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Salvador Allende Gossens

Salvador Allende Gossens

Salvador Allende Gossens (1908-1973) was President of Chile from 1970 to 1973. He died in the Presidential Palace during the brutal military coup which installed a military dictatorship in Chile in 1973. Allende dedicated his life to the cause of socialism in Chile, serving as a congressman, senator, and government minister during his long public career.

Salvador Allende Gossens was born in Valparaíso, Chile, on July 26, 1908. Allende's family had a long tradition of political involvement in progressive and liberal causes. His father and uncles participated in the reformist efforts of the Radical Party in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His grandfather founded one of the first lay schools in Chile when the Catholic Church claimed hegemony over education. The family also had roots in Chilean freemasonry, with Allende's grandfather serving as a Most Serene Grand Master of the Masonic Order.

In an interview with French Marxist Régis Debray in 1971, Allende also credited an anarchist shoemaker, Juan Demarchi, for contributing to his early political education during his teenage years. In the shoemaker's shop, after school, Allende was introduced to revolutionary theory and the reality of artisan radicalism in early 20th-century Chile.

Following in the footsteps of his uncle Ramon Allende, who was the organizer of Chile's medical services during the country's war with Bolivia and Peru (1879-1883), Salvador Allende began his medical studies at the age of 18 and received his medical degree in 1932. His involvement in university politics as a leader of the Chilean Student Federation found him active in student protests against dictator Carlos Ibáñez (1927-1931), and Allende was arrested on more than one occasion. Allende's brother-in-law was the brother of Marmaduque Grove, leader of Chile's short-lived "Socialist Republic" of 1932. Shortly after Grove's government fell, Allende's father died and at the funeral Allende declared, "I would dedicate my life to the social struggle, and I believe that I have fulfilled that promise."

Allende married Hortensia Bussi, and the couple had three daughters—Paz, Isabel, and Beatriz. His family remained committed to his personal struggles and to his political commitments throughout his life, with Beatriz actually shouldering arms alongside her father in the presidential palace during the 1973 military coup. His wife and other family members continued active resistance to the military government both within Chile and from exile after Allende's death in 1973.

Allende and Chilean Socialism

In 1933 Allende joined more well-known political leaders in founding the Chilean Socialist Party. As leader of the Socialists in Valparaíso, where he worked in public health, Allende was elected to the Chilean Congress as a deputy in 1937 and served as minister of health in a "Popular Front" government in 1939 and again in 1941, when he also assumed a major leadership post in the Socialist Party.

In 1943 Allende led a majority faction of the Socialists out of the Popular Front coalition, breaking with the old Socialist caudillo, Grove. Allende emerged as secretary general of the splintered party. As he was to do for the rest of his life, Allende declared his commitment to Marxism, socialism, democracy, and nationalism—to promote an independent and unique Chilean road to socialism.

From 1945 until his election as president of Chile, Salvador Allende served in the Chilean senate as a leading member of the Socialist Party. He served five years as vice-president of the Senate and two years as its president. In 1952, 1958, and 1964 Allende was the presidential candidate of leftist coalitions; in 1958 Allende barely lost the presidency to Jorge Alessandri. Shortly thereafter he visited Cuba in the first month of Fidel Castro's new government and enjoyed close contacts with Fidel, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara. Allende cherished a copy of Che Guevara's Guerrilla Warfare inscribed "To Salvador Allende, who is trying to obtain the same result by other means, Affectionately, Che."

In the Chilean Senate Allende consistently defended the interests of the working classes, attacked capitalism and imperialism, defended the Cuban Revolution, and vocally supported the guerrilla movements in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s. Allende strongly supported OLAS, the Cuban-based solidarity movement for Latin American revolutionaries, and glorified the memory of Che Guevara after his death in Bolivia in 1967. Though rejecting violent revolution for Chile, Allende proclaimed the necessity for revolutionary change, for socialist transformation, "through democracy, pluralism and freedom."

The Allende Presidency

In 1970 Allende was elected president of Chile as the candidate of a leftist coalition called Unidad Popular, or Popular Unity. A coalition of Socialists, Communists, Radicals, Catholic leftists, and other minor parties, this coalition represented less than 40 percent of the electorate but was victorious in a three-way election by a narrow plurality. Seeking to carry out dramatic social, economic, and political reforms, including nationalization of Chile's major natural resources, large industries, banking, and trade, the Popular Unity coalition faced stiff internal opposition and the animosity of the Nixon administration in the United States. President Allende attempted to hold together his coalition and to deal with ever more intense internal opposition along with economic sanctions, both overt and covert, applied by the United States. Allende's commitment to socialism, though more moderate than many of his allies, nevertheless generated significant polarization of Chilean society. Economic difficulties, caused both by poor economic planning and by internal and external adversaries, exacerbated political conflict within the country.

