§        In 1973, the military government headed by Pinochet overthrew the democratic government, which was led by freely elected Salvador Allende (Brown 41)

§        The goal of the new economic policy was to encourage the free flow of imports, but the true effects were decreased wages for domestic workers, broken unions, and an inability of domestic businesses to compete (Brown 41)

§        Along with the economic devastation, Chileans were denied political freedoms, arrested, tortured, and disappeared (Brown 41)

§        In the 1980’s, the Reagan administration explained to the overthrow of Allende as simply a part of a long history in Chile of swings between “’military dictatorships and constitutionalism’”; ultimately, the U.S. refused to hold any people or actions accountable in the overthrow of an elected official in Chile (Brown 43-44)

§        However, the Pinochet regime was actually a new type of government for Chile: “a national security state, with a systematic program for dismantling democratic institutions” [A national security state basically asserts that liberal democracy is over and done with, that political parties encourage division, free speech allows for “’alien principles,’” and sees the goals of courts, schools, media, and other institutions as the same as the military (Brown 46)] (Brown 44)

o       Before this particular dictatorship, Chile was quite a stable democracy with only one brief dictatorship by Ibanez from 1927 to 1931 in 150 years (Brown 44)

o       Elections were almost always honest, and Chileans had available outlets for voicing their concerns—political parties, trade union, student organizations and the like (Brown 45)

o       For nearly twenty years before the Pinochet coup, the Marxist party had been freely active and competing in elections since 1938 (Brown 45)

§        The Pinochet coup and dictatorship was also made possible by the United States’ involvement in Chile’s political and economic arenas (Brown 44)

§        When Allende, a Socialist, made a strong showing in the 1958 election, the CIA spent approximately 4 million dollars to oppose and discredit him in the 1964 election; despite this, Allende had an even stronger that year (Brown 45)

§        Allende won the 1970 election, despite U.S.’s “disinformation campaigns” and support of opponents (Brown 45)

§        In 1973, Pinochet and the military overthrew Allende

§        After the overthrow, between 5,000 and 30,000 Chileans were murdered for their beliefs, and by 1975, over 45,000 Chileans had been “politically detained for periods longer than 24 hours,” while more than 140,000 others had been held for briefer periods of time for the purpose of intimidation (Brown 54)

§        It was also during this early period that many Chileans “disappeared” after being detained by DINA, a secret police organization (Brown 54)

§        The only institution that was to some degree remain independent of military control was the Church, though some priests and affiliates were murdered or detained (Brown 56)




Stage of Control


The Popular Unity coalition nominated Salvador Allende Gossens as their canidate for the 1970 presidential election (“Chile”)


After receiving more than 37% of popular votes and Congressional backing, Allende took office (“Chile”)



The Pinochet regime overthrows freely elected Allende


The regime immediately begins altering laws to make actions “legal” (Brown 49)

Open assault on all Allende supporters, including assassinations, tortures, and mass detentions (Brown 47)


Most of the “adversaries” are dead or otherwise out of the way (in excile, disappeared, etc.), all democratic organizations are banned (Brown 47)


Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean ambassador to the U.S. and defense minister under Allende is assassinated in Washington, D.C. (Brown 65)

Regime begins “monetarist economic policies” that encourage a free market, importing, etc., and that also results in decreased wages for domestic workers, destruction of labor unions, and an inability of domestic business to compete (Brown 44, 47-48)


In April, regime announces move to “’new institutionality’” and extends an amnesty to all of those who had committed criminal offenses between 9/11/73 and 3/10/78 under the regime’s state of siege ---- this amnesty, however, pardons both “perpetrators” and “victims” (Brown 49-50)



In April, the regime passes an antiterrorism law that makes punishable “’an attack on the social order, morality, persons, or property’” and that increases punishments for possession of arms and “’illicit association’”---- this assisted the regime by forcing courts to side with the regime (Brown 50)



Chile adopted a new constitution, whose “only claim to legitimacy is its approval by popular vote,” which was highly controversial because of intimidation of the public (Brown 48, 53)



Chile enacts the new constitution and returns to a “state of law” (Brown 48)


Pinochet adds 29 transitory articles to the constitution that expand presidential power (Brown 51)


One of these, article 24, allowed: “persons to be held in their homes or places other than jails for up to twenty days; rights of assembly and free information may be restricted; political opponents of the regime may be expelled or excluded from Chile; and persons may be banished, summarily, for three months or internal exile” (Brown 51)


