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What Was Chile Really Like under Salvador Allende’s Rule?

By: Nelson Albino - Sep 22, 2016, 11:36 am
(Espaces) Salvador Allende
People never talk about the nearly three years that Allende was in power, nor how he became the President of Chile. (Espaces)

EspañolSeptember 11, 2016 marked the 43rd anniversary of the military coup that successfully ousted Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende.

Every year, progressive groups use this date as an opportunity to remind us about the atrocities and human rights violations committed during the regime of the military junta, led by Army General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.

When people talks about Salvador Allende, they generally take into account what happened on September 11, 1973, and after. People never talk about the nearly three years that Allende was in power, nor how he became the President of Chile.

In order to do this, we must go back to 1970, the year in which Allende won the presidential elections. He did not win by majority vote, but by decision of the National Congress.

The candidates running for the presidency in those elections were: Salvador Allende, representing Unidad Popular (Popular Unity); Jorge Alessandri, independent candidate backed by the center-right coalition of the National Party and the Radical Democracy; and Rodomiro Tomic, from the center-left Christian Democratic Party.

The results of that election were as follows: Allende took the lead with 1,070,334 votes (36.61 percent); Alessandri was next with 1,031,159 votes (35.27 percent); and Tomic received 821.801 votes (28.11 percent).

Allende’s advantage over Alessandri was only of 39,175 votes, or 1.34 percent. This means the election had to be decided at the Chambers of Congress because Allende did not obtain enough support from the people.

Tomic undoubtedly played a key role in benefiting Allende, since he divided the votes of the anti-Marxist voters, who did not like Allende, but who were not right-wing voters either. Without Tomic on the ballot, these anti-Marxists would have voted for the coalition of Alessandri, and the outcome of the election would have been different.

Tomic handed the presidency to Allende on a silver platter. Tomic asked the legislators from his party to vote for Allende when the election was to be decided in Congress.

While Tomic asked the parliamentarians of his party to vote for Allende, the latter meanwhile threatened the legislators with massive political violence if they did not vote for him. The man who would be later named president called Chilean collectives and workers to take the means of production of the country by force if Congress ended up choosing Alessandri.

Now we are talking about the true colors of the man the international progressive movement has turned into a martyr.

Eventually, the Christian Democrat members of Congress decided to follow Tomic’s request. The latter — a candidate that 71.88 percent of the electorate did not support — and the members of his party awarded Allende with the presidency, without consulting the 34.9 percent of Chileans they represented in the National Congress.

In the end, Allende obtained 153 votes, whereas Alessandri only got 35 votes and seven abstentions. With this result, Allende’s victory was ratified, but only after he agreed to sign a “Statute of Constitutional Guarantees.” In this document, he promised to never alter or violate Chile’s Constitution — something he eventually did.

Allende soon became president and imposed the arbitrary takeover and expropriation of several lands and industries. Chile fell immediately into economic and social chaos that almost led the nation to a civil war.

“Our task is to implement the Chilean road to socialism, a new model for the State, for the economy and the society, centered on the people, their needs and aspirations,” Allende asserted in one speech.

Allende justified the expropriation of lands to farmers, the devaluation of the national currency, price and wage controls and the embezzlement of State coffers. All of this, in addition to the rampant inflation, shortages, and the unlimited rising of public debt, which brought the country to bankruptcy.

“Take Cuba as an example, where the organization of the people is exemplary,” President Allende told Chileans. “They have even had sugar rationing, but in eight or 10 years, Cuba will have the highest social level in Latin America.”

Allende, who promised to never violate the Constitution, later called it a “bourgeois constitution.” This led him to confrontations with the judicial and legislative branches of the country, as well as made him an enemy for the Christian Democrats, who were responsible for handing the presidency over to him.

“I am not the president of all Chileans. I am the president of the Popular Unity,” Allende stated, showing divisive and controversial tactics to defend his anti-constitutional decisions.

“I understand that Mao Tse-tung, as a revolutionary, has sought to destroy the elements that were stopping and neutralizing the revolution. These elements (in Chile) must be identified and eliminated.”

Allende pushed to enact a “constitution of the people,” and a “people’s government.” However, he intended to illegally avoid referendums when the “bourgeois constitution” demanded for such changes.

In the same vein, with the arrival of Marxist guerrillas to Chile, Allende threatened anyone who opposed him or his Popular Unity.

“Chileans are ready to make this country burn and explode, from Arica to Magallanes, in a heroic, liberating and patriotic offensive,” Allende threatened.

There’s no doubt that Allende is not the great Latin American patriot that progressives are trying to sell us on. Allende was a dictator disguised as a charismatic, populist leader.

Chile’s armed forces were able to remove him from power before it became impossible via elections, contrary to what has happened in Venezuela for many years, due to corruption and the tyrannical control of state institutions.