On this day in 1970, my father and a couple of Chilean friends were following the presidential election on short wave radio. I am talking the days when we didn’t have internet or cheap long distance calls. My father was listening to the Spanish version of The Voice of America.
Allende’s election in 1970 was his third attempt at the presidency.
In 1958, and again in 1964, Allende had run on a socialist/communist platform. In both elections, the United States government (as well as U.S. businesses such as International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), which had significant investments in Chile) worked to defeat Allende by sending millions of dollars of assistance to his political opponents.
In 1970, the United States again worked for Allende’s defeat, but he finished first out of the four candidates. However, since he had garnered less than 40 percent of the popular vote, the final decision had to be made by the Chilean congress.
The United States worked feverishly to derail Allende’s selection but the election was upheld on October 24, 1970.
Allende immediately confirmed the worst fears of U.S. officials when he extended diplomatic recognition to North Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba, and also began to take action to nationalize the holdings of U.S. corporations in Chile, notably ITT and Kennecott Copper.
Allende’s presidency was controversial from the start. Chile went into political crisis that eventually led to General Pinochet overthrowing President Allende in 1973. (I wrote about Chile’s 9-11 here)
Chile is doing quite well today, as we discussed with Carlos A Roncal in 2014.