Classified U.S. State Department Documents on the Overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, 1973

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Editors: Rodolfo F. Acuña and Guadalupe Compeán
Date: 2008
Voices of the U.S. Latino Experience
Publisher: ABC-Clio
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 4
Content Level: (Level 5)

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Classified U.S. State Department Documents on the Overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, 1973

When Henry Kissinger (1923—), the U.S. secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, was U.S. National Security Advisor in 1970, he said of the fair election of Chilean President Salvador Allende, “I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people.” President Richard M. Nixon directed the CIA to prevent Allende's inauguration through a military coup which failed because of Allende's popular support. After the failed coup, Chilean Army Chief of Staff Gen. René Schneider (1913–1970) was assassinated, and many believed that the assassination was directed by Washington, D.C. However, Allende took office as scheduled and immediately initiated reforms, including the nationalization of great estates, which were turned over to peasants and small farmers. A military coup d'état directed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) took place in 1973, in which Allende was either assassinated or committed suicide while defending his Socialist government. The right-wing military officers then initiated a reign of terror, assassinating cabinet ministers, placing the universities under martial law, and banning opposition parties. The military rounded up thousands of Chileans who were tortured and killed. The names of many of the victims had been provided by the CIA. The overthrow of Allende ushered in a long period of terror. As a result, many Chileans left their country to come to the United States. The following are two declassified documents that prove U.S. complicity in the overthrow of Allende.



1 October 1973

SITREP #1 dated 26 February 1973 reported, “Chile is a revolution looking for a place to happen … elastic of people's patience will snap with a bang!” Prediction became reality on 11 September. On that day of destiny for Chile, the Armed Forces and National Police, acting in close coordination, staged a coup d'etat against Page [761]  |  Top of ArticlePresident Allende's Marxist Government. Less than eight hours after the initiation of the coup, Allende was dead and a three-year experiment in Marxist joined him in the grave. There are few mourners for Allende or Marxism visible in Chile today.


The Armed Forces decision to forcefully remove the Allende Government from power was made with extreme reluctance and only after the deepest soul-searching by all concerned. Even to we sideline observers, it was obvious the Chilean Military were extremely reluctant to destroy over 100 years of prideful tradition in support of their country's constitution without exhausting every other avenue of solution. Unfortunately there were no other avenues of solution. Chile was on a dead end street. Their rate of inflation was the worst in the history of the world, terrorists and weapons were being illegally introduced into Chile by the CUBANS for USE AGAINST CHILEANS, food resources were near total exhaustion, a nationwide transportation strike had paralyzed the country, numerous other professions were striking in sympathy with the transportation workers, the Armed Forces had been systematically infiltrated by saboteurs who carried not patriotism for Chile in their hearts, but rather fidelity to world Marxism, Chile's children had not been to school for over two months … and so goes the incredible litany of tragedy that was Chile under Allende's Marxism. What perhaps history will ask in retrospect, is not “Why the overthrow of the Allende Government by the Armed Forces,” but rather “Why the Armed Forces waited so long?”…


My first responsibility was to warn the other U.S. families [Vina] to stay undercover and secondly, if possible, got an advisory type radio message off to the Panama Canal from whence evacuation help for U.S. dependents would come if deemed necessary by the U.S. Ambassador. Moving about the city even in military uniform, driving a diplomatic auto and flashing a Chilean Navy I.D. card wasn't easy. Roadblocks had been established at all key intersections, most were armed by nervous young soldiers/sailors with semi-automatic weapons, round in chamber and weapon OFF safe. They had been briefed to expect a violent combat reaction from Marxists forces and itchy trigger fingers were the rule rather then the exception. In my appointed rounds I used back alleys and side streets where possible—where not, maximum discretion coupled with an extremely friendly “Buenos Dios” in my best Irish brogue, managed to reach all but one American family before Russian Roulette game with roadblocks ran out of luck. Apparently final roadblock didn't “sabe” my Irish-Spanish. However, I clearly understood their pointed signals with Grease Guns, which in any language translated into: “Get going, Gringo.” The hour was 0710.


