50 years ago today, the Chilean military staged a coup against the socialist president Salvador Allende, who had been democratically elected three years earlier. A military junta led by Augusto Pinochet ruled the country as a dictatorship until 11 March 1990. 

Allende’s term in office had already been marked by tensions and conflicts since 1970. Especially the extreme right-wing group “Patria y Libertad” and the communist and socialist parties fought street battles. After several strikes and major protests, the fleet in Valparaiso rose up against the president on 11 September 1973. Allende’s attempts to reach the military’s supreme commander, Augusto Pinochet, were unsuccessful. At 8 a.m., Pinochet left a statement by the coup plotters on the radio and revealed himself as their leader.  

The BND had already received information a few days before the coup but failed to inform Chancellor Willy Brandt. Information about the planned coup reached the GDR via a Stasi spy, but their warning came too late. Henry Kissinger, then US Secretary of State, declared that the USA had not carried out the coup, but had created the best conditions. The CIA was also active in Chile before the coup and tried to influence domestic politics. After 11 September 1973, it maintained close contacts with the Chilean secret police DINA. 

Soon after the coup, the military and police began disappearing Allende-sympathisers, communists and trade union members. The Chilean state became an experimental model of the “Chicago School”, a capitalist economic school that radically cut back the welfare state and restructured the economy into a market economy. During the dictatorship there were more than 3,100 political murders and at least 27,000 political prisoners, over 90% of whom were tortured.  

On 11 March 1990, the state terror of the military dictatorship ended with Chile’s return to democracy. 

(sas, fg, ps, np)