The Chilean government did leave certain ineffective organizations such as student federations in place, as well appoint their officials to lead labor unions to assist in the appearance of having a democratic government (Brown 55)


Violent abused by the military government begin to again increase (Brown 56)

The Pinochet regime began its “transition to democracy”; an attempt to appear democratic (Brown 48)


National protest movement began, which, though stemming from different groups and organizations, shared a desire for democracy, the dismissal of Pinochet and a new constitution (Brown 48)



The Pinochet regime abandoned attempts to appear democratic and declared a state of siege (Brown 48)


The Pinochet regime approved an anti-terrorist law that allowed anyone associated with what seemed like a terrorist act to be punished (Brown 52)




In Chile’s first presidential election in 19 years, voters elect Christian Democratic Patricio Aylwin (“Chile”)

The End of the Official Pinochet Regime


Pinochet announces his decision to remain commander in chief of the military until 1997 (“Chile)



The former head of Chile’s secret police (the CNI) and his deputy are sentenced to seven and six years for “masterminding” the Letelier assassination (“Chile”)



The Chile Sumpreme Court upholds the convictions, despite Pinochet’s denouncement of them, and the two men are arrested



Pinochet retires from military and takes his seat in the Senate (a provision of the constitution instituted under his regime) (“Chile”)


While in Britian in October, Pinochet is detained because a Spanish judge has charged him with human rights violations and had requested he be extradited to Spain--- the Chilean constitution had prevented Pinochet from being charged in that country (“Chile”)




The highest court in Britain rules than Pinochet can be extradited to Spain in reference to Britain’s human rights agreement signed in 1988 (“Chile”)



Spanish Judge Guzman proceeds with trial

Poetic Justice




§        During both the Ford and Nixon administrations, the CIA was involved in covert operations that opposed Salvador Allende (Brown 64)


§        By September 1976, the U.S. economic aid to Chile was 350.5 million dollars, which made Chile the recipient of the most U.S. aid in all of Latin America (Brown 65)


§        By 1974, however, international attention to the human rights violation in Chile was high, and the U.S. Congress cut economic and military aid to Chile (Brown 66)


§        The Carter administration criticized Pinochet’s regime’s human rights violations, and it was under his administration that the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the State Department made efforts to talk to the relatives of those missing and attempted to disassociate the U.S. from such governments (Brown 65)


§        The Carter administration also, however, accepted the unsubstantial reforms of Chile as having more content than they ever really had (Brown 66)


§        During the Reagan administration, aid to Chile again increased, even after human rights conditions worsened (Brown 66)


§        One of the first actions Reagan took while in office was to lift a Carter sanction against Chile: a ban on military aid, a promise to stop Export/Import bank lending, and a decrease in military contact (Brown 66)


§        Though the U.S. was supposed to vote against lending money to countries with poor human rights records, the Reagan administration helped Chile gain one billion dollars from lenders (Brown 66)


§        In 1981 and 1982, ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick expressed the Reagan administration’s desire to normalize relations with Chile (Brown 67)


§        The Deputy Assistant Secetary of State, Everett Biggs, announced the administration’s desire to resume military aid to Chile in 1982 (Brown 67)


§        Kissinger Encouraged Chile's Brutal Repression

§        US Guilt in Chile



“As documented by Chilean groups, U.N. investigators, Amnesty International, and others, this regime has used torture systematically on political detainees since it took power, experimenting until the secret police [first the DINA and then the CNI] have acquired a scientific level of sophistication” (Brown 60)

§        Torturers interchanged roles to disorient prisoners

§        Torturers video taped pre-torture confessions

§        Torturers used doctors to keep prisoners alive for more torture

§        Torturers used “electric shock to face and genitals, beatings, burnings, near asphyxiations, the maintenance of the prisoner in forced positions, and rape,” as well as psychological torture such as “repeated sexual humiliation, the forced witnessing of another’s torture, threats against spouses and children” (Brown 61).




§ (THE BEST SITE I FOUND!  This site provides chronologies, detailed information on the Pinochet government and agencies of state repression, details on detention centers, and more)




§ (declassified docs relating to Chile and U.S. involvement in the 1973 coup)


§ (excerpt from William Blum’s Killing Hope)



Works Consulted:


Brown, Cynthia.  With Friends Like These: The Americas Watch Report on Human Rights & U.S. Policy in Latin America.

New York: Pantheon, 1985.

“Chile.”  Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000 CD-ROM.  Microsoft: 1993-1999.


Submitted 01/29/01

By Sarah E. Tolbert