Memento Mori

Memento Mori

On September 11, 1973 a military coup – influenced and supported by the US government, including our military and the CIA – overthrew the democratically-elected administration of Salvador Allende, the President of Chile.  Allende was a Socialist, and as recently declassified and published memos reveal, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger had determined from the start that his presidency would not last.  Kissinger called Allende’s Chile “a dagger pointed at the heart of the United States.”  Allende was an anti-Nazi during World War II, in a country that had strong pro-Nazi sentiment and which indeed had a large Nazi Party, among its members a future ambassador and Nazi mystic, and friend of both Hermann Hesse and Carl Jung:  Miguel Serrano.

On September 11, 1973 the coup took place and Allende died in the presidential palace, La Moneda, wearing a helmet and carrying a weapon.  Six years later, I visited Santiago de Chile and saw La Moneda: a ruin still pocked with bullet holes.  Augusto Pinochet, a Chilean general, was now in charge of the country and proclaimed himself “President for Life.”  He disbanded the Chilean Supreme Court, instituted press censorship, closed the universities, and proclaimed martial law among other steps he considered necessary to preserve Chile from the twin evils of Socialism and Communism (two ideologies that are frequently conflated, with serious implications for any ideology deemed even vaguely left of center).

Thus the war against Communism was expanded to include a war against liberalism and democracy: considered as fellow travelers.  While Allende was a champion of the poor, women of the “middle class” demonstrated against him, claiming that his administration had made the price of milk too high, among other outrages. The neighborhood that was the center of those demonstrations was, ironically, Providencia: an upper-class enclave of Chile’s elite.  The covert campaign by American intelligence was designed to rally Chilean women against the leftist regime by saying their gender had been ignored in favor of a male-dominated worker’s party, and telling them that Allende soon would seize their children and send them to indoctrination camps in Cuba.  (Can you say “FEMA”, boys and girls?)

What actually had occurred were CIA-financed trucker strikes in Chile: an attempt to force Allende’s hand by turning his own people against him.  In a country like Chile – more than a two thousand miles long and less than 220 miles at its widest point – truckers are essential delivery systems for everything from food to books.  The demonstrations against Allende were orchestrated by the extreme right:  openly pro-Nazi groups such as Patria y Libertad. But the people returned to the polls during Allende’s administration and voted once again to keep him in power.

Critics of Latin American socialist movements often fail to acknowledge that those movements arose from poverty and despair.  The institutions that were identified most strongly with political and economic oppression – the Church, the Corporations, the Military – had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  God, guns, and gold.  Often, these institutions were also deeply informed by race:  a lighter-skinned upper-class and a racially-diverse (African, Native American) lower-class.  The solution to the rise of Latin socialist movements was to suppress them by any means necessary.  Since Communism was seen as the ultimate evil with the rise of the Soviet Union and China, any movement that was perceived as being tainted or influenced by Marxist-Leninist ideas became a target for destruction.  Rather than solve the social and economic problems at the heart of these movements it was easier to simply arrest, torture and murder their proponents.

This was true throughout the region, and gave rise to the term “banana republic”: a country where more than 90 percent of a nation’s wealth is in the hands of a small elite: what leftist theoreticians like to call the “oligarchy.”

Allende was a friend of Fidel Castro, to be sure.  He was also a friend of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian author who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He was also a friend of Pablo Neruda: Chile’s own Nobel Prize winner and the author of a large oeuvre of poetical works, including Canto General which includes the famous critique of the role of the United Fruit Company in the political and economic dominance of Latin America: a company on whose board sat Allen Dulles and his brother, John Foster Dulles.

Neruda was born in the town of Parral in Chile.  Parral is also the town that boasts Colonia Dignidad.  My readers know all about my visit there in June-July 1979, so I won’t bother you with the details.  Suffice it to say it was a torture and interrogation center for the Pinochet regime that was staffed by Nazis and which served as a sanctuary on the ODESSA network and as a node in Operation Condor.

There was no mention of Neruda in Parral when I was there in 1979.  It was as if he never existed.

Pablo Neruda died on September 23, 1973: twelve days after the coup that saw Allende dead and Chilean democracy in ruins.  He was in the hospital for treatment on September 11, and decided to return to his home because he believed the doctors were poisoning him.  Others – more poetic – say he died of a broken heart.


A little while ago we learned of the death of Leonard Cohen, only a few days after Election Day in the United States.

I leave you with these words from one of his songs, called “Democracy:”

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
As time cannot decay
I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA

La lucha sigue, baby.