On June 29, 1973, Coronal Roberto Souper led his tank division in an isolated attack on La Moneda, the Presidential Palace, in the hope that other units of the armed forces would join in. The June coup had initially been planned for the morning of September 27 by Patria y Libertad as well as by several high ranking military officers. The plans were found out by Military Intelligence and the coup was called off at 6pm on the 26th. A warrant for the arrest of Coronal Souper had been issued. Confronted with knowledge of his impending arrest, Colonel Souper in consultation with the officers under his command, decided to act in a most improvised fashion. At 9 am, amidst morning rush hour traffic, Tank Division Number Two drove down Bernardo O’Higgins, Santiago’s main down-town avenue towards the Presidential Palace.
While the aborted June Coup had the appearance of an isolated and uncoordinated initiative, there was evidence of considerable support in various sectors of the Navy as well as from Air Force General Gustovo Leigh, now [September 1973] member of the military junta [on 11 September General Leigh integrated the military Junta headed by General Pinochet]. According to well-informed sources, several high ranking officers in the aero-naval base of Quintero near Valparaiso had proposed the bombing of State enterprises controlled by militant left wing groups, as well as the setting up of an air corridor to transport navy troops. The latter were slated to join up with the forces of Colonel Souper in Santiago.
The June trial coup was useful, indicating to the seditious elements within the Chilean Armed Forces that an isolated and uncoordinated effort would fail. After June 29, the right-wing elements in the Navy and the Air Force were involved in a process of consolidation aimed at gaining political support among officers and sub-officers. The Army, however, was still under the control of Commander in Chief General Carols Prats, who had previously integrated Allende’s cabinet and who was a firm supporter of constitutional government.
Meanwhile in the political arena, the Christian Democrats were pressuring Allende to bring in members of the Military into the Cabinet as well as significantly revise the programme and platform of the Unidad Popular. Party leaders of the government coalition considered this alternative [proposed by the Christian democrats] as a « legalized military coup» (golpe legal) and advised Allende to turn it down. Carlos Altamirano, leader of the Socialist Party had demanded that an endorsement of the programme of the Popular Unity coalition by the military be a sina qua non condition for their entry into the Cabinet. Upon the impossibility of bringing in the Military into the Cabinet on acceptable terms, Allende envisaged the formation of a so-called “Cabinet of Consolidation” composed of well known personalities. Fernando Castillo, rector of the Catholic University and a member of the Christian Democratic Party, Felipe Herrera, President of the Inter-|American Development Bank and other prominent personalities were approached but declined.
Pressured by economic deadlock and the transport strike, inflation of more than 15 percent per month and mounting political opposition, Allende sought in the course of July  to resume the political dialogue with the Christian Democratic Party. After the March  parliamentary elections, Patricio Aylwin had replaced Renan Fuentealba [May 1973] as leader of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). Fuentealba, who represented the progressive wing of the Christian Democratic (PDC), was known to be in favor of a rapprochement with Allende. In other words, this rightward shift and hardening of the Christian Democrats in relation to the Unidad Popular, contributed to reinforcing their tacit alliance with the ring wing National Party. This alliance was initially intended as an electoral pact in the March  parliamentary elections in which the Unidad Popular obtained 43 percent of the popular vote.
The Dialogue between Allende and Alwyin was a failure. Aylwin stated :
“I have no trust in the democratic loyalty of the Marxist parties because they do not believe in Democracy. They have an inherent totalitarian conception. We are convinced that the democratic path will not solve the underlying economic problems…”
The Communist Party Senator and prominent intellectual Volodia Teitelbaum response was:
“The Christian Democrats are not that innocent. Basically they are in favor of a coup d’Etat because it constitutes a means to conveniently obtaining political power. The Christian Democrats have moved to the Right. They are not interested a Dialogue which implies a consolidation of revolutionary changes”
While the Right was becoming more cohesive, a political split of the Left was imminent. The Communist Part sided with Allende’s constitutional strategy while a section of the Socialist Party (Allende’s own Party) led by Carlos Altamirano and the MAPU (Movimiento de Accion Popular Unitaria -initially a group of Christian Democrats which joined the Unidad Popular in 1969) led by Oscar Garreton, signified their distrust in “bourgeois legality” and the constitutional process and moved increasingly closer to the leftist revolutionary front Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR). MIR maintained ideological and strategic relations with Cuban revolutionary groups as well as with the Bolivian and Uruguayan Tupamaros. While endorsing many features the programme of the Unidad Popular, the MIR rejected Allende’s “Chilean Road to Socialism” :
“We must create popular power (poder popular) based on the industrial belts (cordones industriales)” .
The cordones industriales were organized and politicized labor groups. Together with MAPU, MIR was in the process of developing the Grupos de Accion Urbana (Urban Action Groups), with the task of educating and preparing the masses for armed resistance in the case of a military coup.
Purges in the Armed Forces
In August , the Armed forces initiated a series of violent search and arrests directed against the MIR and state enterprises integrated by the industrial belts (cordones industriales). These searches were conducted in accordance with the Fire Arms control Act, adopted by [the Chilean] Congress after the October [1992 employers] strike and which empowered the Armed Forces [bypassing the civilian police authorities] to implement (by Military Law) the control of fire arms. [The objective of this measure was to confiscate automatic weapons in the members of the industrial belts and curb armed resistance by civilians to a military coup].
