency makes the charge more plausible.

But the extent of Washington's role was further clarified, albeit tangentially, as the commission examined the ideology of DINA. Since the commission did not find a written statement of the ideology of DINA, it sought to deduce it from DINA's behavior and from the information it received from outside the country. Of course, DINA was anti-communist. But the commission went beyond this obvious observation. It identified two ideologies which motivated DINA-a lesser one, national security and a major one, counterinsurgency doctrine. It characterized national security as a distorted doctrine, one that puts this value above ethics. Little more than a revival of what was once called raison d'etat, in extreme cases it allows the rights of the individual to be sacrificed by reason of an alleged general national interest. The commission pointed out that the counterinsurgency doctrine developed in Latin American against a background that featured the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla focos (units or foci) were to be established by the likes of Guevara in many rural and urban settings in all of Latin America. There was also to be a coordinating agency for these guerrilla focos, either in Havana or Moscow. In this view, counterinsurgency would establish its own focos in these settings. Then, in one of its few references to the United States, the commission mentioned almost in passing what is in fact a major indictment of Washington's role, not simply in training generations of officers, but in supervision of their activities related to the actual suppression of purported insurgencies in Chile and elsewhere. The commission noted that their anticipation of insurgency:

led a number of governments, and especially that of the United States, to start a counterinsurgency drive. Just like the focos, counterinsurgency was both local in nature in each country and centralized through a degree of coordination between all Latin American countries. The United States took charge of the over all coordination, [italics added] and to that end it took advantage of the fact that generations of officers from the various Latin American countries were passing through its military training schools each year.

Washington's service as the overall coordinator of state terrorism in Latin America demonstrates the enthusiasm with which Washington played its role as an accomplice to state terrorism in the region. It was not a reluctant player. Rather it not only trained Latin American governments in terrorism and financed the means to commit terrorism; it also encouraged them to apply the lessons learned to put down what it called "the communist threat." Its enthusiasm extended to coordinating efforts to apprehend those wanted by terrorist states who had fled to other countries in the region. This much is known. How centralized the coordination was is a more difficult question to answer. How much influence was exercised by Washington in the decision to commit terrorism is a much harder question to answer. Of course, the actual commission of state terrorist acts was in the hands of terrorist governments and their agents. The evidence available leads to the conclusion that Washington's influence over the decision to commit these acts was considerable.

Just as counterinsurgency doctrine is designed to fight the guerrilla, so counter-terror doctrine is designed to fight the terrorist. Both rationalize the use by "our side" of what are said to be the terrorist tactics of the adversary. Guerrilla warfare, so the counterinsurgency doctrine alleged, is not a minor type of conflict as its name implies in Spanish or Portuguese. (After all, the word is the diminutive for guerra, whose meaning in both of these languages is war.)) It is genuine warfare. Moreover, its practitioners are said to be hypocritical in that they do not declare it, or they even disavow it. The governments that promote it deny that they are in any way responsible for it. Guerrillas are seen as showing no respect for the laws of war or for ethical principles: they take no prisoners, and they torture, practice terrorism, and destroy productive property. Governments must be made to understand the threat posed by the guerrillas and to confront guerrilla warfare with its own methods lest these governments place themselves at a disadvantage. The fundamental values of the country, the nation, and the state are at stake.

When high level officials in Santiago realized the harm that DINA was causing the regime, it was terminated, and a new agency was put in place to fulfill the same function. On August, 13 1977 DINA was replaced by the National Center for Information (CNI), which took over the staff, the buildings, and the other property of its predecessor, but was put under the authority of the Interior Minister rather than the junta .411 CNI was mandated to gather intelligence, but also to safeguard national security and the established institutional order. If DINA was the chief instrument of terrorism during its existence, so was CNI from its birth to he end of the Pinochet dictatorship ...

Terror and Torture by the Pinochet Regime

The CNI's use of torture was systematic, but more selective than that of DINA, an agency that tortured practically everyone that passed through its hands. Torture in its hands continued to be mainly the use of electric shocks especially on the sensitive parts of the body, beatings of all kinds, and threatened asphyxiation through emersion in water. Perhaps because it initiated the practice of torture immediately after the coup or because it did more of it, the commission spent more space on the torture activities of DINA than on those of the CNI. The former institution included, along with beatings, humiliations, insults, degrading conditions of confinement, being held blindfolded, and being fed poorly for an extended period. Electric shocks were customarily administered with the help of the "grill," a metal bed spring to which the victim was tied. The electricity was applied to the sensitive parts of the body, favorite spots being the lips and the genitalia. By having a close relative or a favorite friend tortured close by, perhaps in the same J bunk bed, a psychological dimension would be added to the operation.

