11th September 1973: Bombing La Moneda and the symbolic destruction of Democracy in Chile

By Francisco Vergara Perucich

In 1970, Dr. Salvador Allende becomes president of Chile. In his own words,  the political project attempted to develop “the Chilean way to the socialism”, without guns or dictatorships rather through democracy and social reforms, creating a distance between this project and Cuba or USSR. Allende’s project based their advances in strengthen the state role in the building of social justice and equity. Chile had a long tradition of republican development, in which the respect for democratic institutions had been vital to build a respectful society and politically active. The idea of Allende and the Popular Unity (UP was the coalition of parties that supported Allende’s campaign) was quite ambitious “a revolution with Chicha and empanada” (Chicha is a typical Chilean drink). All the time Allende tried to detach his government from the use of force. It is significant to mention that Salvador Allende was a member of the national congress along 36 years before become president, and also he postulated for president 3 times before win, meaning that he was a highly qualified politician, well known by all his colleagues, and by Chileans.

Among the first measures to address this transformation, we can mention:

– Reduce the high salaries for high functionaries of the government in order to stop the creation of new rich based on fiscal funds.

– An adequate prevision and payments for retirees in order to ensure dignity on the elderly people (60 years older)

– The government provides free education, books, notebooks, and every cost to ensure that children complete their preliminary school, including breakfast and lunch.

– The house is understood as a right, so the government should provide dwellings for all inhabitants, and facilitate the payments for families considering that the dividends cannot be higher than the 10% of monthly income of the families.

– Free health and pharmacies.

– Tourism for everyone.

– Food free of tax.

– No more debt with the IMF.

– Ban the economical speculation.

– Create employments for everyone through public works and housing construction.

– Create a national institute of culture and arts which must have branches in every district of the country.

The first year of Allende’s government was highly successful. The GDP increased on 8.6%; the inflation decreased on 12.8%; the minimum salaries were adjusted on 35%; the social housing construction increased on 33%. Apparently, this socialist revolution through a peaceful and democratic way became on an example for the region, demonstrating that social justice can be implemented based on socialism and peace. However, the success of the first year implied that several powerful men in Chile feel threaten by this government. Also, a foreign observer started to conspire against this Marxist ideal in South America and Nixon administration started to pull their strings in order to shift this uncomfortable situation.


About the participation of the United States government in this coup, a national security decision memorandum of 1993 exhibited the worries of Nixon administration about Allende’s government:

(1) The public posture of the United States will be correct but cool to avoid giving the Allende government a basis on which to rally domestic and international support for consolidation of the regime, but that (2) the United States will seek to maximize pressure on the Allende government to prevent its consolidation and limit its ability to implement policies contrary to US and hemisphere interests.[24]

Edward Korry, US Ambassador during Allende’s administration, a few years ago declared:

“Nixon ordered to CIA that prevent Allende for assuming the presidency…for any means, including a military coup”. Then, the former ambassador said that three military generals swore loyalty to the intentions of Nixon.

Other sources exposed that when Nixon realized of Allende’s triumph. the US president said: “We will make squeal the Chilean economy”. From 1972, the economy was destabilized with funds providing by CIA to the right wing sectors in Chile in order to create an atmosphere of chaos in the country. In this process,  the press (also funded by US government) was quite necessary to aiming to reduce the credibility of the socialist project among citizens. This destabilisation was completely successful, in 1973 many right wing participant march by the streets against Allende, and the massive popular support of the working class for the president increased their efforts to demonstrate loyalty with the Chilean socialist revolution. The country was polarized between the supporters of Allende and supporters of his abdication.  This atmosphere triggered a reaction in Allende, who in 10th September of 1973 proposed a plebiscite to define his continuity on the head of the nation. Sadly, it was too late.

