The United States and Chile: Roots and Branches

Courtesy Reuters

On September 16, 1970, in a background briefing to the press, Henry Kissinger spoke about the September 4 electoral victory of Salvador Allende in the following way:

The election in Chile brought about a result in which the man backed by the Communists, and probably a Communist himself, had the largest number of votes by 30,000 over the next man, who was a conservative. He had about 36.1 percent of the votes. So he had a plurality. . . .

According to the Chilean election law, when nobody gets a majority, the two highest candidates go to the Congress. The Congress then votes in a secret ballot and elects the President. That election is October 24th. In Chilean history, there is nothing to prevent it, and it would not be at all illogical for the Congress to say, "Sixty-four percent of the people did not want a Communist government. A Communist government tends to be irreversible. Therefore, we are going to vote for the No. 2 man." This is perfectly within their constitutional prerogatives. However, the constitutional habit has developed that Congress votes for the man that gets the highest number of votes. But then, of course, it has never happened before that the man with the highest number of votes happens to represent a non-democratic party, which tends to make his election pretty irreversible. I have yet to meet somebody who firmly believes that if Allende wins there is likely to be another free election in Chile. . . .

Now it is fairly easy for one to predict that if Allende wins, there is a good chance that he will establish over a period of years some sort of Communist government. In that case you would have one not on an island off the coast which has not a traditional relationship and impact on Latin America, but in a major Latin American country you would have a Communist government, joining, for example, Argentina, which is already deeply divided, along a long frontier, joining Peru, which has already been heading in directions

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