Chilean coup d’état: Overthrow of Salvador Allende

The 1973 Chilean coup d’état

The Chilean coup d’état of 1973 was a military takeover that resulted in the overthrow of the democratically-elected socialist President Salvador Allende and the establishment of a dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet.

On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military, led by General Augusto Pinochet, staged a coup against the government of President Salvador Allende. Allende, a Marxist, had been elected in 1970 as the first socialist president of Chile, implementing policies that aimed to nationalize key industries, redistribute land, and address social inequalities. However, his policies led to economic difficulties, political polarization, and growing opposition from the middle and upper classes and the military.

The coup was preceded by a period of unrest, including strikes, protests, and covert actions by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aimed at destabilizing the Allende government. The United States, under President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, had expressed concerns about the spread of communism in Latin America and had provided financial support to opposition groups in Chile.

On the day of the coup, Chilean military forces seized control of strategic locations, including government buildings, radio stations, and the presidential palace, La Moneda. Allende made his last radio broadcast to the Chilean people, declaring his loyalty to the constitution and refusing to surrender. He died later that day in La Moneda, reportedly by suicide.

In the coup’s aftermath, General Pinochet consolidated power suspended the constitution and established a military dictatorship until 1990. Widespread human rights abuses, including the arrest, torture, and execution of thousands of political opponents and the forced exile of many others, marked the Pinochet regime. The coup d’état remains a dark and divisive chapter in Chilean history.