The military forces commanded by Augusto Pinochet (Who swore loyalty to Allende some weeks before) headed a military attack against the president, against the constitution and, against the democracy. The attack was focused on “La Moneda” the presidential palace located in the heart of Santiago, and the force used to topple Allende’s government was unusually violent considering that they do not have resistance, Allende ordered to their collaborators to surrender peacefully and abandon the building. In the meantime the palace was under attack, the President call to “Radio Magallanes” to give his final speech to Chileans:

“My friends,

Certainly this will be the last opportunity for me to address you. The Air Force has bombed the towers of Radio Portales and Radio Corporación.

My words do not have bitterness but disappointment. May they be a moral punishment for those who have betrayed their oath: soldiers of Chile, titular commanders in chief, Admiral Merino, who has designated himself Commander of the Navy, and Mr. Mendoza, the despicable general who only yesterday pledged his fidelity and loyalty to the Government, and who also has appointed himself Chief of the Carabineros [national police].

Given these facts, the only thing left for me is to say to workers: I am not going to resign!

Placed in a historic transition, I will pay for loyalty to people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seed, which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever.

They have the strength and will be able to dominate us, but social processes can be arrested neither by crime nor force. History is ours, and people make history.

Workers of my country: I want to thank you for the loyalty that you always had, the confidence that you deposited in a man who was only an interpreter of great yearnings for justice, who gave his word that he would respect the Constitution and the law and did just that. At this definitive moment, the last moment when I can address you, I wish you to take advantage of the lesson: foreign capital, imperialism, together with the reaction, created the climate in which the Armed Forces broke their tradition, the tradition taught by General Schneider and reaffirmed by Commander Araya, victims of the same social sector which will today be in their homes hoping, with foreign assistance, to retake power to continue defending their profits and their privileges.

I address, above all, the modest woman of our land, the fieldworker who believed in us, the worker who labored more, the mother who knew our concern for children. I address professionals of Chile, patriotic professionals, those who days ago continued working against the sedition sponsored by professional associations, class-based associations that also defended the advantages which a capitalist society grants to a few.

I address the youth, those who sang and gave us their joy and their spirit of struggle. I address the man of Chile, the worker, the farmer, the intellectual, those who will be persecuted, because in our country fascism has been already present for many hours — in terrorist attacks, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railroad tracks, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to protect them.  They were committed. History will judge them.

Surely Radio Magallanes will be silenced, and the calm metal instrument of my voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be next to you. At least my memory will be that of a man of dignity who was loyal to [inaudible] the workers.

The people must defend themselves, but they must not sacrifice themselves. The people must not let themselves be destroyed or riddled with bullets, but they cannot be humiliated either.

Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society.

Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!

These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason.”


Almost immediately after the speech two airplanes, model Hawker Hunter, bombed “La Moneda”. This building considered a symbol of national independence and republican tradition, a built expression of the social progression was completely burned and destroyed by the own military forces that swore loyalty to the nation and its constitution. Imagine two F-16 bombing the White House, or two Typhoons bombing Buckingham Palace…A scene really hard to believe. This attack was a sign of the end of a republican and democratic era. The beginning of a new Chile, imposed by Nixon’s ideals. If in 18th of September of 1818 Chile achieved independence from Spain, from 1973 the country signed  dependence of the USA. The price of subscribe this agreement was pay with blood and pain of people.

Bombing “La Moneda” meant the destruction of a democratic government and the imposition of a neoliberal system that lasts until the present. The reconstruction of “La Moneda” was not structural, it was just makeup to make it seem nice. However, the structure of the building continues cracked and weak. The bombs that destroyed it in 1973 produced deep wounds. It is the same with Chilean society. The destruction of a democratic society has been reconstructed trying to create a facade of Chile as a democratic country, with democratic approximations. The true is that the bombing of “La Moneda” was a poetic act of destruction, a meaningful event in which the structures of a country were destroyed, and rebuild based on ideals that do not belong to Chileans. Nixon, Kissinger, and Friedman rebuild the structure of the nation deleting what Chileans forged by years, installing their own model of society.



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