Augusto Pinochet was a Chilean Army General who ruled the country from September 11, 1973 to March 11, 1990. On September 11, 1973 he led a coup d’état deposing the democratically-elected President, Salvadore Allende.
The United States was instrumental in creating conditions for the coup and in helping Pinochet consolidate power after the coup. When Chile elected Allende President in 1970 the U.S. cut off foreign aid. The Nixon administration covertly funded independent and non-state media and labor unions.
In 1970 the CIA provided $50,000 in cash, three submachine guns, and a satchel of tear gas to active and former military personnel for the purpose of kidnapping General René Schneider, the chief commander of Chile’s army, and an opponent of any attempted coup. However, during the kidnapping attempt Schneider attempted to defend himself and was shot four times, then died in a military hospital three days later.
The death of Schneider produced the opposite of the intended effect of the kidnapping. The people of Chile rallied around President Allende. The CIA recovered the submachine guns and money it had provided and paid hush money to at least one of the coup plotters to cover up its involvement.
From 1970-73, the US continued to cultivate contacts in Chile’s military, attempted to divide Allende’s supporters, financed anti-Allende propaganda campaigns, supported opposition political parties, and published materials accusing Allende of undermining democracy and seeking connections with Cuba and the Soviet Union.
In 1973, after three years of undermining President Allende’s government, the U.S. learned about the coming attempted coup. Although the U.S. apparently did not provide cash or guns this time, they suggested to the conspirators that they would look with favor on a coup and privately took credit for creating the conditions for it.
After the coup, the U.S. helped fabricate a conspiracy against the Allende government, which Pinochet was then portrayed as preventing. Although criticizing the coup in public, the U.S. provided material support for the military regime in secret.
The United States also backed Operation Condor, a campaign of political repression, state terror, and assassination of opponents conducted by right-wing dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. The United States government provided planning, coordinating, training on torture, technical support, and military aid. Although the precise numbers of victims is hard to prove, some estimate that tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands were imprisoned by the various countries involved.
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