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date: 24 February 2024

Salvador Allendefree

Salvador Allendefree

  • Steven S. VolkSteven S. VolkDepartment of History, Oberlin College


Salvador Allende Gossens (1908–1973), democratically elected President of Chile in 1970, pledged to move Chile to socialism within a constitutional framework. A medical doctor by training, and a long-time member of the Socialist Party, Allende won a seat in the Chamber of Deputies in 1937 and the Senate in 1945. He campaigned for the presidency four times (1952, 1958, 1964, and 1970), always at the head of a coalition of left-wing parties. He was deeply committed to improving the condition of the country’s poor, workers, peasants, and women, insuring Chilean ownership of its natural resources, strengthening state ownership of the economy, and deepening popular democracy and worker control of industry. His program was undermined by the conservative opposition, conflicts within his own governing coalition, spontaneous revolutionary activism, and the unrelenting antagonism of the Nixon Administration. He died in a military coup on September 11, 1973, which initiated a 17-year long military dictatorship.


  • History of Southern Spanish America
  • 1945–1991

From his earliest political activities in the 1920s until his death on September 11, 1973, Salvador Allende steadfastly maintained that Chile’s workers, peasants, and the poor deserved a better life, that they were entitled not only to economic security but to experience the “the joy of living,” and that Chile had an unquestionable right to its own resources.1 Nor did he ever waver in the certainty that these goals could be achieved in a fashion consistent with Chile’s democratic and constitutional history. His attempts to unite socialism, anti-imperialism, nationalism, and democracy in Chile while facing the concerted opposition of Washington, made him a subject of fascination and admiration around the world. His integrity, and his ultimate decision to die for his beliefs when these attempts failed, made him a martyr.

His Early Years

Salvador Allende Gossens was born on June 26, 1908, in Santiago, Chile.2 Allende’s great-grandfather, Gregorio Allende Garcés, fought in Chile’s independence wars. Gregorio’s first son, Ramón Allende Padín (1845–1884), Allende’s paternal grandfather, opened an upper-middle class, professional path for his children and grandchildren to follow. He became a doctor, was an active Mason, joined the liberal, middle-class Radical Party, and helped craft the government’s health care legislation.3

Salvador Allende Castro (1871–1932), Allende’s father, studied law at the University of Chile. He was an extrovert who delighted in the company of others, whereas his wife, Laura Gossens Uribe, was quiet and serious, a devout Catholic who attended Mass daily. Allende’s parents were married in 1898 and had six children although the first two died at a young age.

Allende spent his first ten years in Tacna, still a part of Chile, as his father worked on the final territorial agreement between Peru and Chile that followed the War of the Pacific (1879–1883). Allende, who became known as “Chicho,” a distortion of “Salvadorcito,” was 10 when the family moved to Iquique. Within a year, he left for Santiago to study at the National Institute, a prestigious secondary school where he spent one year before rejoining his family, now in the southern city of Valdivia. In 1922 a new job posting brought the family to Valparaíso, the city that Allende would later claim as his own, where he finished his secondary studies at the Liceo Eduardo de la Barra.4

There is no documentation suggesting that Allende harbored political interests prior to his late teenage years in Valparaíso. The son and grandson of Masons and members of the Radical Party, Allende grew up in a family that was comfortable but not wealthy, privileged but not powerful, liberal but not radical.5 Chile had boasted a well-developed, multi-party political system from the mid-19th century, and by the turn of the 20th, following the emergence of a strong labor movement, leftist parties sought to win broader representation for workers through electoral means. Allende would credit his own political awakening to the influence of Juan Demarchi, an anarchist whose workshop sat across the street from the Allende residence.6 A carpenter from the Calabrian region of Italy, Demarchi arrived in Chile at the turn of the century and soon found a home in Valparaíso’s anarcho-syndicalist organizations.7 Demarchi spoke to him “of the things of life,” lent him “all the essential theoretical” books, and guided him through their study because, Allende admitted, “I didn’t have the temperament for reading in depth.”8

While Allende’s nod to Demarchi as being responsible for his political awakening may be exaggerated, it highlights an important aspect of his ideological formation. Allende did not become a socialist by studying Marxist theory. Luís Corvalán, later Secretary General of the Communist Party, referred to Allende’s ideological formation as “eclectic.”9 Others called it “nonconformist” or even “heretical,” particularly when compared to the Communist’s orthodoxy or the (later) impassioned theorizing of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR).10 Even Allende downplayed his own capacity for theory, although he did credit Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism with influencing his emerging anti-imperialist outlook.11

Instead, Chile itself proved to be Allende’s most important tutor. He finished his secondary studies in 1924, as the country entered a prolonged period of tumultuous change. Arturo Alessandri Palma had been elected president in 1920, as the head of a centrist alliance of liberal-leaning parties. Although drawn from the elite, he began a lengthy and halting process that would shift Chile towards a modern activist state, loosening the “stranglehold” long held by powerful latifundistas.12 Years later Allende eulogized the “popular caudillo,” crediting him for shaking “the frozen history of our country with vigorous ideas of a social transformation.”13 While the nature and tasks of the state would be transformed in ways he never foresaw, Alessandri’s presidency sparked a half-century of dramatic changes: a vastly expanded electorate, the emergence of powerful state agencies, the passage of transformative education and social welfare policies, increased attempts to temper U.S. corporate control of Chile’s natural resources, and enhanced support for wage earners.

Figure 1. Salvador Allende, Regimiento Lancers de Tacna, 1925.

Allende postponed his university studies to enter the military. Although service was obligatory, middle class men easily avoided it. Allende, not yet 17, chose to serve in part to gain some time to reflect on what he called his “negativism,” and in part with an eye towards a future political career. He spent a year in the cavalry, first in Viña del Mar and then in Tacna. Although his more radical friends would question his time in uniform, his short stint in the army put him at ease around military men while also indicating his characteristic independence of thought.14 Still, the regimented military life was not for him—he was punished for supporting the “collective complaints” of others—and he soon returned to civilian life to study medicine.15

Allende began a six-year course of studies at the University of Chile in March 1926, a tumultuous time in Chilean politics. Alessandri, who had stepped down under pressure in 1924, returned to the presidency shortly thereafter, only to be forced out again in 1925, moves that were largely orchestrated by Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Ibañéz. Ibañéz would maneuver himself into the presidency in 1927, quickly turning against his socialist-inspired allies, including the student movement, suspending Congress and ruling by decree. Allende was never far from these events. He moved from his aunt’s house to Recoleta, a “very humble district” in Santiago, taking classes during the day and reading “Das Kapital, and Lenin, and . . . Trotsky” at night.16 His medical training informed his life-long commitment to improving the health of the poor, and his dedication to socialism grew out of the practical experiences that unfolded in the clinics serving impoverished neighborhoods in Santiago.

