Pilar Aguilera and Ricardo Fredes (eds), 'Chile: the Other September 11'

IssueMarch - May 2003
Review by Roberta Bacic

The value of this book, published through a radical history series, lies in the collection of essays, speeches, photographs and well known quotes of some of the protagonists and victims in Salvador Allende's socialist government which was overthrown by Pinochet's brutal dictatorship (as sponsored by the CIA). It also includes opinions and comments by well-known people who have expressed solidarity with the struggle against impunity.

As a Chilean who feels close to this history, it was a good reminder of what the experience of the military coup actually meant. Overshadowed by the events of 11 September in New York in 2001, exactly 28 years later, it seems relevant to not only make the connection between the two events, but also highlight the struggle that we have had since then to keep memories alive and to contribute to understanding, acknowledgement and awareness of what state terrorism, terrorism and wars mean to the individual and the society of any nation or community of nations.

Ariel Dorfman begins by saying “I have been through this before. During the last 28 years, Tuesday September 11 has been a date of mourning, for me and millions of others...” In these pages we can also find Salvador Allende's last words, spoken as the government palace was bombed. With a strong voice and clarity of mind he said, almost at the end of his speech, (which was transmitted by Radio Magallanes): “Workers of my homeland, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other people will overcome this grey and bitter moment where treason tries to impose itself. May you continue to know that much sooner than later the great avenues through which free men walk to build a better society will open...”

The editors have put together valuable testimonies, amongst them that of Beatriz Allende, the daughter of the President, who was with him at the palace when the bombing started. She was evacuated, along with other people, and fled to Cuba. Once there, on 28 September, she addressed the Cuban people, calling her speech: “We never saw him hesitate”.

The book also includes material from Joan Jara, Matilde Urrutia (Pablo Neruda's wife), pertinent poetry from Pablo Neruda, and a chronology of Chile from 1970 to 1973 prepared by James Cockcroft and Jane Canning, which sets out events in the context of Allende's brief period as a president.

Also significant are quotes that make clear the CIA's participation in these events. Amongst them, the telling words of Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger, “I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

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