To read the mainstream media lately you'd think Augusto Pinochet's villainous henchmen, while twirling their pointy black moustaches and snickering maliciously, overthrew a Chilean "President" (Salvador Allende) somewhere on the order of Jimmy Carter. Then they lined up 3000 harmless sociology professors and innocent leftist parliamentarians and shot them, for the sheer heck of it.
The real story, as you might imagine, is a tad more complicated—despite the media/academia Black Legend regarding Chile.
Upon Stalin's death in 1953, Chilean Communists held a "Homage to Stalin" in Santiago's Baquedano theatre where Salvador Allende could hardly contain himself: "Stalin was a banner of creativity, of humanism and an edifying picture of peace and heroism!" he gushed while choking back the tears. "Everything he did, he did in service of the people. Our father Stalin has died but in remembering his example our affection for him will cause our arms to grow strong towards building a grand tomorrow-- to insure a future in memory of his grand example!" *
After assuming power in 1970 (with roughly the same percentage of votes that Hitler garnered in Germany in 1933), the Allende regime's true colors soon manifested. In January 1971, Allende's minister Carlos Altamirano boasted: "We're following the example of the Cuban Revolution and counting on the support of her militant internationalism....represented by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Armed conflict in continental terms remains as relevant today as ever!"
"Hear me loud and clear!" Salvador Allende himself boasted the following month. "We will employ revolutionary violence!"
This was more than an idle boast by Allende. Among the myriad unreported aspects of the Chilean coup were the dozens of "guerrilla" schools being set up throughout Chile by Soviet bloc agents shortly before that coup. Marxist death squads were also roaming Chile, murdering "bourgeois elements" with impunity or with the tacit support of the regime. When Salvador Allende visited Moscow in December 1972, his longest meetings was with Boris Ponomariev, the Kremlin's head of "Irregular Warfare" for the Western Hemisphere.
By 1973, 60 percent of Chile's arable land had been confiscated by the government, often with the aid of these death squads. Rolando Matus and Jacinto Huilipan were among the many farmers who protested Allende's "Agrarian Reform" and wound up kidnapped and murdered.
"In the final analysis only armed conflict will decide who is the victor!" added Allende's governmental ally, Oscar Guillermo Garreton. "Without the complete destruction of the bourgeois character of the state we cannot march on the path of Socialism! The class struggle always entails armed conflict. Understand me, the global strategy is always accomplished through arms!"
Allende's deputy Economic Minister, Sergio Ramos, didn't mince words either: "It's evident," he proclaimed in mid-1973, "that the transition to socialism will first require a dictatorship of the proletariat." "We have no choice," declared Chilean Communist Volodia Teitelboim, "but to act with resolution and a civil war is not a careful affair. It draws targets on both the political and the apolitical." His Communist comrade Luis Corvolan followed up with: "We have never considered the path of the Chilean Revolution to be exclusively an electoral one."
By the time of Pinochet's coup an estimated 31,000 Cuban, Soviet Bloc and Communist operatives infested Chile, including Castro's top terrorist spymasters, Antonio De La Guardia and his (nominal) boss Manuel "Barbarroja" Pineiro. Among the hundreds of Soviet personnel were KGB luminaries, Viktor Efremov, Vasili Stepanov and Nikolai Kotchanov.
The Chilean military had kept scrupulously to their barracks through several leftist -- Democratic Socialist -- regimes. But they recognized Allende's regime as a completely different animal. Pinochet himself, while serving as an instructor at Chile's military academy, had specialized in "geopolitics." What Brezhnev, Castro and their Chilean proxies had lined up for his nation must have struck him as obvious. In light of the proceedings in Poland's Katyn Forest in 1940 and those in Cuba's La Cabana prison in 1959, the prospects for the Chilean military must have struck him as equally obvious.
While conservative pundits have been lauding post-Allende Chile's free-market economic reforms and what in time became a scrupulously democratic government and the freest, most prosperous economy in Latin America, there's been much hand-wringing by these same pundits about the brutal advance work that made it all possible.
From a cushy media pulpit in 2006, this is all too easy. But in September of 1973 Pinochet's men weren't out to score debating points on some fatuous think-thank panel or to win applause on some asinine chat show. They knew their nation was looking up the locked and loaded muzzle of a Stalinist takeover. So they marched into the Chilean OK Corral loaded for (Soviet) Bear. That they managed the messy business with just 3,000 dead, including all collateral damage, will amaze anyone fully informed of what they went up against.
In 1973, Chilean Communists and their Soviet and Castroite proxies were no more inclined to surrender power than Iraqi Baathists are today. The cost of persuading them to do so, as we learn daily in the news, can be onerous--collateral damage and all.
It is comforting to believe that placing daisies into the muzzles of the arms that the Soviets and Castro were pouring into Chile at the time would have persuaded Chile's Marxist death squads and the tens of thousands of foreign communists and terrorists to take up Swedish Socialism and hold hands in a circle while chanting the Beatles' "All You Need is Love." But 20th Centruy history teaches that Communists are extremely jealous of their power and privilege and extremely pitiless against those who would challenge it, or even question it. The millions who wound up in mass graves and Gulags offer stark and ready proof.
From Pilsudski's victory over Communists in Poland to Horthy's in Hungary to Franco's in Spain, history also teaches that when Communists get even a small taste of their own medicine their moaning and whinning and sniveling becomes a worldwide cause celebre. The current anti-Pinochet media orgy shows that nothing has changed.
*(All above quotes and incidents are fully documented in La Agresion Del Oso; Intervencion Sovietica y Cubana en Chile by Gonzalo Rojas Sanches, a Fullbright Scholar and visiting professor at Notre Dame who heads the History Department at Chile's Catholic University.)