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10-08-2015, 22:35


Another challenge to U.S. influence in Latin America appeared in 1970 when a Marxist, Salvador Allende (1908–1973), was elected president of Chile and attempted to create a socialist society by constitutional means. Chile suffered from a number of economic problems. Wealth was concentrated in the hands of large landowners and a few large corporations. Inflation, foreign debts, and a decline in the mining industry (copper exports accounted for 80 percent of Chile’s export income) caused untold difficulties. Right-wing control of the government failed to achieve any solutions, especially since foreign investments were allowed to expand. There was growing resentment of U.S. corporations, especially Anaconda and Kennecott, which controlled the copper industry. In the 1970 elections, a split in the moderate forces enabled Allende to become president of Chile as head of a coalition of Socialists, Communists, and Catholic radicals. A number of labor leaders, who represented the interests of the working classes, were given the ministries of labor, finance, public works, and interior in the new government. Allende increased the wages of industrial workers and began to move toward socialism by nationalizing the largest domestic and foreign-owned corporations. Nationalization of the copper industry—essentially without compensation for the owners—caused the Nixon administration to cut off all aid to Chile, creating serious problems for the Chilean economy. At the same time, the government offered only halfhearted resistance to radical workers who were beginning to take control of the landed estates. These actions brought growing opposition from the upper and middle classes, who began, with covert support from the CIA, to organize strikes against the government. Allende attempted to stop the disorder by bringing three military officers into his cabinet. They succeeded in ending the strikes, but when Allende’s coalition increased its vote in the congressional elections of March 1973, the Chilean army, under the direction of General Augusto Pinochet, decided on a coup d’état. In September 1973, Allende and thousands of his supporters were killed. Contrary to the expectations of many right-wing politicians, the military remained in power and set up a dictatorship. The regime moved quickly to outlaw all political parties, disband the congress, and restore many nationalized industries and landed estates to their original owners. The copper industry, however, remained in government hands. Although Pinochet’s regime liberalized the economy, its flagrant abuse of human rights led to growing unrest against the government in the mid-1980s. In 1989, free elections produced a Christian Democratic president who advocated free market economics. The shadow of the Pinochet era continued to hover over Chilean politics, however, as many citizens demanded that the general, now living in exile, be brought to justice for his crimes against humanity. In 2000, he was returned to the country from Europe and placed on trial for crimes that had allegedly taken place under his rule.