The Chilean government carried out its executions principally by the of knives and automatic rifles with silencers. Most of the prisoners who had disappeared were taken from their secret locations and executed close to the places where their bodies were to be buried or thrown.° The commission added that witnesses testified to another method of execution. It 'consisted in taking prisoners out while asleep or drowsy from heavy sedation and putting them onto a helicopter and dropping them into the ocean after first cutting their stomachs open with a knife to keep the bodies from floating."

Throughout the post-coup period, the CIA collected and disseminated extensive reporting concerning human rights issues in Chile to the intelligence and policy communities. Washington thus was aware of the state terrorism and other forms of government repression committed by the Pinochet regime.

Given that they knew about the terrorism of this regime, what did the elites in Washington during the Nixon and Ford administrations do about it? The CIA report stated:

After Pinochet came to power, senior policy makers appeared reluctant to criticize human rights violations, taking to task US reacted by increasing diplomats urging greater attention to the problem. US military assistance and sales grew significantly during the years of greatest human rights abuses. According to a previously released Memorandum of Conversation, Kissinger in June 1976 indicated to Pinochet that the US Government was sympathetic to his regime, although Kissinger advised some progress in human rights in order to improve Chile's image in the US Congress.

The elites in Washington reacted by increasing U.S. military assistance and sales to the state terrorists, by covering up their terrorism, by urging U.S. diplomats to do so also, and by assuring the terrorists of their support, thereby becoming accessories to state terrorism before, during, and after the fact. The report of the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation painted a similar picture of Washington's early policy ...

The Republican administrations of Nixon, Ford, and Reagan were more supportive of the Pinochet dictatorship than the Democratic administration of Carter. Ensalaco points out that the Nixon and Ford administrations took no action to punish the Pinochet dictatorship for its human rights violations. 70 In fact they circumvented the efforts of Congress to curtail economic and military assistance to Chile.

Before Reagan appointed Jeanne Kirkpatrick as the United States ambassador to the United Nations, she had become famous for her benign view of rightwing dictators. In a visit to Chile in August 1981, she refused to meet with Jaime Castillo, the director of the Chilean Human Rights Commission. During the Reagan years the ban on military assistance and sales to Santiago was lifted, and joint exercises with the Chilean navy were resume.

Although they are purported to be standard bearers of democracy, France, the United Kingdom, and Israel were suppliers of military hardware to the Pinochet dictatorship. Israel was included, because other research has shown that Israel often supplies aid to rightwing dictatorships and is the country that votes most often with Washington in the General Assembly. The seven states chosen as the standard for upholding human rights were found in the study of Jack Donnelly entitled International Human Rights. He discovered that this type of state is staunch in its support of traditional human rights, and is also hospitable to the idea of accepting economic rights as human rights. The seven states are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Other evidence that at least the Netherlands and the three Scandinavian states Norway, Sweden, and Denmark should be eligible for nomination as good world citizens is provided by the level of their contributions to third world development. They were the only countries in 2002 that had fulfilled their promise of providing 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product for aid to such development. Washington ranked 22nd on the list, contributing 0.1 percent of its gross domestic product to this cause.

For years, the Pinochet dictatorship engaged in a sustained and deliberate campaign of a physical and psychological nature whose purpose was to intimidate and coerce victims by causing them intense fear, anxiety, apprehension, panic, dread, and/or horror. The terrorism was under the overall supervision of General Pinochet himself, assisted at the height of the terror by his right hand man, General Contreras and systematically applied by the state for political ends. A measure of this terror was the means adopted for "destroying a political party" --not merely by the destruction of the party's structure but by targeting and killing the party's activists in order to coerce and intimidate not only those party stalwarts who survived direct terrorist attacks, but also other less avid members and the public at large.

To what extent was the terror essentially state terror committed by the government or private terror committed by the guerrillas? The commission found that the former was the case, not the latter. Similar to the commissions in Guatemala and El Salvador, the data gathered indicated that the government was responsible for 95.7 percent of the victims identified, the guerrillas for the remaining 4.3 percent. Moreover, the commission concluded that those who were killed and disappeared were overwhelmingly leftists and guerrillas, which suggests that the perpetrators were predominately from the other end of the ideological spectrum. A further breakdown of the victims

During its campaign of state terrorism, Chile received economic and military aid and diplomatic support from Washington. Military aid was significantly increased during the height of this campaign. The CIA publication cited above affirmed that Washington trained thousands of the Chilean military and that the training included the charge of the possible dire impact of global communism upon their country. Other sources indicated that this training was often in counterinsurgency warfare and that this prepared the students for the terror that they later committed. Recruits were taught that guerrillas show no respect for the laws of war or for ethical standards, took no prisoners, tortured and practiced terrorism. The recruits were taught to confront guerrillas with what were purported to be their own methods, lest they place themselves at a disadvantage. Gradually, the lesson was learned: ethical standards have no place in this work.

State Terrorism and the United States

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