United States intervention in Chile
The United States intervention in Chilean politics started during the War of Chilean Independence. The influence of the United States of America in both the economic and the political arenas of Chile has gradually increased over the two centuries since, and continues to be significant.
- 1 Chilean independence
- 2 War of the Pacific
- 3 War scare of 1891
- 4 First half of the 20th century
- 5 1950s and 1960s
- 6 1970 election
- 7 Allende Presidency
- 8 1973 coup
- 9 Pinochet regime
- 10 Later comments and actions by U.S. officials
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Notes
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
The arrival of Joel Roberts Poinsett, in 1811, marked the beginning of U.S. involvement in Chilean politics. He had been sent by President James Madison in 1809 as a special agent to the South American Spanish colonies (a position he filled from 1810 to 1814) to investigate the prospects of the revolutionaries, in their struggle for independence from Spain.
War of the Pacific
The United States tried to bring an early end to the War of the Pacific, mainly because of US business interests in Peru, but also because its leaders worried that the United Kingdom would take economic control of the region through Chile. Peace negotiations failed when a stipulation required Chile to return the conquered lands. Chileans suspected the new US initiative was tainted with a pro-Peruvian bias. As a result, relations between Chile and the United States took a turn for the worse. Chile instead asked that the United States remain neutral, and the United States, unable to match Chilean naval power, backed down.
War scare of 1891
During the 1891 Chilean Civil War, the U.S. backed President José Manuel Balmaceda, as a way to increase their influence in Chile, while the UK backed the Congressional forces. As such, after the defeat of Balmaceda, they were determined to assert their influence in Chilean domestic affairs (then dominated by the victorious Congress) by any means, including war, pushing out British interests in the region.
The incident concerned an attempted arms shipment by the ship Itata from the U.S. to Chile in 1891, destined to assist the insurgent Congressionalist forces. The Itata Incident was the direct cause of the Baltimore Crisis and is one of the reasons that Benjamin Harrison was not reelected to a second term as the President of the United States.
After the Itata left Iquique to return to the U.S., the crew of the Baltimore took shore leave at Valparaiso. During the US sailors' shore leave on October 16, 1891, a mob of enraged Chileans angry about the Itata's capture (among other possible motives), attacked the sailors from the Baltimore. Two sailors were killed and several were seriously wounded. That Valparaiso riot prompted saber-rattling from enraged US officials, threatening war against Chile, which by now was controlled by victorious Congressional forces. War between the U.S. and Chile was ultimately averted when the Chilean government bowed, and while maintaining that the seamen were to blame for the riot offered to pay an indemnity of $75,000 to the victims' families.
First half of the 20th century
United States involvement in Chilean affairs intensified in the early decades of the 20th century. After World War I, the United States replaced Britain as the main superpower controlling most of Chile’s resources, as most economic activity in the country lay in US hands. Such a change prevented Chile profiting from the result of the war and gaining its economic independence. The dependence on the United States formally began in the early years of the 1920s as two major US companies Anaconda and Kennecott took control of the profitable resources. Up until the 1970s, “both industries controlled between 7% to 20% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product”. The conclusion of World War II brought more of the same as Chile could not even exploit the “excess of copper they produced as almost all the copper was marketed through subsidiaries of United States copper firms established in Chile for whom the allied government fixed a ceiling price upon copper products during the course of the war.” As the working class demanded an improvement in their standard of living, higher wages and improved working conditions, the notion that a leftist government could be the solution for the people began to take form.
1950s and 1960s
During the 1950s and 1960s, the United States put forward a variety of programs and strategies ranging from funding political campaigns to funding propaganda aimed at impeding the presidential aspirations of leftist candidate Salvador Allende. Throughout this time, the United States successfully impeded the left-wing parties from gaining power. In the 1958 presidential election, Jorge Alessandri - a nominal independent with support from the Liberal and Conservative parties - defeated Allende by nearly 33,500 votes to claim the presidency. His laissez-faire policies, endorsed by the United States, were regarded as the solution to the country’s inflation problems. Under recommendations from the United States, Alessandri steadily reduced tariffs from 1959, a policy that caused the Chilean market to be overwhelmed by American products. The government’s policies angered the working class, who asked for higher wages, and the repercussions of this massive discontent were felt in the 1961 congressional elections. The president suffered terrible blows, sending the message that laissez-faire policies were not desired. As the “grand total of $130 million from the U.S. banking Industry, the U.S. Treasury Department, the IMF and the ICA” accepted by Alessandri illustrates, laissez-faire policies only made Chile more dependent on the United States.