University-level student politics were often training grounds for later political careers, and Allende entered this arena in 1927, as president of the notably activist association of medical students. Three years later, he helped revive the Student Federation of the University of Chile (FECH), shut down by Ibañéz in 1926. Allende’s participation in “Avance,” a student group largely composed of socialists and communists that attempted to push the FECH to the left, proved formative. His schoolmates from that time recalled the young Allende’s ability to capture the attention of a rowdy student gathering through his oratorical prowess.17 These early experiences, which he perfected over a long career in Congress and on the campaign trail, likely led him to believe that he could bring opponents to his viewpoint through the power of his speech alone.

Allende’s emergence as a student leader disclosed a self-assuredness—some would call it arrogance—anchored in strongly held convictions. In mid-1931, as the world spiraled into depression, Ibañéz resigned in the face of unrelenting economic problems and mounting street protests. Chile’s virtual bankruptcy—a projected deficit of 145 million pesos in 1931, with only 5 million pesos in current accounts—unleashed protests from nearly every political sector, no more so than among professionals and academics.18 The students in “Avance” actively participated, calling for the creation of soviets of workers, peasants, soldiers, and students, but from which professionals would be excluded. The organization demanded its members affirm this position, and virtually all of them did. Allende, however, refused, arguing against the importation of foreign political models and pointedly observing that “it was incredibly stupid to . . . sign something as a student that tomorrow, as a professional, I couldn’t accept.” He was expelled.19

His opposition activities also led to his suspension from the university and a brief jailing. Readmitted in 1932, Allende received his degree, with high honors, following the completion of his thesis in 1933.20 He returned to Valparaíso to be with his father, who was dying of diabetes, but his search for work proved difficult; he often claimed that his activist reputation preceded him. The only employment he could find was as a pathologist’s assistant, “ripping open cadavers,” as he put it.

His father died shortly after Allende’s return to Valparaíso and, he later revealed, it was at his funeral that he dedicated his life “to the social struggle.”21 Whether accurate or apocryphal, the anecdote provides insight into Allende’s political formation. He was, above all, a humanist, his close collaborator Joan Garcés observed. “His feelings in relation to suffering, inequality, exploitation . . . in his country or anywhere else, oriented his theoretical options, his formation, his commitment to action, his generosity.”22 He adopted Marxism because it best interpreted the world around him, but neither doctrinal purity nor theoretical argumentation was of paramount concern. His ideology was as much Allendismo as orthodox socialism.23

A Career in Politics

Allende’s loyalty to electoral politics, constitutional democracy, and concerted state action as the appropriate means of bringing socialism to Chile further developed during the political turmoil of the early 1930s. In June 1932, Carlos Dávila, a journalist and diplomat, Air Force Colonel Marmaduke Grove, and Eugenio Matte Hurtado, a socialist lawyer, forced President Juan Esteban Montero’s resignation. Grove and Matte would find themselves headed to exile a scant 10 days later, but their “Socialist Republic,” which survived under Carlos Dávila for nearly 100 days, opened a road to socialism in Chile as a project of state-directed development. These brief experiments not only put socialism on the agenda, but left behind state agencies and decree laws that Allende would leverage when he became President.24

An eclectic mixture of expelled or disaffected members of the Communist Party (PC), social democrats, anarcho-syndicalists, anti-imperialists, Trotskyists, and independents launched the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS) in April 1933. Contrary to the older PC, with which it was often at odds, the party never imposed doctrinal orthodoxy. The PS abandoned, at least until its 1967 congress in Chillán, Lenin’s call for a dictatorship of the proletariat and turned away from Moscow’s control.25 It was committed to state ownership of the means of production, advancing working class and peasant interests, and anti-imperialism. The Socialist Party became Allende’s political home, and he became the only person who could quiet, if not tame, its fractious components.

Figure 2. Allende in the uniform of the Socialist Party, c.1937.

Allende opened a private medical practice, known locally as “Socialist Aid” (Socorro Socialista), but soon was sent into internal exile for protesting the government. He returned to Valparaiso in 1937, and embarked on the first of his many political campaigns. At 28, he won a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. A year later, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, heading a Popular Front coalition of Radicals, Socialists, and Communists, named him Minister of Health. The young Allende took charge of a commission of experts examining Chile’s social security and disability laws, resulting in a plan to allocate US $20 million to fund new medical facilities, public sanitation, and other public health measures. At the same time, he published Socio-Medical Reality in Chile, a study that became a “prototype for the political intervention of professionals” addressing national social issues.26 It combined an empirical examination of the deplorable living and working conditions of the poor—and a call for concerted state action to address them—with the gendered belief that many of these social problems were related to the unwillingness of Chilean men to “settle down and become consistent providers for their wives and children.”27

An earthquake in Chillán, in 1939, would unexpectedly shape Allende’s future. He was attending a meeting at his Masonic lodge in Santiago while Hortencia Bussi, “Tencha” as everyone knew her, was at a nearby cinema when the city began to shake. Both rushed into the street and, through mutual friends, were introduced. Tencha had taken her teaching degree, in history and geography, from the University of Chile’s Pedagogical Institute and would later study statistics and work as a librarian. They were married in September 1940, a union marked by a shared political perspective, deep mutual regard, and Tencha’s strong support for her husband’s political career, even though it was widely known that he maintained significant romantic relations with other women. Tencha would go into exile in Mexico following Allende’s death in the 1973 coup, returning in 1988, as the dictatorship came to an end. She headed the Salvador Allende Foundation until her death in 2009.

Figure 3. Hortensia Bussi de Allende and Salvador Allende, 1946. Archivo General Histórico del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores.

Of the couple’s three daughters, Carmen Paz, Beatriz, and Isabel, the latter two followed in their father’s footsteps. Beatriz studied surgery and became a doctor; she also became one of her father’s closest political confidants. Farther to the left than Allende, Beatriz acted as a trusted contact between her father and the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR). She remained at his side in the Moneda on the day of the coup until he forced her to abandon the besieged presidential palace. She fled to exile in Cuba with her husband, a Cuban diplomat, where she directed the Cuban-based Chilean Anti-Imperialist Solidarity Committee. She committed suicide in Havana in 1977.

Isabel also followed her father’s path into socialist politics after studying sociology at the University of Chile. Like her sister Beatriz, she rushed to the Moneda on September 11, 1973, as the coup unfolded, and left the building only when ordered to do so by Allende. She followed her mother into exile in Mexico, returning to Chile in 1989. She was elected, as a Socialist, to the Chamber of Deputies in 1994, became a senator in 2010, and, in March 2014, was elected the first female president of the Senate.

Allende won his own seat in the Senate in 1945, and would remain a senator until 1970. He continued to advocate for his passionately held issues: worker and peasant rights, the strengthening of social welfare programs, and the nationalization of U.S.-owned copper companies. As chairman of the Senate’s Health Committee, he wrote legislation that consolidated many of Chile’s health care programs in the National Health Service. He was elected the Senate’s vice president in 1954, its president in 1966. He remained unswerving in his defense of the Marxist left, including, despite strong ideological differences, the Communist Party (PC). In 1948, he blasted President González Videla for banning the Communists, under pressure from the Truman Administration, despite the fact that Videla had courted their support for his own election. Allende described the President’s act as a “veritable atomic bomb launched against a social order built over long years of effective democratic tradition.”28 He demanded that Chile live up to its promises by “respect[ing] . . . the guarantees which our Constitution establishes,”29 and he assailed the hypocrisy of legislators who, in the name of democracy, eliminated fairly won political representation from those with whom they disagreed. As a Marxist, he argued, he was a revolutionary, but a true revolutionary was not one who seized power, but rather the individual who, on “reaching power legally,” instituted “profound and creative transformation . . .”30 Nevertheless, the Communist Party was proscribed for the next decade, and many of its leaders sent into exile and stripped of their political rights.

