Salvador Allende, a Marxist and member of the Socialist Party of Chile, ran for the presidency in the 1952, 1958, and 1964 elections. In 1970, he finally won in a close three-way race. Upon assuming power he began to implement programs of nationalisation of industries including copper mining and banking, government administration of the health care & educational systems, free milk for children in the schools and shanty towns of Chile, and land redistribution.
Some of his policies included rights to social security granted to all part-time workers, 55,000 volunteers were sent to the south of the country to teach writing and reading skills and provide medical attention to a sector of the population that had previously been ignored, introduction of an obligatory minimum wage for workers of all ages including apprentices, a campaign against illiteracy, democratisation of univeristy education and establishment of the Women’s Secretariat to improve women’s rights & gender equality. These policies had a huge positive impact, for instance average real wages rose by 22.3% during 1971, an 89% rise in university enrollments between 1970 and 1973 and the proportion of children under the age of 6 with some form of malnutrition fell by 17%. See here for a comprehensive list.
A number of factors contributed to animosity in Chile, including racial tensions between the poor descendants of indigenous people - who supported Allende’s reforms - and the white elite, inflation, a severe fall in the price of copper (Chile’s largest export), a 24-day strike led by truckers, whom the Chileand economy was dependant upon, the domination of the Chilean congress by the Christian Democratic Party (who were becoming more and more right-wing), as well as CIA intervention and economic terrorism spearheaded by the US.
From 1962 through 1964, the CIA spent $3 million on anti-Allende propaganda. In 1970, Richard Nixon, then President of the USA (pictured above) authorised the spending of $10 million to stop Allende coming to power. The United States attempted to rig the 1970 election, financed opposition parties, encouraged the Chilean military to perform a coup & provided them with weapons and supported strikes to de-stabalise the Chilean economy. In addition ITT gave $700,000 to Allende’s conservative opponent, Jorge Alessandri, with help from the CIA on how to channel the money safely. ITT president Harold Geneen also offered $1 million to the CIA to help defeat Allende in the elections. In contrast to this, Soviet economic support to Chile included over $100 million in credit, three fishing ships which distributed 17,000 tons of frozen fish to the population, factories (as help after the 1971 earthquake), 3,100 tractors, 74,000 tons of wheat and more than a million tins of condensed milk.
Allende’s leftist policies and friendly relations with the Soviet Union were seen as a spread of communism to Latin America by the US. On September 11th, 1973 the democratically elected Allende was overthrown in the US-backed coup. Earlier that month, Allende had proposed solving the constitutional crisis with a plebiscite, however this was never seen through. His speech outlining such a solution was scheduled for 11th September, the day of the coup, but couldn’t be delivered. La Moneda Palace was shelled by artillery & missile fire, and Allende committed suicide with an assault rifle. 60 people died as a result of the fighting that day. Chilean security forces sustained 162 dead in the three following months as a result of continued resistance against the newly formed military dictatorship.
His successor, Augusto Pinochet (pictured above), was the head of a military dictatorship that lasted until 1990. During his rule 1,200-3,200 were murdered, 80,000 people were forcibly interned and as many as 30,000 were tortured. Trade Unions were banned along with all opposing political parties, social security was privatised, economic inequality & unemployment rose dramatically, GDP per capita dropped from ~$6,000 in 1973 to ~$4,200 in 1975, again dropping with the 1982 monetary crisis and only returning to pre-coup levels in 1987. 56% of people voted against his presidency in 1988, and by the time of his death in 2006 300 criminal charges were pending against him including human rigts violations, tax evasion and embezzlement of $28 million.