Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon at the United States White House in 1973. Bettmann (Getty Images)
When the commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army, General René Schneider, was still dying in the Military Hospital of Santiago, the victim of three shots fired by right-wing extremists on October 22, 1970, US President Richard Nixon called his adviser of national security, Henry Kissinger. The objective was to supervise the operations that sought to prevent the inauguration of the president-elect, the socialist Salvador Allende, set for November 3. After the military did not take power after the attack on Schneider, Kissinger told the US president that the Chilean Army turned out to be “a fairly incompetent group,” according to declassified documents published on Tuesday by the National Security Archive. American and that the senior analyst of the institution, Peter Kornbluh, collects in his recently published book Pinochet, declassified (Catalonia-A Day in Life).
Five weeks before Allende’s inauguration, Nixon had ordered a CIA-backed plot to block the socialist’s inauguration. When Kissinger explained to the US president that the theory that the military would not take advantage of the social chaos resulting from the attack against Schneider to seize power, Nixon replied: “They are out of practice.”
“The ratification (of the Congress of Salvador Allende as president) is tomorrow and the inauguration is on 3 (November). (The military) could have stopped Congress from meeting, but they haven’t. They are close, but it is probably too late, ”says the national security adviser in that call on October 23, 1970. When he finally addresses the attack on Schneider, which ended with his death after dying – the plan was to kidnap him, not assassinate him- , Kissinger tells Nixon that there was “a turn for the worse, but it hasn’t triggered anything else.” “The next move should have been the takeover of the government (by the military), but it hasn’t happened.” Washington’s idea was to create a “coup climate.”
Kornbluh, an analyst on Chile at the US National Security Archive, based in Washington, points out that in the conversation between the two White House authorities “they do not say anything that alludes to regret for the assassination of General Schneider, they are totally focused in the incompetence of the Chilean military, which failed to carry out the coup to seize power, shut down Congress and block Allende’s inauguration”.
When the call occurs, Nixon had already received the CIA report on the attack on General Schneider. “The plot was to pay and support an action against Schneider, because he was a commander in chief, the highest-ranking military man, who supported the Constitution and, therefore, the elections and their results. The other lower-ranking generals could not mobilize their troops without his permission. Without him, it meant that General Camilo Valenzuela could climb”, points out Kornbluh, author of Pinochet: the secret files (Critical Memory, 2003).
The Chilean ambassador to the United States, Juan Gabriel Valdés, formally requested the Joe Biden government to publish documentation from 1973 and 1974 on what was said in the Oval Office before and after the coup. “We still do not know what President Richard Nixon saw on his desk on the morning of the military coup and how he was informed that the military coup had taken place,” the Chilean diplomat said in an interview with the Efe news agency in Washington. . Kornbluh joined the request: “If not now in the commemoration of 50 years, when?”
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