A Perpetual Presidential Campaign

In 1951, the newly formed Frente del Pueblo (People’s Front), the first electoral alliance headed by a Marxist party, selected Allende as its candidate, the first of his four presidential campaigns. His program highlighted now-familiar themes: state control of copper, nationalization of critical industrial monopolies, expansion of public works and social welfare programs, and implementation of a progressive income tax. While he garnered less than 6 percent of the vote, the campaign lifted him to national attention and helped strengthen relations between the Socialists and the (still-banned) Communists. As Luís Corvalán, the PC’s Secretary General, later remarked, “we weren’t shaped in the same ideological school,” but their affiliation developed on the basis of frank and respectful dialogue. As the Socialist Party moved more concertedly to the left, particularly after 1971, Allende often found more agreement with the PC than with his own party.31

Figure 4. Allende’s 1958 Victory Train. Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional, Chile.

Socialists and Communists united behind Allende again in the Frente de Acción Popular (Popular Action Front, FRAP) in 1958. This time victory eluded him by the narrowest of margins; he lost to Jorge Alessandri, an independent conservative, by a scant 33,000 votes. Allende had argued in favor of expanding the FRAP to include both the Radicals and the Christian Democratic Party, a new party with roots in the National Falange, but the Socialists protested. Allende, by then a respected Senate leader, had conducted a vigorous, nationwide campaign. Self-assured, often impatient (he practiced meditation to calm himself), a stirring orator, and master political craftsman, Allende nonetheless refused to become a populist caudillo. He put his ideas, not his personality, at the heart of his campaigns. At one campaign stop, a peasant woman stooped to kiss the hem of his trousers, much to his chagrin. Embarrassed and angered, he complained to his traveling companions, “I’m not a messiah, and don’t want to be . . ., I want to be seen as a political option, a bridge toward socialism.”32

The FRAP chose Allende once more in 1964. By then the contours of Chilean politics had shifted significantly. The Cuban Revolution, in particular, transformed Latin America’s political landscape. Allende visited Cuba in 1959, shortly after the insurgents took power, meeting with the Cuban leadership and praising a people “spiritually and materially mobilized and fully interpreted by their government.”33 In both 1964 and 1970, conservatives bludgeoned him for his steadfast support of the revolution, seeking to stir fears among voters that Allende’s Chile would become a communist gulag replete with firing squads, Soviet tanks, and children ripped from their parents’ arms to be raised in communist re-education camps. With characteristic humor, Allende once responded by winking at the widespread, and likely accurate, accounts of his womanizing: “They say that I want to take children from their mothers,” he intoned. “Those who know me know that is a villainous slur. Perhaps I want to take the mothers away from their children; that could be.”34 But Allende would never abandon his determination to bring Chile to socialism by its own constitutional path, in accordance with what he saw as Chile’s specific history, even as he never abandoned his support for Cuba’s revolution or the attempts by armed revolutionaries in other countries, from Bolivia to Vietnam, to promote needed changes. His assistance would prove crucial in ferrying the survivors of Che Guevara’s ill-fated 1967 campaign in Bolivia to safety.

If Allende’s support for the Cuban Revolution provided conservatives with ammunition for their assaults, his refusal to adopt an insurrectionary approach equally generated criticism from the left. The Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) formed in 1965, at the University of Concepción, disparaged the argument that socialism could be voted into power. Still, Allende never wavered, even as his own party moved to the left in 1967, when, at a party congress in Chillán, the majority concluded that revolutionary violence would prove “inevitable and legitimate.” For his part, Allende often showed guests one of his most prized possessions, a first edition of Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare, dedicated by the author “To Salvador Allende who, through other paths, tries to reach the same end.”35

The emergence of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) as a major political force further recast Chile’s political landscape, dividing the country into “three thirds,” evenly split between Right, Center, and Left. The PDC staked out a middle ground between conservative agrarian interests and the Marxist parties. Like the Socialists, it was an eclectic mix, from entrepreneurial sectors close to the United States on the right to social democrats on the left. It united around Eduardo Frei Montalva, Allende’s main opponent in the 1964 election. In that election, conservative sectors to the right of the PDC lent him their support, pressured by Washington and fearful of an Allende victory over a divided opposition. The CIA sweetened the alliance, providing an estimated $4 million of covert assistance to Frei and stood behind the PDC’s scare campaign designed to play to women voters, intimating that if Allende won, they stood to lose their children, their homes, and even the concept of motherhood itself.36 In a two-way contest, with the Right supporting Frei, Allende lost by 55–39 percent.37

Figure 5. Eduardo Frei Montalva (left) with Salvador Allende (right), and Hernán Santa Cruz Barcelo (center), c. 1960.

As was common with many political elites in Chile, Frei and Allende had been friendly prior to the 1964 election. While their families often socialized at Allende’s beach house near Valparaíso, Allende saw the 1964 election as a “dirty victory,” because of the PDC leader’s reliance on the CIA and his blatantly false scare campaign; it ruptured the friendship the two had shared.38 Frei would prove instrumental in turning the PDC against any understandings with Allende when the latter became president.

Frei promised a “Revolution in Liberty,” but Allende predicted its failure given his dependence on conservative business sectors and Washington’s support. Frei initiated a modest, but important, agrarian reform process and moved to “Chileanize” the copper industry by purchasing 51 percent of the shares of U.S. mines. But the demand for deeper reforms divided his party, and a worsening economic situation led to an upsurge in street protests and land takeovers.

As the 1970 elections approached, Allende’s insistence on a peaceful transition to socialism created tensions within the Socialists as well as other leftist parties. The obvious candidate in 1958 and 1964, Allende encountered a much rockier path this time. He was, many felt, mired in the past; he had his chances but came up short each time.39 The debates roiled the newly formed Popular Unity (UP) coalition, which united Communists and Socialists with Radicals, a leftist breakaway from the Christian Democrats (MAPU) and one smaller party. Debate within the PS revealed a sharply divided party. Members of the party’s Central Committee, having declared the party Marxist-Leninist in 1967, opposed Allende’s selection, but the rank-and-file and regional party heads were firm in their support for the only person they thought could unite the left. In January 1970, the UP named him their candidate. It was, the Communist’s Luís Corvalán dryly observed, “a forceps birth.”40

Unlike the election of 1964, the Right, now consolidated into the National Party (PN), refused to withdraw and support the Christian Democrats’ candidate, Radomiro Tomic. They championed the aging and sluggish Jorge Alessandri, narrowly victorious in 1958, who ran again as a conservative independent. For his part, Tomic pledged to deepen Frei’s reforms, advancing programs that resembled the UP’s own. With polling predicting an Alessandri victory, and the CIA funding a spoiling operation designed to raise fears of Allende, Washington expected voters would again reject the socialist.41

In previous campaigns, Allende consistently polled lower among women than men. A number of factors accounted for this including the Socialists’ historic lack of attention to women’s independent political voice given their low rate of employment outside the home. Neglect from the Left also permitted conservative institutions such as the Church an outsized influence among female voters. In 1964, for example, almost twice as many women voted for Frei than Allende. In 1970, Alessandri reprised Frei’s tactics as he worked to raise women’s concerns about the impact of a socialist victory on family life. The airwaves were crowded with campaign propaganda reminding Chilean women that “the fate of the Fatherland” was in their hands and exhorting them to prevent Chile from becoming another Cuba.42

And yet, as midnight approached on the night of September 4, 1970, the Interior Minister informed Allende that his 36.6 percent put him in first; he slipped past Alessandri by 39,000 votes out of nearly 3 million cast. Because he lacked an outright majority, the vote would have to be ratified by Congress, but it appeared that Allende’s nearly two-decade long quest for the presidency had finally succeeded.

Trouble on the Peaceful Road

“I am only a man, with all of a man’s weaknesses,” Allende told the thousands who gathered to celebrate on September 5. He accepted the victory “not as a personal one . . ., I owe [this triumph] to the people of Chile who will be with me when I enter La Moneda” on November 4. He pledged to “respect the rights of all Chileans,” but was clear as to his intentions. “When I enter La Moneda,” he vowed, “I will carry out the historic commitment to make the Popular Unity’s program a reality.”43

His victory speech was as much pre-emption as promise. As no candidate won a majority of the votes, the election would go to Congress where, by custom, legislators chose the candidate who came in first in the popular voting. Knowing this and expecting he would win a close election, Jorge Alessandri pledged two months earlier to refuse the presidency if he didn’t finish first in the popular vote. Yet on September 6, his aide called on the Christian Democrats to support Alessandri in the congressional voting, thereby “saving” Chile from Marxism.44 The PDC refused, but made its support for Allende conditional on his signing a Statute of Constitutional Guarantees.

A smooth transition was further undermined by the Nixon Administration’s determination to block Allende. As part of a broader scheme, the CIA supplied a group of right-wing plotters with arms and funding to kidnap the constitutionalist Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General René Schneider, an outrage to be blamed on the Left and designed to prod the military into action against Allende.45 The plot failed, Schneider was killed, and on October 24, Congress elected the UP’s candidate. But intransigent opposition to Allende from Washington, the National Party, and an emerging paramilitary right, together with Christian Democratic distrust, suggested how demanding would be his task ahead.

Figure 6. Salvador Allende receives the presidential sash, Oct. 24, 1970. Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional, Chile.

A clear-headed realist, Allende understood the challenges he faced. “I believe,” he told Regis Debray in a January 1971 interview, “that the Head of State who is a socialist remains a socialist, but his actions must be consistent with reality.” Chile, he added, would “draw upon its own experience” to move forward while respecting the “limitations imposed by a system which is not of our making.” His goals had remained remarkably consistent over almost four decades. He would “favor a centralized economy,” maintain “continuous dialogue with the workers,” put into effect a “far-reaching Land Reform,” “collectivize a major portion of . . . national production,” nationalize copper, and “establish new social relations in the country.”46 The Debray interview came at a moment when Allende had reason to believe that he could manage the conditions under which a “democratic, national, revolutionary and popular Government [would] open the road to socialism . . .” But he understood that to succeed, he needed time, broad participation and internal discipline among his supporters.

Allende’s approach tightly entwined economic and political policy. An economy that expanded through Keynesian demand-side measures, advanced national producers at the expense of multinational firms and small businesses over monopolies, turned land over to peasant cultivators, and redistributed income, would also, he predicted, engender support at the polls. With enough time, he could introduce a plebiscite allowing the constitutional changes needed to give him the authority to further expand state control of the economy, create a single legislative chamber, and reform the judiciary.47

For most of his first year in office, this strategy worked largely as planned, although troubling signs would soon appear. Congress voted unanimously to nationalize copper via a constitutional reform in July 1971, and by the end of the year, the state controlled more than 80 percent of total production in mining. The government substantially accelerated Frei’s agrarian reform process and funded programs Allende had championed since the 1930s: milk distribution to poor families, health care and education, social security, housing. The first industrial expropriations began in late 1970, and firms were brought into the state sector (“Social Area”) through a variety of mechanisms: purchase of shares, executive decrees (based on decree-laws from time of the 100-day “Socialist Republic”), and congressional authorization. By early 1972, the government had acquired about 70 percent of its targeted industrial firms and a similar percentage of the banking sector.48 Allende even convened a group of Chilean and British technologists to build a computer system to manage, in real time, the increasing number of state-sector firms, intending to augment worker participation in management while boosting efficiency at a time when Chile had but fifty computers in the country.49

Allende’s goals would prove hard to reconcile: he attempted to balance system stability while promoting revolutionary change; to unleash grassroots activism, but channel it within the constraints of government policy; to deepen democracy, while linking municipal governments to centralized planning. Yet, for a short time, he seemed to be succeeding. Expenditures on social services almost doubled from the 1965–1969 average, while the workers’ share of national income grew from 52.8 percent in 1970 to 61.7 percent in 1971.50 Industrial production increased and unemployment fell. By mid-1972, the UP had expropriated almost nine million hectares of land for redistribution to peasant families. And, as hoped, his support grew. In April 1971 municipal elections, the first following Allende’s victory, the combined UP parties gained just shy of a majority, a substantial increase from one year before. But the moment proved to be the President’s high point.

On December 1, 1971, a “March of the Pots and Pans” organized by opposition women, brought thousands of women into downtown Santiago and signaled the emergence of the well-designed, mass-based opposition movement that the UP’s foes had lacked previously.51 The march protested shortages of foodstuffs and a distribution system that generated long lines of shoppers waiting to buy basic products at controlled prices. The shortages themselves were a product of conservative obstruction, as store owners took items off the shelves and sold them on the black market; the opposition media created panic-buying by reporting on shortages that did not (yet) exist, and Washington instituted an “invisible blockade” by denying credit to the UP government. But government inefficiencies, lack of experience, an inability to manage distribution, and a strategic failure to analyze women as potent political actors and to develop a political approach that could attend to their needs, all added to the problem.

As the economy worsened, Allende’s political model came under increasing political fire from the Left as well as the Right. Workers in industries not slated for the Social Area forced Allende’s hand by occupying their factories and demanding expropriation.52 The leadership of Allende’s own party increased pressure on him from the Left by selecting Carlos Altamirano, the leader of the Socialist’s radical wing, as party chief in 1971. Allende had hoped for time and discipline; he found neither.

After 40 years in the rough and tumble of Chilean politics, Allende knew full well the challenges he would face if elected, and yet he continued to promise a revolution of empanadas y tinto (meat pies and red wine). His election unleashed a revolutionary upsurge and a counter-revolutionary offensive, both of which quickly overwhelmed even his remarkable personal and political capabilities. As one supporter summarized, “We were on a ship of fools; we sought the impossible, but we are better for having challenged history itself.”53 Since there is no reason to believe that Allende sought the martyrdom that eventually found him, nor that he was naïve, the question one must ask is not why his experiment failed, but how he imagined it would succeed. Five central points of his strategic thinking are explored in the next section.

Presidential vs. Parliamentary Politics

Although the UP controlled only one branch of Chile’s government, Allende felt he had sufficient authority under the country’s 1925 Constitution to act without congressional approval if that proved unattainable. The opposition parties held approximately 60 percent of congressional seats prior to the March 1973 congressional elections, enough to thwart Allende’s legislative agenda and remove his cabinet officers, but not the two thirds needed to impeach him. The UP controlled the executive branch of a divided presidential system, but his opponents intended to block him as in a parliamentary regime, as if Allende were a prime minister who would resign if his party could no longer legislate.54 In fact, the Chilean political system has alternated between strong presidencies and domineering congresses since 1833. The opposition drew its lessons from the powerful legislatures of 1891–1923, Allende from the strong presidents prior to 1891, or those like Arturo Alessandri and Pedro Aguirre Cerda, who built Chile’s social welfare state and expanded state control of the economy. When Congress tried to block Allende’s expansion of the state sector, he turned to executive authority and the decree laws of his predecessors. And, when two Christian Democratic senators introduced a constitutional amendment in October 1971, designed to rewind his actions, they set in motion a process that ultimately brought down not only Allende’s presidency, but the congressional system itself. Congress remained shuttered between 1973 and 1990.

Blocked by Congress, Allende’s remaining power in a presidential system was to call for a referendum that, if approved, could revise the governing system and open the way for a new constitution. Allende spoke frequently of employing this device to bypass the congressional barricades. After the UP increased its representation in both houses of Congress in the March 1973 elections, dashing the opposition’s hopes of winning enough seats to impeach him, Allende advised his coalition that only two options remained, a referendum, or an alliance with the Christian Democrats.55 Although he reportedly told Army Chief General Carlos Prats that he planned to call a plebiscite on September 10, it never came, most likely because he knew the UP did not have the needed majority after two years of continual turmoil.56

The Search for Alliances

Allende’s search for an understanding with the PDC proved equally troubled. This objective, as the last, was informed by Chile’s history. He both witnessed and helped create the center-left alliances of the 1930s that built a strong state. His presidential campaigns were grounded in alliances, and he consistently advocated building support for his programs among social democrats and moderate centrists, often including Christian Democrats. He tried to bring them into the FRAP in 1958, but was rebuffed by the Socialists. With the country fragmented politically into three thirds, in 1970, he was convinced that reaching a working relationship with centrist Christian Democrats was an important option that could allow his program to work, gaining the time he needed to build popular support.

The notion of winning PDC support or preventing it from allying with the far-right National Party was not fanciful. Tomic’s 1970 campaign mirrored the UP’s in many areas. Even before his inauguration, Allende sought advice on how to nudge the Christian Democrats towards the UP and recommended such an approach to the coalition’s leadership, arguing that if he were to reach an understanding with the Christian Democrats, he could only do so while that party was led by moderates. The UP rejected his plan in late November 1970, and Tomic soon lost control of the PDC.57 Former president Eduardo Frei, by then obdurately opposed to Allende, blocked any potential agreement with the UP and soon allied his party to the right-wing Nationals.58 Frei’s control of his party tightened further when a group of left-leaning Christian Democrats (the Left Christians, IC), acting against Allende’s express wishes, broke away and joined the UP. Allende’s attempt to broker a deal lending UP support to a Christian Democratic candidate in a June 1971 by-election also failed. He would continue to look for openings to the PDC until the very end, but they never came.

Managing the Far Left

Allende realized his constitutionalist approach would face serious challenges from the more revolutionary left—the MIR and his party’s own left wing, led by Carlos Altamirano, and including most of its youth sectors—but he thought he could manage them personally, relying on past experiences of dealing with radical critics, which dated as far back as his days in “Avance.” His relationship with the MIR was particularly fraught and illustrated the significant generational differences that separated “old” and “new” left in Chile.59 Allende was accustomed to an older political style that stressed past collaborations and personal contacts above theoretical debate. In 1967, he had risked his political future by guaranteeing safe passage through Chile to the surviving members of Che Guevara’s guerrilla column in Bolivia. As president, he had amnestied MIRistas accused of armed actions in 1969 and 1970. He tried to take advantage of his many personal connections to the movement. His nephew, Andrés Pascal Allende, was a MIR leader; his daughter, Beatriz, provided a direct contact with the MIR as did Miria Contreras (“La Payita”), his private secretary and political confidant, with whom he had been romantically involved since the 1960s. The organization provided his bodyguards, and Allende even offered Miguel Enríquez, its leader, a position in his administration.

The MIR largely acceded to Allende’s demands to refrain from armed actions during his presidency, but neither contacts nor past experiences helped him control the social forces unleashed by his election. Most workers, particularly those who supported the Communist Party in union and general elections, were patient with his approach, accustomed to the long-term nature of the struggle. But not the militant left. Aware that Allende would not turn the security forces against them, the revolutionary left broke ranks, swept up in a “revolutionary vertigo,” as one author put it.60 “Freed from the fear of police violence,” Peter Winn wrote, “workers, peasants, and homeless pobladores increasingly took the revolution into their own hands, creating a veritable revolution from below, which accelerated and extended Allende’s revolution from above.”61

Limiting Washington’s Damage

With the nationalization of U.S. copper companies and the normalization of relations with Cuba as central components of his program, Allende prepared for strong opposition from the anti-communist Nixon administration. Chile tested the waters by applying for loan guarantees from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and historian Tanya Harmer has suggested the existence of back-channel negotiations between National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and Allende’s ambassador in Washington, Orlando Letelier. But Washington never changed its determination that Allende must be removed.62 The only question was how. Nixon’s first attempts, designed to prevent Allende’s confirmation by Congress, were thwarted, but Washington soon implemented a multifaceted program including economic warfare; covert intervention into Chile’s domestic politics; coordination with U.S. multinational corporations; increased contacts within the Chilean military; financial and political support for the opposition, including significant support for the main opposition newspaper, Mercurio; policing a crippling embargo of Chilean copper sales abroad; and efforts to force U.S. allies and international lending agencies to cut off Chile.63

Allende believed he could rally enough support from the international community, particularly in the Socialist Bloc, to weather Washington’s storm. And he was heartened by the standing ovation he received after addressing the United Nations in December 1972. From New York, he traveled to Algeria, and then to Moscow, where he sought but did not receive aid for an economy desperately in need of foreign exchange. Both the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union were sympathetic but either unwilling or unable to help. Moscow had doubts that Allende’s project could succeed and was overcommitted to Cuba.64 Fidel Castro gave Allende a hero’s greeting on his way home, but Cuba’s pledge of forty tons of sugar could not resolve Chile’s foreign exchange deficit.

Preserving the Constitutionalist Military

Allende assumed, literally until his final moments, that the military would remain loyal. Having experienced military uprisings from both right and left, he never believed the myth that, unlike other Latin America countries, Chilean soldiers never left their barracks. But he was convinced that his own respect for constitutionalism would be similarly respected by the military and that the pro-coup tendencies that existed could be isolated. In a sense, he came to believe his own myths about the military formed over the course of many years in politics. Long after his death, two sources close to Allende recounted that, during his razor-thin defeat in 1958, President Ibáñez sent five senior military officers to his home before the results were made public, with the message that Ibáñez was willing to tip the election to Allende “in the interests of the nation.” Allende replied, “General, I have never heard such stupidity . . . I am extremely surprised that a General of the Republic should lend himself as the messenger of this depraved scheme.”65

When Army General Roberto Viaux revolted against Frei in 1969, the Central Committee of the Socialist Party called on workers “not to defend the bourgeois institutional order, but [instead] to mobilize around their own social and political demands.” Allende vigorously dissented and rushed to the Moneda to show his support for the President.66 And yet, Allende’s conviction that the military must respect the constitutional order was not shared by his conservative opponents. Even before Allende was elected, Jorge Alessandri, in a May 1970 campaign speech, had called on the “patriotic” military to intervene as needed “to save the liberty that we so love” from those who hold “criminal doctrines.”67

Allende brought the military into his cabinet as a means of resolving the October 1972 crisis caused by an employers’ lockout, and officers remained in the government until March 1973. Many criticized this step for politicizing the troops, although a future commander-in chief of the Army, who was a lieutenant at the time, later remarked that the officer corps saw it as “a necessary and viable solution to the enormous crisis we were living through.”68 But Allende’s solicitous attitude to the military also led him to ignore conspiracies, tolerate officers who broke discipline, and underestimate the extent to which Washington had penetrated the officer corps.69 His conviction that the troops would remain loyal persisted until the bitter end.

Time Runs Out

Events following the March 1973 elections, in which the UP gained congressional seats in both chambers, quickly spiraled downward. On June 17, the National Party declared that Allende was “no longer . . . the Constitutional President of Chile.”70 On June 29, Col. Roberto Souper launched the tanks of the Second Armored Regiment against the Moneda, but the attempt, as much a rehearsal as an actual coup, was quickly suppressed. That evening the streets around the Moneda filled with tens of thousands of UP supporters, but Allende had effectively lost control of events. Workers in Santiago seized more than 350 factories; others, from the Teniente copper mine, walked out in opposition to the government. The military began to search for arms within leftist shantytowns and worker-controlled factories and to search out government supporters in their own ranks. On August 22, Congress accused Allende of unconstitutional acts and called on the military to “put an end to all situations . . . which infringe the Constitution and the laws.”71 Allende, holding fast to the presidential system, retorted that Congress needed a two-third vote to impeach him, not “a simple agreement.”72 On August 24, General Prats, the Army’s constitutionalist commander-in-chief, resigned, succumbing in the end to a demonstration of military wives in front of his house that had been organized by the same groups of opposition women who first began the “March of Pots and Pans” in late 1971. Allende replaced him with the next in rank, General Augusto Pinochet. The CIA had been gathering reports of Pinochet’s opposition to Allende as early as 1971, but there was no public indication that he was anything but loyal.73 Allende only learned he was part of the conspiracy on the morning of September 11.

Allende first heard reports of troop movements in Valparaíso early that morning and quickly left for the Moneda.74 At 7:55 a.m., he broadcast on the radio for the first time, reporting that the Navy had mutinied in Valparaíso and that he would defend his government. His daughters, Beatriz and Isabel, arrived at the Moneda over the next hour, and a helmeted Allende, gun in hand, was photographed in front of the Moneda, scanning the nearby buildings.75 At 8:15, he returned to the air with assurances that his loyal troops would “crush the fascist coup.” Fifteen minutes later, having learned that Pinochet joined the conspiracy, he revealed on air that the “majority of the armed forces” were participating in the coup, repeating words he had spoken in 1971: “I do not have the makings of a martyr . . . But let those who want to drag us into the past and ignore the will of the majority know . . . I will [only] leave the Moneda when I have fulfilled the mandate given me by the Chilean people.” Allende refused the military’s demand to resign. His last radio message, at 9:10 a.m., was broadcast on Radio Magallanes. “This will surely be the last time I speak with you,” he said in a measured voice, and thanked the workers for their loyalty to the man whose only desire was to “interpret” their demand for justice, “who pledged . . . to respect the Constitution and the law, and did just that.” He addressed himself to the “modest women of our land,” to the youth “who sang and brought their happiness and their spirit to the fight,” to the worker, the peasant, the intellectual, to all who would soon be persecuted, since “fascism has been on the move in our country for several hours . . . .”

Soon, he continued, the people would no longer hear his voice, but it didn’t matter since “I will always be with you.” His memory would be that “of a dignified man who was loyal to the Nation.” He cautioned the people to defend, but not sacrifice, themselves. “Workers of my nation,” he concluded in words that became his epitaph, “I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will go beyond this gray and bitter moment when Treason tries to impose itself upon us. You must know that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues (grandes alamedas) will reopen and on them dignified men will again walk as they try to construct a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!”76

As two air force jets launched their attack on the Moneda, Allende and others fired from the windows. When further resistance seemed impossible, Allende ordered everyone to evacuate, having sent his daughters away earlier. Instead of following the others, Allende slipped back to the second floor, placed a rifle to his head and took his own life.77 He had, as Debray contemplated more than two years earlier, offered “his throat to the long knives of the enemy.”78 His body was removed by firefighters some hours later, and the military saw to his secret burial in Viña del Mar, where his body remained until the end of the dictatorship. On September 4, 1990, his remains were transferred to the General Cemetery in Santiago. Tens of thousands lined the route.

Figure 7. Statue of Salvador Allende near the Moneda.

Courtesy of Steven S. Volk.

During Allende’s fourth and final presidential campaign, he sat for a long interview with the news magazine Ercilla. Amidst an abundance of frivolous questions, the reporter asked him how he would like to be remembered. “Como un chileno consequente,” he responded, “As a Chilean who was consistent with his principles.”79 Around the world roads, plazas, health centers, and libraries bear his name. In France alone, there are twenty-three streets and avenues named for him, fifteen more in Spain. And in Chile, his statue now stands in a position of honor a few yards from the Moneda, testimony to his legacy as a man of integrity, commitment, and honesty. “I don’t have the makings of a martyr,” he insisted, but he died as one. In 2008, 100 years after his birth, Chileans named him the most important figure in their country’s history.80

Discussion of the Literature

The study of Salvador Allende has generated a significant historiography. This can be divided into biographical literature, works about his political project, and materials examining relations between the United States and Chile.


There are few authoritative biographies of Allende. The 2013 study by Mario Amorós is the most comprehensive and draws extensively from Chilean and foreign archives. Victor Figueroa Clark’s short, sympathetic biography, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat, provides a basic introduction in English, although it requires additional knowledge of Chilean history.81 Biographers have examined Allende’s life through a variety of approaches and genres. These include Diana Venero’s psycho-historical account, Fernando Alegría’s biographical novel, and Patricio Guzmán’s moving documentary.82 Allende’s biographers continue to draw on the large number of memoirs written by Allende’s friends and colleagues. Among the most insightful are those of Eduardo Labarca, a journalist at El Siglo and news director at Chile Films, Osvaldo Puccio Giesen, Allende’s private secretary, Carlos Jorquera, Allende’s press secretary, Jorge Timossi, an Argentine reporter who covered Chile, and Óscar Waiss, one of Allende’s friends from his student days who became editor at La Nación, the government-run newspaper, during Allende’s presidency.83 Gonzalo Vial published a more conservative, and less sympathetic, biography in 2005.84

Allende’s Presidency and the Popular Unity Government

Most studies of Allende focus on his presidency and the three years of his Popular Unity government. They broadly mirror the political landscape of the time, exploring why Allende fell and whether the UP’s failure was the “story of a death foretold,” to quote from one title, or could have succeeded if the stars aligned perfectly. Conservative critiques generally argue that the government imploded, a result of numerous internal errors, including inexperience, dogmatism, and Allende’s need to attend to conflicting interests in his coalition. They point to Allende’s inability or unwillingness to control his supporters and his failure to win a majority of Chileans to his cause.85 Those who critique Allende from the left argue that the bourgeoisie would have never peacefully relinquished its grip on power or allowed its sources of wealth to be challenged. Given the reality of the struggle to come, they argue, Allende should have done more to prepare the people for the hardships they would face, equipping them for a violent power struggle.86 An extensive literature focuses on Allende’s political thought, including his own writings, those of close political colleagues, and the extended 1971 interview with Régis Debray.87 Finally, a significant historiography traces the development and composition of the social forces that both supported and opposed Allende and the Popular Unity government. These include landmark works in English by Peter Winn, on labor, and studies by Margaret Power, Heidi Tinsman, and Gwynn Thomas, on gender.88

The Role of the United States

Numerous authors have examined the role of the United States in Chile, seeking to understand the degree to which Washington may have precipitated Allende’s overthrow. Those most critical of Washington’s intervention, such as Peter Kornbluh, draw extensively on declassified government sources.89 Studies like that of the former U.S. ambassador to Chile, Nathaniel Davis, which argue for a more circumscribed U.S. role, highlight the weaknesses in the UP government and suggest that no “smoking gun” points to Washington’s intervention in the 1973 coup.90 Tanya Harmer’s study of Allende’s foreign policy draws on the most far-ranging set of archival sources.91

Primary Sources

The essential archival sources for Salvador Allende are maintained at the Archivo Nacional de Chile (National Archive of Chile), located within the National Library (Santiago, Chile). The National Archive is divided into two sets of main holdings, the Archivo Nacional de la Administración (National Administration Archive) and the Archivo Nacional Histórico (ANH, National Historical Archive), both of which maintain collections on Allende. The former, with documentation from all ministries, contains archives of Allende’s service as Minister of Health under the government of Pedro Aguirre Cerda, as well as the ministerial archives of the Popular Unity period. The ANH has a small collection on Allende (five boxes, 0.65 linear meters) as well as a larger collection (fifteen boxes, 6.22 linear meters) on Orlando Letelier Solar, who served as Allende’s ambassador in Washington as well as minister of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Interior. The ANH archive is searchable on line. The National Archive maintains an archive of photographs of Chilean presidents, with an on-line and searchable catalog. The National Library also maintains the most complete collection of Chilean newspapers and magazines.

The Fundación Salvador Allende (Salvador Allende Foundation) maintains a large collection of archival materials on Allende’s life and work, including documentation and audio, photographic, and moving image collections, along with a library devoted to Allende’s work.

The vast majority of Allende’s writings and many of his speeches are now online and can be found in a number of locations. The Salvador Allende Archives holds most of his writings and speeches from his years in Congress; the Archivo Chile has similar materials dating back to 1933. The Socialist Party of Chile maintains a large online archive, with abundant materials on Allende, including eighteen volumes of Allende’s work, edited by Alejandro Witker. A few English-language publications offer translations of Allende’s speeches and writings, as well as other useful primary source materials.92

Foreign Relations

Understanding Allende’s relations with Washington is central to our understanding of Allende’s presidency. After years of pressure and a number of lawsuits, various branches of the U.S. Government began releasing large sets of formerly classified documents in 1999. In all, the Chile Declassification Project produced 24,000 records, including 18,000 from the Department of State and lesser amounts from the White House, National Security Council, Pentagon, and FBI. The documentation covers the period between 1970 and 1990.

The National Security Archive (NSA), a private, non-profit organization housed at George Washington University, was largely responsible for securing the declassification of the government’s holdings on Chile. The Chile Documentation Project of the NSA is housed at George Washington University and maintains an online archive. Documentation is updated regularly as new sources become available.

The National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland also houses valuable materials for this period from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of State as well as the Nixon Presidential Materials Project.

Further Reading

  • Mario Amorós. Allende: La biografia. Barcelona: Grupo Zeta, 2013.
  • Victor Figueroa Clark. Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat. New York: Pluto Press, 2013.
  • Regis Debray. The Chilean Revolution: Conversations with Allende. New York: Vintage, 1971.
  • Paul W. Drake. Socialism and Populism in Chile, 1932–52. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978.
  • Tanya Harmer. Allende’s Chile & the Inter-American Cold War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
  • Peter Kornbluh. The Pinochet Files: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. New York: New Press, 2003.
  • Brian Loveman and Elizabeth Lira. Las ardientes cenizas del olvido: Vía chilena de reconciliación política, 1932–1994. Santiago, Chile: LOM, 2000.
  • Lois Hecht Oppenheim. Politics in Chile: Socialism, Authoritarianism, and Market Democracy. 3d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2007.
  • Julio Pinto Vallejos, ed. Fiesta y drama. Nuevas historias de la Unidad Popular. Santiago, Chile: LOM, 2014.
  • Margaret Power. Right-Wing Women in Chile: Feminine Power and the Struggle Against Allende, 1964–1973. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.
  • Gywnn Thomas. Contesting Legitimacy in Chile: Familial Ideals, Citizenship and Political Struggle, 1970–1990. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011.
  • Heidi Tinsman. Partners in Conflict: The Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Labor on the Chilean Agrarian Reform, 1950–1973. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.
  • Peter Winn. Weavers of Revolution: The Yarur Workers and Chile’s Road to Socialism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.


  • 1. Salvador Allende, “Romper los moldes de la economía liberal. Discurso de homenaje al triunfo del Frente Popular, 25 de octubre de 1943,” in Frida Modak, ed. Salvador Allende en el umbral del siglo XXI (Mexico, DF: Plaza & Janés Editores, 1998), 32.