By mid-1973 the Chilean economy was experiencing high levels of inflation and serious declines in productivity as the internal opposition to the government became more militant. Finally, on September 11, 1973, the armed forces mounted a nationally coordinated coup d'etat in which large numbers of civilians were killed, wounded, and or imprisoned. President Allende refused to surrender and leave the country as the coup leaders demanded, instead fighting against the military from the presidential palace with an automatic weapon given to him by Fidel Castro. Allende died during the coup, with conflicting reports claiming he committed suicide or was murdered by the soldiers who stormed the presidential palace after it was attacked by air force planes.

In his last broadcast from the palace to the people of Chile, Allende gave inspiration to his followers for the years of military dictatorship that were to follow: "I have faith in Chile and in its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment, when treason stands to conquer. May you go forward in the knowledge that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open once again along which free citizens will march in order to build a better society."

Further Reading

Much has been written about the presidency of Salvador Allende in Chile, but there is no detailed study of his life and career in English. Allende's own writing and speeches provide a clear idea of his early commitment to improving the life of the majority of Chile's people and of his political values. Examples of Allende's speeches and interview material can be found in Salvador Allende, Chile's Road to Socialism (1973); Régis Debray, The Chilean Revolution (1971); and "An Interview with Allende" in New Chile (1973). A number of books dealing with Allende in the Chilean political system include Stefan de Vylder, Allende's Chile (1976); Paul Sigmund, The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964-1976 (1977); Paul Drake, Socialism and Populism in Chile, 1932-52 (1978); Arturo Valenzuela, The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Chile (1978); and Brian Loveman, Chile (1979). □

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"Salvador Allende Gossens." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Allende, Salvador

Allende, Salvador 1908-1973

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Salvador Allende Gossens was the democratically elected socialist president of Chile from 1970 until his death during a military coup détat on September 11, 1973. Allende was born in Valparaíso on June 26, 1908, to an upper middle-class family. He trained at the University of Chile as a medical doctor, but he became involved in politics as a student and spent most of his adult life in politics. He was elected to the lower house of congress in 1937, served as minister of health from 1939 to 1942, and was elected to the senate in 1945. He ran for president in 1952, 1958, and 1964, and finally won in 1970 as the leader of a coalition of leftist parties, called Popular Unity.

As president, Allende sought to lead the country through a peaceful electoral transition to socialism, an endeavor known as the via chilena, or Chilean path. Popular Unitys ambitious platform called for state control of much of the economy. The Chilean path was premised on nationalizing key industries such as copper. In addition, Allende accelerated the agrarian reform program initiated by the prior Christian Democratic government, promoted the creation of public-private firms, and vowed not to interfere in the affairs of small businesses, which were numerous in Chile. Allende also promised to improve the access of poor Chileans to education and health care.

The failure of Allendes via chilena has inspired fierce debate among scholars. Many critics emphasize that Allende was a minority president who won only a plurality of the vote in 1970. However, minority presidents were common in Chile, with only Eduardo Frei Montalva (1911-1982) of the Christian Democratic Party winning a clear majority in the modern era (55% of the vote in 1964). In addition, the platform of the Christian Democrats in 1970 was similar to that of Popular Unity. Julio Faúndez suggests that a clear case can be made that in 1970 more than two-thirds of the electorate voted in favor of radical reform (1988, p. 180).

Some scholars argue that Allendes policy mistakes led to the coup. For example, Paul Sigmund (1977) questions the legality of Popular Unitys nationalization policies and emphasizes Allendes tactical error of failing to form a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Party, which would have ensured an electoral majority. Other scholars, such as James Petras and Morris Morley (1975), emphasize the role of the opposition (including the U.S. government) in thwarting Allendes policy objectives.

While scholars disagree over what ultimately caused the 1973 coup, there is a virtual consensus that the U.S. government and several large U.S.based American businesses were determined to prevent Allende from being elected and once in office sought to destabilize his government. Allende had nearly won the presidency in 1958 as the leader of a leftist coalition. Faúndez (1988) notes that Allendes near victory led to an unprecedented degree of U.S. intervention in Chilean politics. From 1958 to 1970, the U.S. government financially supported the electoral campaigns of Christian Democratic Party candidates. The United States also helped establish conservative think tanks and helped produce and disseminate popular media criticizing a hypothetical Allende administration. In fact, Faúndez notes that from 1958 to 1970, the opposition to Allende (Christian Democrats, conservatives, and the U.S. government) worked hand-in-hand to prevent an Allende victory.

