The 10th of December will go down in history as the day on which one of the last genociders of Latin America died. Augusto Pinochet passed away this past Sunday in Santiago’s military hospital, a week after being admitted for a myocardial infarction [heart attack] he suffered last week.
Today more than ever, the memory of President Allende comes to mind, along with the thousands of Chileans who were assassinated by the army during Pinochet’s military dictatorship. What a terrible mistake Salvador Allende made, by believing in democracy and the freedom and power of the people. What a terrible mistake the people made by freely choosing a path to the future and gambling on the democratic socialism of Allende’s Popular Unity coalition. The United States couldn’t allow these misjudgments of a confused population. As Henry Kissinger, the then Secretary of State asserted at the time from Washington, “the issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves” and “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people.” The CIA and the Chilean right did the rest. On the 11th of September 1973, Pinochet commanded one of the bloodiest coups in Latin American history.
The results were devastating. Over 4,000 deaths, 30,000 tortured and over a million forced into exile are the official numbers after 17 years of terror, although the number of disappeared add many, many more.
There are many who today will think it unjust that justice had not been done to this assassin, and possibly that’s true. But now is the moment to finally look toward the future in Chile. With the death of Pinochet, the darkest age of Chile’s history is at last put to rest. Today, after over 16 years as an emerging South American democracy, Chileans can finally look ahead without constantly turning their heads recalling the very worst of times.
Today more than ever – the death of Pinochet and the recent election of the Socialist Michelle Bachelet as the first female President of the Republic of Chile – gain more relevance if we remember the last words of Salvador Allende to his people from the presidential palace, La Moneda, just before his death :
Workers of my nation, I have faith in Chile and its destiny.
Other men will go beyond this gray and bitter moment when treason tries to impose itself upon us. Continue to know that, much sooner than later, we will reopen the great promenades down which free men pass, to construct a better society.
Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!
These are my last words and I have certainty that my sacrifice will not be in vain.
Salvador Allende, September 11, 1973