Meanwhile, right-wing elements in the Navy and Air Force were involved in actively eliminating Allende supporters by a well organized operation of anti-government propaganda, purges and torture. On August 7 , the Navy announced that a “subversive left wing group” integrated by MIR had been found out. Meanwhile, according to reliable sources, a seditious plan of the Right with the intent to bring down Allende’s government, using the Navy to control the entry of supplies into the country, had been discovered. Sailors and officers [within the Navy], who knew about these plans, were tortured and beaten.
The Role of the Political Right
[In August 1973], high ranking military officers and members of Patria y Libertad, met with Senator Bulnes Sanfuentes of the National Party. Admiral Merino now [September 1973] a member of the Junta participated in meetings with members of National Party, senators of the Christian Democratic Party and staff of the US embassy. In fact towards mid-August , In FACT, towards mid-August, a motion declaring US ambassador Nathaniel Davis as persona non grata was drafted by a parliamentary committee of the Unidad Popular. Furthermore, the Armed Forces were colluding with the Ultra-Right by setting up a so-called Base operacional de Fuerzas especiales (BOFE) (Operational Base of Special Forces). BOFE units were integrated by member of the nationalist front Patria y Libertad.
BOFE units were paramilitary divisions receiving material and financial support from the Armed forces. They were intended to undertake subversive and terrorist activities, which the Armed Forces could not openly undertake. BOFE was responsible for the many bomb attacks on pipelines, bridges and electric installations in the months preceding the military coup of September 11 .
General Prats’ Resignation from the Armed Forces
On August 9, Allende reorganized his cabinet and brought in the three joint chiefs of staff, Carlos Prats (Army), Cesar Ruis Danyau (Air force) and Raul Montero (Navy) into a so-called “National Security Cabinet”. Allende was only intent upon resolving the Transport Strike, which was paralyzing the country’s economy, he was anxious to gain whatever support was left within the Armed Forces.
The situation was not ripe for a military coup as long as General Carol Prats was member of the cabinet, commander in Chief of the Army and Chairman of the Council of Generals. Towards mid-August, the armed forces pressured Allende and demanded Prats’ resignation and retirement ” due to basic disagreements between Prats and the Council of Generals”. Allende made a final attempt to retain |Prats and invited General Prats, Pinochet (now [September 1973] head of the Military Junta), Bonilla now Minister of the Interior), and others for dinner at his private residence. Prats resigned officially on August 23, both from the Cabinet and from the Armed Forces: “I did not want to be a factor which would threaten institutional discipline.. or serve as a pretext to those who want to overthrow the constitutional government”
The Generals’ Secret Meeting
With General Carlos Prats out of the way, the road was clear for a consolidated action by the Army, Navy and Air Force. Prats successor General Augusto Pinochet convened the Council of 24 generals in a secret meeting on August 28. The purpose and discussion of this meeting were not made public. In all likelihood, it was instrumental in the planning of the September 11 military coup. The reshuffle of Allende’s National Security Cabinet took place on the same day (28 August). It resulted after drawn out discussions with party leaders of the Unidad Popular coalition, and in particular with Socialist Party leader Carlos Altamirano.
The following day, August 29, Altamirano in a major policy speech made the following statement:
“We hope that our Armed Forces have not abandoned their historical tradition, the Schneider Doctrine … and that they could follow a course leading to the installation of a reactionary Brazilian style [military] dictatorship … We are convinced that our armed forces are not prepared to be instrumental in the restoration of the privileges of the financial and industrial elites and landed aristocracy. We are convinced that if the Right wing golpe (coup) were to succeed, Chile would become a new Vietnam.”
On the weekend preceding the military coup, leaders of the National Party and Christian Democratic Party made major political statements, declaring Allende’s government illegal and unconstitutional. Sergio Onofre Jarpa of the National Party declared:
“After the Marxist downfall, the rebirth of Chile! … We will continue our struggle until we see out of office those who failed to fulfill their obligations. From this struggle, a new solidarity and a new institutional framework (institucionalidad) will emerge.”
A few days later, the Presidential Palace was bombed and Allende was assassinated. The rebirth of Chile, and a new institutional framework had emerged.
Santiago de Chile, September 1973 [written in the days following the coup]
Originally published by Globalresearch.ca.
Author: Michel Chossudovsky
Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (emeritus) at the University of Ottawa, Founder and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, Editor of Global Research. He has taught as visiting professor in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Latin America. He has served as economic adviser to governments of developing countries and has acted as a consultant for several international organizations. He is the author of eleven books including The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003), America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005), The Global Economic Crisis, The Great Depression of the Twenty-first Century (2009) (Editor), Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War (2011), The Globalization of War, America’s Long War against Humanity (2015). He is a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. In 2014, he was awarded the Gold Medal for Merit of the Republic of Serbia for his writings on NATO’s war of aggression against Yugoslavia.