In spite of these efforts, the opposition was divided in 1970 and Popular Unity won. Once Allende was elected, Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixons (1913-1994) secretary of state, famously quipped, I dont see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people (Faúndez 1988, p. 182). U.S. government documents included in the Senate report Covert Action in Chile, 1963-1973 (1975) clearly show that Nixon and Kissinger, working with the Central Intelligence Agency, actively sought to prevent Allendes confirmation as president by the Chilean Congress in 1970 and worked to destabilize the Allende government until its demise in 1973. That said, critics of Allende and some analysts who supported the via chilena (e.g., Roxborough et al. 1977) have argued that even if the U.S. government had played no role in ousting Allende, the Popular Unity government would have failed due to its own mistakes and the fierceness and unity of the opposition.

At the end of an intense battle against military forces, Allende asked those who fought alongside him to evacuate La Moneda, the presidential palace. Rather than face capture, or likely execution at the hands of the military, Allende committed suicide. In the days leading up to the coup, Allende swore to his supporters that he would die defending his presidency and, more importantly, democracy in Chile. The military government that overthrew Allende ruled Chile from 1973 until 1989, when the dictator Augusto Pinochet stepped down after a popular referendum. During and after the coup, thousands died and thousands more were tortured.

Why was the U.S. government so intent on preventing an Allende victory? On one hand, the zero-sum game of politics during the cold war dictated that success by leftists anywhere was a threat to the United States. Thus, the via chilena had to be undermined to maintain the status quo between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, a more plausible explanation might lie in the fact that Allende and other Latin American leftists posed a threat to the hegemonic development model for Latin America and the third world, which favored large multinational firms. Allende and other leftist leaders emphasized that the region needed development models that benefited their countries and the poor. Key to this endeavor was limiting the repatriation of exorbitant profits by U.S.based companies. The U.S. government was determined to protect the interests of U.S.based companies and also to undermine a new socialist government in the hemisphere.

SEE ALSO Central Intelligence Agency, U.S.; Cold War; Developing Countries; Kennedy, John F.; Politics, Latino; Socialism; Third World

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Faúndez, Julio. 1988. Marxism and Democracy in Chile: From 1932 to the Fall of Allende. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Petras, James, and Morris Morley. 1975. The United States and Chile: Imperialism and the Overthrow of the Allende Government. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Roxborough, Ian, Phil OBrien, and Jackie Roddick. 1977. Chile: The State and Revolution. New York: Macmillan.

Sigmund, Paul. 1977. The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964-1976. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

U.S. Senate, Select Intelligence Committee. 1975. Covert Action in Chile, 1963-1973: Staff Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Robert Sean Mackin

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Allende Gossens, Salvador

Salvador Allende Gossens (sälväŧħōr´ äyān´dā gō´sāns), 1908–73, president of Chile (1970–73). A physician, he helped found the Chilean Socialist party in 1933, was minister of health (1939–42) and president of the senate (1965–69). Four times a presidential candidate, he won in 1970 by a narrow plurality. Attempting to implement socialism by democratic means ( "the Chilean road to socialism" ), he nationalized industries, including the U.S.-owned copper multinationals, and pushed extensive land reform. As a minority president, however, his programs provoked strong resistance in the opposition-controlled congress and judiciary. The Chilean people, too, became highly polarized, resulting in vocal support and often violent opposition. Instability was further fueled by soaring inflation and widespread shortages, caused in part by the U.S. economic blockade and the undercover activities of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. In Sept., 1973, Allende was overthrown in a bloody military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. He was reported to have committed suicide during the coup, but many believed that he had been murdered. In 2011 his body was exhumed for an autopsy, which confirmed his suicide. Democracy was not restored in Chile until 1990.

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Allende Gossens, Salvador

Allende Gossens, Salvador (1908–73) Chilean statesman, president (1970–73). Allende was one of the founders of the Chilean Socialist Party (1933), and served as minister of health (1939–42) and head of the Senate (1965–69). Allende's narrow election victory led to the introduction of democratic socialist reforms, which antagonized the Chilean establishment. The nationalization of the US-owned copper industry resulted in a US trade embargo. The CIA began a covert campaign of destabilization, helped by a deteriorating economy. Allende was overthrown and died in a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.

http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/~w3his290/A-Allende-biography.html

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