Presidential candidate Salvador Allende was a top contender in the 1964 election. The US, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), covertly spent three million dollars campaigning against him, before and after the election, mostly through radio and print advertising. The Americans viewed electing Christian Democratic contender Eduardo Frei Montalva as vital, fearing that Alessandri’s failures would lead the people to support Allende. Allende was feared by the Americans because of his warm relations with Cuba and his open criticism of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Furthermore, clandestine aid to Frei was put forward through John F. Kennedy's Latin American Alliance for Progress, which promised "$20 billion in public and private assistance in the country for the next decade." In direct terms, the United States contributed US$20 million to the campaign, but they also sent in about 100 people with assigned tasks to prevent Allende's victory.
According to the 1975 Church Commission Report, covert United States involvement in Chile in the decade between 1963 and 1973 was extensive and continuous. The CIA spent $8 million in the three years between 1970 and the military coup in September 1973, with over $3 million in 1972 alone. Covert American activity was present in almost every major election in Chile in the decade between 1963 and 1973, but its actual effect on electoral outcomes is not altogether clear. Chile, more than any of its South American neighbours, had an extensive democratic tradition dating back to the early 1930s, and even before. Because of this, it is difficult to gauge how successful CIA tactics were in swaying voters.
At a September 8th, 1970 meeting of the 40 Committee, the chairman of the committee as for analysis of asks for analysis of where the US/CIA stand in terms of taking action to prevent Allende from becoming President. William Broe, a high-ranking CIA officer, said Eduardo Frei Montalvo, the 29th President of Chile, is essential to the situation in Chile, regardless of the type of involvement — military or congressional. But Frei seems like he’s not going to do much more than spread rumors about Allende. The 40 Committee asks that CIA collect information and create more intelligence reports to see what can be further done in Chile. The committee decided it was unlikely they were going to be able to influence the Oct 24, congressional election to go against Allende. Helms was also concerned about Allende supporters in the Chilean military, as it seemed they would support Allende. As a result of all this information, the Committee decided they wanted a full analysis of two things: (1.) a cost versus benefit analysis of organizing a military (Chilean) coup; (2.) a cost versus benefit analysis of organizing future oppositions to Allende to topple his influence. This suggestions a level of oversight by Kissinger as he is considering the options between covert and overt operations. 
Four days after the meeting discussed above, a cable between Richard Helms and Henry Kissinger discussed the lack of morale in the US State Department embassy in Chile according to the American Ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry. Kissinger stated in response that he would call another 40 Committee Meeting for the following Monday. Kissinger further stated that, "We will not let Chile go down the drain."
While this committee had already been renamed twice, and would be renamed many more times, the 40 Committee's purpose was to review large scale covert operations proposals. Therefore, the meeting of the 40 Committee in regard to Chile demonstrates that the CIA had intelligence on the region, and Allende's affairs in order to intervene in the interests of the United States and, "not let Chile go down the drain."
Salvador Allende ran again in the 1970 presidential election, winning a narrow plurality (near 37%). U.S. president Richard Nixon stated his fear that Chile could become "another Cuba", and the U.S. cut off most of its foreign aid to Chile and supported Allende's opponents in Chile during his presidency, intending to encourage Allende's resignation, his overthrow, or his defeat in the impending election of 1976. To this end, the Nixon administration clandestinely funded independent and non-state media and labor unions.
The U.S. government had two approaches to fighting Marxism as represented by Allende. "Track I" was a State Department initiative designed to thwart Allende by subverting Chilean elected officials within the bounds of the Chilean constitution and excluded the CIA. Track I expanded to encompass a number of policies whose ultimate goal was to create the conditions that would encourage a coup. "Track II" was a CIA operation overseen by Henry Kissinger and CIA’s director of covert operations, Thomas Karamessine. "Track II" excluded the State Department and Department of Defense. The goal of Track II was to find and support Chilean military officers that would support a coup.
Immediately after the Allende government came into office, the U.S. sought to place pressure  on the Allende government to prevent its consolidation and limit its ability to implement policies contrary to U.S. and hemispheric interests, such as Allende's total nationalization of several U.S. corporations and the copper industry. Nixon directed that no new bilateral economic aid commitments be undertaken with the government of Chile.