Chile's coup d'etat was close to perfect. Unfortunately, “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades; consequently there were problems. H-hour was not in cement countrywide for 0600, but as often happens in such people-controlled operations, someone doesn't follow the script. For reasons too labyrinth to explain here, H-hour in Santiago was slipped to 0830.

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Original plan called for President Allende to be held incomunicado in his home until the coup was a fait accompli. H-hour delay in Santiago permitted Allende to be alerted at 0730. Allende immediately dashed to the Moneda (palace) under escort of a heavily armed personal security force, Grupo de Amigos Personales [Group of Personal Friends] (GAP). At the Moneda he had access to radio communications facilities which permitted him to personally implore “workers and students, come to the Moneda and defend your Government against the Armed Forces.” The hour was 0830.

Allende's hope was to surround the Moneda with thousands of Chilean students and workers on the supposition the Armed Forces would not shoot their way past unarmed citizens. A somewhat similar ploy had worked during the coup d'etat “rehearsal” on 29 June 1973. It didn't work this time. Military had all roads to Santiago blocked. Lid was on TIGHT inside city. Anyone on streets not wearing right color jersey stood an excellent chance of getting shot.

Allende managed to personally broadcast two “MAYDAY” type messages. The first, at 0830, sounded strong and confident as he summoned the workers and students. The second at 0945 sounded morose, almost as if he was preparing the eulogy for his dying government. It was his last broadcast as the Air Force soon located and rocketed his antennae. The hour was 1015.

Lieutenant Colonel, USMC


TO: The Secretary
FROM: ARA—Jack B. Kubisch

Chilean Executions

On October 24 the Junta announced that summary, on-the-spot executions would no longer be carried out and that persons caught in the act of resisting the government would henceforth be held for military courts. Since that date, 17 executions following military trials have been announced. Publicly acknowledged executions, both summary and in compliance with court martial sentences, now total approximately 100, with an additional 40 prisoners shot while “trying to escape.” An internal, confidential report prepared for the Junta puts the number of executions for the period September 11–30 at 320. The latter figure is probably a more accurate indication of the extent of this practice.

Our best estimate is that the military and police units in the field are generally complying with the order to desist from summary executions. At least the rather frequent use of random violence that marked the operations of these units in the early post-coup days has clearly abated for the time being. However, there are no indications as yet of a disposition to forego executions after military trial.

The Chilean leaders justify these executions as entirely legal in the application of martial law under what they have declared to be a “state of siege in time of war.” Their code of military justice permits death by firing squad for a range of offences, including treason, armed resistance, illegal possession of arms, and auto theft. Sentences handed down by military tribunals during a state of siege are not reviewable by civilian courts.

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The purpose of the executions is in part to discourage by example those who seek to organize armed opposition to the Junta. The Chilean military, persuaded to some degree by years of Communist Party propaganda, expected to be confronted by heavy resistance when they overthrew Allende. Fear of civil war was an important factor in their decision to employ a heavy hand from the outset. Also present is a puritanical, crusading spirit—a determination to cleanse and rejuvenate Chile. (A number of those executed seem to have been petty criminals.)

The Junta now has more confidence in the security situation and more awareness of the pressure of international opinion. It may be a hopeful sign that the Junta continues to stall on bringing to trial former cabinet ministers and other prominent Marxists—people the military initially has every intention of standing up before firing squads. How the military leaders proceed in this area from now on will be influenced to some degree by outside opinion, and particularly by ours, but the major consideration will continue to be their assessment of the security situation.

The Junta has announced that state of siege measures will remain in force for at least another eight months, but they have relaxed the curfew somewhat, removed on-the-spot executions, placed some restrictions on searches, and promised that persons charged with civil offenses committed before the coup will be prosecuted under standard civil procedures. Although the traditional parties are well represented on the commission charged with drafting a new constitution, there is growing apprehension among them that the Junta's “anti-political” orientation will close off normal political activity for a long time to come. Again ruling out any timetable for turning Chile back to the civilians, Junta President Pinochet reinforced these fears by placing much of the blame for the country's present state on politicians in general.

Source: Peter Kornbluh, Chile and the United States: Declassified Documents Relating to the Military Coup, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 8, September 11, 1973, In National Security Archive, George Washington University, .

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX2457400352