Forty-seven years ago, on September 11, 1973, Chilean president Salvador Allende passed away as a violent coup d’etat was taking over the government. Allende is remembered for being one of the first democratically elected Marxist leaders, and for enacting numerous policies in Chile in an attempt to assist working and middle-class citizens, while still wanting to preserve democracy and civil liberties. Allende was Chile’s first socialist president.
“Continue knowing, all of you, that much sooner than later, the great avenues will open through which will pass free men in order to construct a better society. These are my last words having the certainty that this sacrifice has not been in vain,” Allende stated in his final speech, which was broadcasted over Radio Magallanes before he died. His death was officially ruled a suicide in 2011.
Allende worked in politics for much of his life and helped found Chile’s socialist party. Allende first entered politics with a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. He later became a senator in 1945 and served until 1970. Allende ran for president four times and was finally elected in 1970. He faced opposition and attempts to stop his plans from rival parties in Chile and the Nixon administration in the United States, but still adopted socialist policies for Chile.
The coup in Chile that began the day of Allende’s death was led by General Augusto Pinochet, who became the leader after Allende died. Pinochet was a military dictator, infamous for thousands of disappearances and deaths, in addition to human rights violations, during his rule. He ruled for 17 years. The coup was backed by the right-wing Chilean party and the United States government, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA immediately gave economic and military support to Pinochet, Chile’s new leader.
Today, Allende and the violence from the coup are remembered in Chile. One demonstration in particular, in Santiago, honors those who were killed or went missing while Pinochet was in power, including the almost 1000 people who are still missing today. Additionally, many are commemorating Allende, gathering at statues and memorials. Allende was an extremely prominent figure for both Chilean politics and political groups worldwide. His impact reached far, as did the violent impact of the coup that followed his death.