The Puppet and the Puppeteer

After twisting in the wind since his 1998 arrest in London for human rights violations, the noxious bloody former dictator of Chile, General Augusto Pinochet died.

He died after he was allowed to return to Chile for health reasons and was then arrested again for the same crimes. He died exposed as a crook who stole Chilean tax payers’ money and squirreled it away in personal bank accounts. He died shortly after Michele Bachelet, a woman he once imprisoned and tortured and the daughter of an air force general who he tortured and killed, took office as the first woman President of Chile. He died on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2006, 23 years after the people of his country forced him to relinquish power. So it is not surprising that his death and the circumstance under which it occurred were celebrated by human rights activists around the world. But now it is time to turn our attention to Henry Kissinger, the man who was complicit in every crime Pinochet committed.

Kissinger was President Nixon’s national security advisor in 1970 when Salvador Allende, a socialist like Bachelet and her father, was elected President of Chile. “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people,” he said at the time. Kissinger feared that if the Popular Unity government Allende headed was allowed to succeed in carrying out its program to nationalize resources and redistribute income other countries in Latin America would follow suit. That would harm the interests of multinational corporations in the United States upon which Nixon and Kissinger depended for their support. So Kissinger under Nixon’s direction set up a special CIA task force to bring about the coup d’état that brought Pinochet to power.

The coup occurred on September 11, 1973. Anyone interested in the details of how it was engineered should read the 1975 staff report of the U.S. senate committee to study governmental operations. The report is titled Covert Action in Chile 1963-1973 and is available on the web. It tells the story of Kissinger’s role in overseeing the destruction of one of the world’s most vibrant democracies

Indeed, until the 1973 coup Chile had the longest unbroken history of democratic rule of any nation in Latin America. It had a constitution modeled on our own with an elected two house legislature and an elected President. While Allende was President, furthermore, the opposition published six daily newspapers in Santiago with a weekday circulation of 541,000 and controlled the majority of radio stations and most of the newspapers and magazines circulated outside of Santiago. Moreover many of the opposition forces arrayed against the Popular Unity received illegal covert financing and support from Kissinger’s CIA operatives.

Nevertheless, in the municipal elections of 1971 Popular Unity candidates won 51 percent of the vote and in the congressional elections five months before the coup Allende’s supporters received 43 percent of the vote and picked up six seats in the house and two seats in the senate. By comparison, in the congressional elections of 1965 supporters of his predecessor, Eduardo Frei, received 42 percent of the vote.

After the coup Pinochet censored the press, outlawed all political activity, abolished the congress and labor unions, ordered books to be burned, prohibited the playing of popular music and arrested, tortured and killed thousands of Allende’s supporters. But Pinochet is dead now and will have to be held accountable by a higher authority. Kissinger, however, is alive and giving advice to President Bush about how to promote democracy in Iraq. Isn’t it time he was held accountable in a court of law for his role in the overthrow of Allende and complicity in the crimes committed by Pinochet?

After all Pinochet was the puppet, Kissinger the puppeteer.

PAUL CANTOR was a journalist in Chile before and after the coup. He is now a professor of economics at Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut. He can be reached at: