Two Tuesdays in September, Colltalers
In November of 1970, while most South and Central American nations were already battling a wave of military coups that would ultimately break the spine of the region’s incipient democracies, Chile elected Salvador Allende, a socialist with an agenda of social reforms and industry nationalizations.
Despite ample popular support among working Chileans and in intellectual and artistic circles, within three years we was facing insurmountable challenges from political elites and business leaders, fully engaged in finding ways of ousting him, even if it’d take external help to make it happen.
Such crucial help came from the U.S., who saw in the budding socialism sprouting at the tiny country shadows of a Cuban style revolution, which of course it was not. As docs now show, Sec. of State Kissinger’s behind-the-scenes maneuvers was all that Chilean militaries needed to stage the coup.
Thus in 1973, at the early hours of another Tuesday 9/11, armed forces bombed and stormed the presidential palace La Moneda, killing Allende and starting Latin America’s bloodiest dictatorship to date, whose main architects have either died or have yet to face the court of the law for their crimes.
Fingerprints of U.S. intelligence services were also all over the car-bomb assassination of Chile’s former ambassador Orlando Letelier in Washington, three years and 10 days after the coup. For Chilean agents contracted for his murder wouldn’t have had a chance without tacit support from the CIA.
The official count of political assassinations orchestrated by the Pinochet regime stands now at over six thousands, plus an unknown number of desaparecidos. But just as in Argentina and other nations, such estimates are far from offering a reliable account of the real number of the dead.
Despite the particular brutality of the regime, though, and its attempts at erasing records of that dark period, Chileans never really stopped pushing for a return to democracy, which came symbolic full circle with the election of a former activist who’d spend years in exile, Michelle Bachelet, in 2006.
Proving that much of what happened during the state-sponsored terror that Chileans had to endure is yet to come to light, there has been some disturbing and also encouraging news about two respected intellectuals of the period, the poet Pablo Neruda and less internationally known songwriter Victor Jara.
By a request from his family, the body of 1971 Nobel of Literature laureate Neruda has been exhumed recently, to quell persistent rumors that he was killed by an undercover agent, instead of dying of cancer, as it was reported at the time. The results so far, however, have been inconclusive.
And last week, the family of Jara, possibly the most famous artist assassinated in the early days of Pinochet’s rule, has filed a lawsuit in a Florida court, against one of the army officers indicted last year by a Chilean judge in his death, who’s been a U.S. resident since the early 1990s.
Wednesday, when most Americans will mark the anniversary of the terrible terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there will be once again much room for teary recriminations against the usual suspects, along with the depressing parade of politicians grandstanding about the carnage for their own interests.
It’s quite possible, though, that for the families of those who perished, or of the first respondents, many still fighting to get health coverage and compensations they deserve, and the thousands related to troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, our official response to the attacks, the date means something else entirely.
Apart from the personal dimension of those still reeling, who wish it all would simply go away, at least the phony and cruel manipulation of their intimate losses for vengeful purposes and gains, there may be a significant amount of humility to be learned from these two great tragedies.
May we consider also their implications to a larger narrative of governments being co-opted by commercial interests and waging unjust wars on our behalf, successfully conspiring against democratically elected leaders, while propping up authoritarian regimes and blocking any dissent.
We’d humbly suggest that we reserve this Sept. 11 to keep to ourselves and friends and family, and avoid these scheduled pre-fab pseudo-somber ceremonies, set mainly to erase any questions about the ‘official version,’ and reinforce a toothless, idealized picture of a past that never was.
It may be our best opportunity yet to show the disconnect between our expectations for a better world, following the heavy price thousands of North and South Americans paid, and the absolute lack of results we got in return for endorsing an strategy based on weapons and political assassinations.
Both Chile and the U.S. survived those events and many others before and since, because of the relentless desire of Chilean and American citizens for peace and understanding, and never because of the wars and massacres and assassinations and institutionalized terror orchestrated in their names.
It’s just relevant that in the eve of yet another attempt at manipulating public opinion in favor of a multi-billion-dollar military adventure, one bound to cause more killings of civilians and slaughtering of public servants, that we turn inward and ponder of what can we do differently this time around.
At Colltales, we see no other way of paying respects to those who were betrayed in their ideals of democracy and peace, 40 years ago south of the equator, as well as Americans who’d never endorse the annihilation of entire villages in faraway corners of the world, just so to avenge the brutal demise of their loved ones.
Let’s not let this one out, let’s insist and demand for peace once and for all. Have a great one. WC