Monday, May 23, 2011

Exhuming the 1970s American Foreign Policy

I've spent many a September 11 reminiscing about the heavy handed US policies of the 1970s. When I was in university, I worked on researching the coup d'etat in Chile which happened to take place on 11 September 1973. I find the parallels and the meaning behind both days to be something worth examining.

It is telling though, how little American media and Americans nowadays at a whole know or care about Latin American affairs if they don't directly affect our supply of oil or kill our kids, or emigrate illegally (see Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico). This wasn't always so. See in the 1970s, the idea of having a dictatorship that was BFFs with our goverment was far more palatable than a legally elected socialist regime. So the US got into helping fund coups and pretty much endorsing crimes against humanity in parts of Latin America.

Salvador Allende was a physician who championed socialist ethos. His election was fraught with controversy but was won fair and square. The US tried to intervene secretly even before he was inaugurated, and his three years in the office were completely undermined by boycotts and other nasty tricks the CIA used to try to force his hand.

Allende didnt' back down, and on 11 September 1973, the military revolted. Led by Agustin Pinochet (for whom there is, presumably, a nice spot in hell somewhere), they stormed the Presidential Palace (La Moneda) and in the ensuing firefight, Allende was killed. The official story was that he committed suicide, but many who knew him doubted he would have done so.

In January, the Chilean government announced that it had exhumed Allende's body to put to rest whether he killed himself or he was assassinated. (Even if he killed himself, he was still assassinated, clearly.)

I found this article earlier today only in Spanish, and it's telling that the first English link Google came up with for me was from a non-American source. (And the only reason I have the Spanish-language articles is because I added a section on Google News for Chilean news services.)

As I went looking for an article in English for this post, I found also that Nathaniel Davis, the ambassador to Chile in the 1970s, recently died. He was famous for saying that the US wasn't really involved in the coup and the machinations to bring down Allende, but de-classified documents released by the CIA at the beginning of the decade showed otherwise. As the ambassador, Davis may not have known what they were up to, but he was responsible for the safety of Charles Horman, the journalist who went missing in Chile and was one of the desaparacidos - thousands of disappeared people who were ultimately murdered by Pinochet and his regime.

I am curious to see what the results are of this autopsy. If it was a murder, instead of a suicide, does it make that much difference to the people of Chile who were murdered by the thousands after his death? I'd like to think it would bring renewed war criminal charges against people like Henry Kissenger, but I won't hold my breath.

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