U.S. vs. Chile’s Socialist Experiment
Steven Volk notes that Salvador Allende “promised to lead Chile through a peaceful transition to socialism, using the legal system of Chile to establish a new economic and political order.” After taking office, Allende quickly began a program of nationalizing Chile’s copper mines and incorporating many industries into the “social sector.” A doctor, he instituted a free milk program for malnourished children. He called for a policy of international independence. And the popular support for his Popular Unity (UP) government continued to grow as measured by strong electoral results in interim municipal and congressional elections.
Washington’s attitude was encapsulated in Henry Kissinger’s famous remark just before Allende was elected in 1970: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.” In August 1971 Washington denied Chile Export-Import Bank credits. A year later a Washington-backed truck owners strike paralyzed the country. A military coup failed in June 1973, provoking worker occupation of many factories. On September 11, 1973, the Pinochet coup—heartily welcomed and supported by the United States—finally destroyed Chile’s experiment in socialist democracy.