The U.S. provided humanitarian aid to Chile in addition to forgiving old loans valued at $200 million from 1971-2. The U.S. did not invoke the Hickenlooper Amendment which would have required an immediate cut-off of U.S. aid due to Allende's nationalizations. Allende also received new sources of credit that was valued between $600 million and $950 million in 1972 and $547 million by June 1973. The International Monetary Fund also loaned $100 million to Chile during the Allende years.
Track I was a State Department plan designed to persuade the Chilean Congress, through outgoing Christian Democratic President Eduardo Frei Montalva, to confirm conservative runner-up Jorge Alessandri as president. Alessandri would resign shortly after, rendering Frei eligible to run against Allende in new elections.
The CIA had also drawn up a second plan, Track II. The agency would find military officers willing to support a coup and provide them with support. They could then call new elections in which Allende could be defeated.
In September 1970, President Nixon found that an Allende government in Chile would not be acceptable and authorized $10 million to stop Allende from coming to power or unseat him. As part of the Track II initiative, the CIA used false flag operatives to approach Chilean military officers, to encourage them to carry out a coup. A first step to overthrowing Allende required removing General René Schneider, the army chief commander. Schneider was a constitutionalist and would oppose a coup d'état. To assist in the planned kidnapping of Schneider, the CIA provided "$50,000 cash, three submachine guns, and a satchel of tear gas, all approved at headquarters...":361 The submachine guns were delivered by diplomatic pouch.
A group was formed, led by a retired general, General Roberto Viaux. Viaux was considered unstable by the U.S. and had been discouraged from attempting a coup alone. The CIA encouraged him to join forces with an active duty general, General Camilo Valenzuela, who had also been approached by CIA operatives. They were joined by an Admiral, Hugo Tirado, who had been forced into retirement after the Tacnazo insurrection. On October 22, Viaux went ahead with a plan to kidnap General René Schneider. Schneider drew a handgun to protect himself from his attackers, who shot him in four vital areas. He died in Santiago's military hospital three days later. This attempted kidnapping and death of Schneider shocked the public and increased support for the Chilean Constitution.
A CIA and White House cover-up obscured American involvement, despite Congressional investigative efforts.:100 The Church Committee, which investigated U.S. involvement in Chile during this period, determined that the weapons used in the debacle "were, in all probability, not those supplied by the CIA to the conspirators."
On September 10, 2001, a suit was filed by the family of Schneider, accusing former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger of arranging Schneider's 1970 murder because he would have opposed a military coup. CIA documents indicate that while the CIA had sought his kidnapping, his killing was never intended.:360 Kissinger said he had declared the coup "hopeless" and had "turned it off". However, the CIA claimed that no such "stand-down" order was ever received.
After Schneider's death, the CIA recovered the submachine guns and money it had provided. Both Valenzuela and Viaux were arrested and convicted of conspiracy after Schneider's assassination. One member of the coup plotters that escaped arrest requested assistance from the CIA, and was paid $35,000, so "The CIA did, in fact, pay "hush" money to those directly responsible for the Schneider assassination—and then covered up that secret payment for thirty years.":34
In 1970, the U.S. manufacturing company ITT Corporation owned 70% of Chitelco, the Chilean Telephone Company, and funded El Mercurio, a Chilean right-wing newspaper. The CIA used ITT as a conduit to financially aid opponents of Allende's government. On 28 September 1973, ITT's headquarters in New York City, was bombed by the Weather Underground for the alleged involvement of the company in the overthrow of Allende.
In the Chilean coup of 1973, Augusto Pinochet rose to power, overthrowing the democratically elected president Salvador Allende. A subsequent September 2000 report from the CIA, using declassified documents related to the military coup, found that the CIA "probably appeared to condone" the 1973 coup, but that there was "no evidence" that the US actually participated in it. This view has been challenged by some historians, who have stated that the covert support of the United States was crucial to the preparation for the coup, the coup itself, and the consolidation of the regime afterward. It has, however, been supported by Mark Falcoff, policy consultant for the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
According to the CIA document "CIA Activities in Chile", dated September 18, 2000,[note 1] during the late summer of 1973, the local CIA station suggested that the US commit itself to support for a military coup. In response, CIA Headquarters reaffirmed to the station that "there was to be no involvement with the military in any covert action initiative; there was no support for instigating a military coup."
