Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Allende Gossens, Salvador (1908–1973)

Left-wing politician and president of Chile (1970–1973). Born on 26 July 1908 in Valparaíso, Chile, Salvador Allende Gossens was of middle-class origins. He trained as a physician but never practiced medicine. Allende was a cofounder, and eventually the standard-bearer, of the Chilean Socialist Party and also served in its militia as a young man. He went on to serve as cabinet minister and president of the Chilean senate.

Allende ran for president four times, finally winning a plurality by 39,000 votes as leader of Unidad Popular (Popular Unity), a leftist coalition, on 4 September 1970. He had been a thorn in the side of several U.S. presidential administrations, as policymakers feared that an Allende presidency would bring about a communist state, open to Soviet influence in the region and a threat to American interests in Chile.

President Richard M. Nixon was a particularly vociferous opponent of Allende and publicly stated as much after the 1970 election. The Chilean constitution stipulated that the Chilean congress must choose the president if no candidate won by a majority. Behind the scenes, U.S. Ambassador Edward M. Korry tried unsuccessfully to assemble a consensus to deny Allende the presidency. In addition, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covertly provided weapons to right-wing conspirators to foment a coup, which was also unsuccessful. Allende was inaugurated on 3 November 1970.

As Allende instituted socialist programs and established diplomatic ties with Cuba's communist leader Fidel Castro, Washington simultaneously attempted to squeeze the Chilean economy while secretly giving some $7 million to Allende's political adversaries. Allende's socialist economic policies helped create inflation and shortages in Chile, alienating the middle and upper classes. Military leaders, led by General Augusto Pinochet, finally toppled the Allende government on 11 September 1973. Allende committed suicide in the presidential palace in Santiago on the same day. Pinochet emerged as the leader of the military junta and ruled Chile until 1989.

James F. Siekmeier


Further Reading
Gustafson, Kristian C. "CIA Machinations in Chile in 1970." Studies in Intelligence—The Journal of the American Intelligence Professional 47(3) (2003): 35–50.; Petras, James, and Morris Morley. The United States and Chile: Imperialism and the Overthrow of the Allende Government. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975.; Sobel, Lester A., ed. Chile and Allende. New York: Facts on File, 1974.
 

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