Remembering the 1973 coup in Chile

by Jack Price

Sept. 11 has an additional significance. That date in 1973, now 40 years ago, marked a coup in Chile, which overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. The coup, a project of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, ushered in 17 years of the Pinochet dictatorship.

Official human rights reports have established that more than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared during the Pinochet years. Some 40,000 more were tortured, among them Michelle Bachelet and her mother. Dr. Bachelet became president after the restoration of democracy and is currently a presidential candidate. Thousands more went into exile, several of whom became friends of mine.

I have been deeply involved with Chile solidarity and human rights since 1977.

Ten years ago, on the 30th anniversary of the coup, the Civic Media Center screened the powerful Costa-Gavras film, “Missing” starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek at the Hippodrome. The movie tells the story of Charles Horman, an American filmmaker working for the Allende government. Horman became missing in the wake of the coup, and so he is today, his body probably having been tossed into the Pacific or down a mine shaft. His widow, Joyce Horman, has been pursuing truth and perhaps a measure of justice all these years. She created the Charles Horman Truth Foundation and has organized an ambitious event in New York City on Sept. 9. I urge you to visit the website.

Through heroic efforts in Chile and extraordinary international solidarity, democracy has been restored, and Chile’s courts have begun meting out jail sentences for human rights abuses. But details of the U.S. involvement in the coup and the deaths of several American citizens remain veiled.

To read more about the U.S.-backed coup in Chile, check out Joyce Horman’s article, “Missing Charlie, 40 Years Later,” in the September 2013 issue of the Progressive.

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