On the issue of CIA involvement in the 1973 coup, the CIA document is equally unequivocal:
On 10 September 1973 -- the day before the coup that ended the Allende government -- a Chilean military officer reported to a CIA officer that a coup was being planned and asked for US government assistance. He was told that the US Government would not provide any assistance because this was strictly an internal Chilean matter. The Station Officer also told him his request would be forwarded to Washington. CIA learned of the exact date of the coup shortly before it took place. During the attack on the Presidential Palace and its immediate aftermath, the Station's activities were limited to providing intelligence and situation reports.
The report of the Church Committee, published in 1975, stated that during the period leading up to the coup, the CIA received information about potential coup plots.
The intelligence network continued to report throughout 1972 and 1973 on coup plotting activities. During 1972 the Station continued to monitor the group which might mount a successful coup, and it spent a significantly greater amount of time and effort penetrating this group than it had on previous groups. This group had originally come to the Station's attention in October 1971. By January 1972 the Station had successfully penetrated it and was in contact through an intermediary with its leader.
Intelligence reporting on coup plotting reached two peak periods, one in the last week of June 1973 and the other during the end of August and the first two weeks in September. It is clear the CIA received intelligence reports on the coup planning of the group which carried out the successful September 11 coup throughout the months of July, August, and September 1973.
The Church report also considered the allegation that the US government involved itself in the 1973 coup:
Was the United States DIRECTLY involved, covertly, in the 1973 coup in Chile? The Committee has found no evidence that it was.
There is no hard evidence of direct U.S. assistance to the coup, despite frequent allegations of such aid. Rather the United States - by its previous actions during Track II, its existing general posture of opposition to Allende, and the nature of its contacts with the Chilean military- probably gave the impression that it would not look with disfavor on a military coup. And U.S. officials in the years before 1973 may not always have succeeded in walking the thin line between monitoring indigenous coup plotting and actually stimulating it.
Historian Peter Winn has argued that the role of the CIA was crucial to the consolidation of power that followed the coup; the CIA helped fabricate a conspiracy against the Allende government, which Pinochet was then portrayed as preventing. He states that the coup itself was possible only through a three-year covert operation mounted by the United States. He also points out that the US imposed an "invisible blockade" that was designed to disrupt the economy under Allende, and contributed to the destabilization of the regime. Peter Kornbluh, director of the National Security Archive's Chile Documentation Project, argues in his book The Pinochet File that the US was extensively involved and actively "fomented" the 1973 coup. Authors Tim Weiner, in his book, Legacy of Ashes, and Christopher Hitchens, in his book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger similarly argue the case that US covert actions actively destabilized Allende’s government and set the stage for the 1973 coup. Joaquin Fermandois criticized Kornbluh's "black and white" and "North American centered conception of world affairs", stating that a variety of internal and external factors also played a role and that a careful reading of the documentary record reveals the CIA was largely "impotent".
Conservative scholar Mark Falcoff alleged that Cuba and the Soviet Union supplied several hundred thousand dollars to the socialist and Marxist factions in the government. Peter Winn noted that "the Chilean revolution always kept to its peaceful road, despite counterrevolutionary plots and violence." Moreover, this strong emphasis on nonviolence was precisely to avoid revolutionary terror which had blemished the reputations of the French, Russian and Cuban revolutions.
|Archives and reports|
The U.S. provided material support to the military regime after the coup, although criticizing it in public. A document released by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2000, titled "CIA Activities in Chile", revealed that the CIA actively supported the military junta after the overthrow of Allende and that it made many of Pinochet's officers into paid contacts of the CIA or U.S. military, even though some were known to be involved in human rights abuses.
CIA documents show that the CIA had close contact with members of the Chilean secret police, DINA, and its chief Manuel Contreras (paid asset from 1975 to 1977 according to the CIA in 2000). Some have alleged that the CIA's one-time payment to Contreras is proof that the U.S. approved of Operation Condor and military repression within Chile. The CIA's official documents state that at one time, some members of the intelligence community recommended making Contreras into a paid contact because of his closeness to Pinochet; the plan was rejected based on Contreras' poor human rights track record, but the single payment was made due to miscommunication.
On March 6, 2001, the New York Times reported the existence of a recently declassified State Department document revealing that the United States facilitated communications for Operation Condor. The document, a 1978 cable from Robert E. White, the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, was discovered by Professor J. Patrice McSherry of Long Island University, who had published several articles on Operation Condor. She called the cable "another piece of increasingly weighty evidence suggesting that U.S. military and intelligence officials supported and collaborated with Condor as a secret partner or sponsor."
