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Roberto Urbano Viaux Marambio (Talca, May 25, 1917- Santiago, September 5, 2005) was a Chilean Army General and the primary planner in two failed coup d'état attempts in Chile in 1969 and 1970. The first was against President Eduardo Frei Montalva and the second aimed to prevent Socialist Salvador Allende's election.
Prior to his involvement in the René Schneider case, Viaux was a very well respected and admired military leader. He became famous when he led a small military insurrection (known as Tacnazo) on October 21, 1969. In that occasion he basically shut himself up with the "Tacna" regiment inside its barracks and went on a strike. He demanded a pay-raise for the Army and the resignation of both the Defense Minister and the Army Commander-in-Chief. After tense negotiations with the government, he deposed his strike when the government promised to study his salary demands and the Commander-in-Chief resigned.
On October 22, 1970 coup-plotters loyal to Viaux attempted to kidnap constitutionalist Chilean Army Commander-in-chief General René Schneider, who was adamantly opposed to any prospect of a coup. The official car was ambushed at a street intersection in the capital city of Santiago, Chile. When General Schneider drew a gun to defend himself, he was shot point-blank several times. Rushed to a military hospital the wounds proved fatal and he died three days later, on October 25. General Viaux was later convicted of involvement with the plot and imprisoned.
Critics of U.S. policy in Chile at the time, including journalist Christopher Hitchens, have accused former U.S. National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger of conspiring with Viaux in the murder of General Schneider. As far as Kissinger's role in the coup, declassified U.S. documents show that while the Central Intelligence Agency had explored the possibility of supporting a Viaux coup, they later decided that his ideology was "far out" and, while maintaining contact with him, did not provide him with direct support. In a declassified October 15 conversation with President Richard Nixon about the matter, Kissinger said, "This looks hopeless. I turned it off. Nothing could be worse than an abortive coup." Although contact with the Viaux group was ended, a cable from CIA headquarters to the Santiago station reveals that the CIA later arranged the delivery of sub-machine guns and ammunition to a group lead by General Valenzuela, but later that day Schneider was shot by the group led by Viaux. The weapons along with $50,000 were later recovered by US military attaché to Chile Colonel Wilmert after he "pistol-whipped" General Valenzuela, who at first refused to hand the money over. Wilmert then drove to Vina del Mar where he threw the sub-machine guns into the Pacific Ocean.
In August 1973, Viaux was released and exiled to Paraguay. He was not involved in the successful 1973 coup, and was only allowed to return to Chile in 1990 by President Patricio Aylwin. He lived quietly in retirement in Santiago, until his death on September 5, 2005.
- CIA, Cable Transmissions on Coup Plotting, October 18, 1970
- information on the plot (Spanish)
- Obituary (Spanish)
- El Mercurio Obituary (Spanish)