In the cable, Ambassador White relates a conversation with General Alejandro Fretes Davalos, chief of staff of Paraguay's armed forces, who told him that the South American intelligence chiefs involved in Condor "keep in touch with one another through a U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone which covers all of Latin America". This installation is "employed to co-ordinate intelligence information among the southern cone countries". White, whose message was sent to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, was concerned that the U.S. connection to Condor might be revealed during the then ongoing investigation into the deaths of Orlando Letelier and his American colleague Ronni Moffitt. "It would seem advisable," he suggests, "to review this arrangement to insure that its continuation is in U.S. interest."
The document was found among 16,000 State, CIA, White House, Defense and Justice Department records released in November 2000 on the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and Washington's role in the violent coup that brought his military regime to power. The release was the fourth and final batch of records released under the Clinton Administration's special Chile Declassification Project.
During the Pinochet regime, four American citizens were killed: Charles Horman, Frank Teruggi, Boris Weisfeiler, and Ronni Karpen Moffit. Later on, in late August 1976, the United States Government stated in a State Department Secret Memorandum, that the United States Government did in fact play an indirect role in the death of the American citizen named Charles Horman. The Secret Memorandum states:
“Based on what we have, we are persuaded that: The GOC sought Horman and felt threatened enough to order his immediate execution. The GOC might have believed this American could be killed without negative fall-out from the USG. There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest: U.S. intelligence may have played an unfortunate part in Horman’s death. At best, it was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder by the GOC. At worst, U.S. intelligence was aware the GOC saw Horman in a rather serious light and U.S. officials did nothing to discourage the logical outcome of GOC paranoia.”- Department of State, Secret Memorandum, “Charles Horman Case,” August 25, 1976 (uncensored version) 
On June 30, 2014, a Chilean court ruled that the United States played a key role in the murders of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. According to Judge Jorge Zepeda, U.S. Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis, who commanded the U.S. Military Mission in Chile, gave information to the Chilean government about Horman and Teruggi that resulted in their arrest and execution in the days following the coup. The Chilean Supreme Court sought to have Davis extradited from Florida to stand trial, but he was secretly living in Santiago and died in a nursing home in 2013.
Later comments and actions by U.S. officials
U.S. President Bill Clinton ordered the release of numerous documents relating to U.S. policy and actions toward Chile.  The documents produced by various U.S. agencies were opened to the public by the U.S. State Department in October 1999. The collection of 1,100 documents dealt with the years leading up to the military coup. One of these documents establishes that U.S. military aid to the Chilean armed forces was raised dramatically between the coming to power of Allende in 1970, when it amounted to US$800,000 annually, to US$10.9 million in 1972.
Regarding Pinochet's rise to power, the CIA concluded in a report issued in 2000 that:"The CIA actively supported the military junta after the overthrow of Allende but did not assist Pinochet to assume the Presidency." However, the 2000 report also stated that: "The major CIA effort against Allende came earlier in 1970 in the failed attempt to block his election and accession to the Presidency. Nonetheless, the U.S. Administration's long-standing hostility to Allende and its past encouragement of a military coup against him were well known among Chilean coup plotters who eventually took activities of their own to oust him.
A White House press release in November 2000 acknowledged that "actions approved by the U.S. government during this period aggravated political polarization and affected Chile's long tradition of democratic elections..."
In a 2003 town hall with students, high school student James Doubek asked Secretary of State Colin Powell about the United States support for the coup, to which Powell replied that "it is not a part of American history that we're proud of".
During U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Chile in 2011, some critics asked Obama to apologize for past U.S. support of Pinochet. Obama did not apologize, saying that people need to learn from the past, but move on to the future.
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|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Church Report. Covert Action in Chile 1963-1973 (FOIA)
- National Security Archive's Chile Documentation Project which provides documents obtained from FOIA requests regarding U.S. involvement in Chile, beginning with attempts to promote a coup in 1970 and continuing through U.S. support for Pinochet
- "Make the Economy Scream" famous instruction of Nixon to the CIA about Chile
- CIA activities in Chile (detailed report by the CIA itself)
- Chile and the United States: Declassified Documents relating to the Military Coup, 1970-1976