  • 2. Virginia Vidal, “Los abuelos de Allende: Héroes de la independencia, políticos y artistas,” Anaquel Austral, September 4, 2012; and Eduardo Labarca, “La senadora Allende se equivoca sobre el nacimiento de su padre,” El Mostrador, March 18, 2014.

  • 3. Mario Amorós, Allende: La biografía (Barcelona: Grupo Zeta, 2013), 17–46; Victor Figueroa Clark, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat (New York: Pluto Press, 2013), 12–26; J. Lavretski, Salvador Allende (Moscow: Editorial Progreso, 1978), 8–41; Regis Debray, The Chilean Revolution. Conversations with Allende (New York: Vintage, 1971), 62–71; Eduardo Labarca Goddard, Salvador Allende, biografía sentimental (Santiago, Chile: Catalonia, 2007), part II; and Virginia Vidal, “Los abuelos de Allende.”

  • 4. In his interview with Regis Debray, Allende said, “I’m a native of this town, and I’m the first president from Valparaiso.” Debray, The Chilean Revolution, 67.

  • 5. Debray, The Chilean Revolution, 65.

  • 6. Debray, The Chilean Revolution, 66.

  • 7. Sergio Grez Toso, Los anarquistas y el movimiento obrero: La alborada de “la Idea” en Chile, 1893–1915 (Santiago, Chile: LOM, 2007); and Amorós, Allende: La biografía, 33.

  • 8. Debray, The Chilean Revolution, 66.

  • 9. Luís Corvalán, “Salvador Allende, Presidente del pueblo,” in Salvador Allende: Presencia en la ausencia, ed. Miguel Lawner, Hernán Soto, and Jacobo Schatan (Santiago, Chile: LOM, 2008), 38.

  • 10. Jorge Arrate, “Allende: Toda una vida, toda una muerte,” in Salvador Allende, ed. Lawner, Soto, and Schatan, 27–28.

  • 11. Debray, The Chilean Revolution, 69.

  • 12. Simon Collier and William F. Sater, A History of Chile, 1808–1994 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 204.

  • 13. Salvador Allende, “Arturo Alessandri Palma. Fallecimiento. Homenaje póstumo,” in Salvador Allende, Senador 1945-1951 (Santiago, Chile: Archivo Parlamentario Salvador Allende, Biblioteca Clodomiro Almeyda, Partido Socialista de Chile, 2014).

  • 14. Clark, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat, 18.

  • 15. Diana Veneros, Allende: Un ensayo psicobiográfico (Santiago, Chile: Señales, 2003), 44.

  • 16. Debray, The Chilean Revolution, p. 64.

  • 17. Óscar Waiss, Chile vivo. Memorias de un socialista, 1928–1970 (Madrid: Centro de Estudios Salvador Allende, 1986), 21–22.

  • 18. Fernando Silva V, Un contrapunto de medio siglo: Democracía liberal y estatismo burocrático 1924–1970, in Historia de Chile, ed. Sergio Villalobos R., Osvaldo Silva G., Fernando Silva V., and Patricio Estelle M., (Santiago, Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 1974), 827.

  • 19. Alejandro Witker, Salvador Allende, 1908–1973. Prócer de la liberación nacional (México: National Autonomous Univdersity of Mexico, 1980), 4–5.

  • 20. Amorós, Allende: La biografía, 44.

  • 21. Debray, The Chilean Revolution, 63.

  • 22. Joan E. Garcés, “Allende de Chile,” in Salvador Allende, ed. Lawner, Soto, and Schatan, 63–64.

  • 23. Carlos Jorquera, El Chicho Allende (Santiago, Chile: Ediciones BAT, 1990), 96.

  • 24. Collier and Sater, A History of Chile, 221–226.

  • 25. Paul W. Drake, Socialism and Populism in Chile, 1932–52 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978); Julio Faúndez, Marxism and Democracy in Chile: From 1932 to the Fall of Allende (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988).

  • 26. Salvador Allende, La realidad médico social de Chile (Santiago, Chile: TADESH, 1999); and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, Gendered Compromises. Political Cultures & the State in Chile, 1920–1950 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 159–160.

  • 27. Mauricio Amar Díaz, “Salud, educación, vivienda y trabajo en el pensamiento de Salvador Allende Gossens,” in Salvador Allende. Vida política y parlamentaria, 1908–1973, ed. David Vásquez, 173–201 (Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile, 2008); Max Nolff, Salvador Allende: El político: El estadista (Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Documentas, 1993), 32; and Rosemblatt, Gendered Compromises, 161.

  • 28. Allende, “Defensa permanente de la democracía,” in Salvador Allende, Senador 1945-1951, 408.

  • 29. Allende, “Defensa permanente, 413.

  • 30. Allende, “Defensa permanente.

  • 31. Corvalán, “Salvador Allende,” 48–49.

  • 32. Osvaldo Puccio, Un cuarto de siglo con Allende. Recuerdos de su secretario privado, Osvaldo Puccio (Santiago, Chile: Editorial Emisión, 1985), 72.

  • 33. Amorós, Allende: La biografía, 69.

  • 34. Amorós, Allende: La biografía, 202.

  • 35. Jorquera, El Chicho Allende, 267.

  • 36. Margaret Power, Right-Wing Women in Chile: Feminine Power and the Struggle Against Allende, 1964–1973 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002), 81.

  • 37. Peter Kornbluh, The Pinochet File. A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability (New York: New Press, 2003), 4.

  • 38. Clark, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat, 77.

  • 39. Eduardo Labarca, Chile al rojo. Reportaje a una revolución que nace (Santiago, Chile: UTE, 1971), 225–226.

  • 40. Clark, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat, 85.

  • 41. Nathaniel Davis, The Last Two Years of Salvador Allende (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), 5; and Kornbluh, The Pinochet File, 5–6.

  • 42. Power, Right-Wing Women, 62–68, 270–271.

  • 43. Salvador Allende, “Victory Speech to the People of Santiago,” in Salvador Allende Reader, ed. James D. Cockcroft, trans. Moisés Espinoza and Nancy Nuñes (New York: Ocean Press, 2000), 48.

  • 44. Amorós, Allende: La biografía, 284–285.

  • 45. U.S. Senate, Staff Report of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Covert Action in Chile, 1970–73 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1975).

  • 46. Debray, The Chilean Revolution, 61, 85–117.

  • 47. Mark Falcoff, Modern Chile, 1970–1989: A Critical History (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1989), 54–55.

  • 48. Alberto Martínez E., “Economía y correlación de fuerzas sociales en la transición: El caso de Chile en el período 1970–73,” in Salvador Allende, ed. Lawner, Soto, and Schatan, 111–113.

  • 49. Eden Medina, Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile (Boston: MIT Press, 2011), 12.

  • 50. International Monetary Fund, Chile: Recent Economic Development (Washington, DC: IMF, 1976), Statistical Appendix, Chart C.

  • 51. Power, Right-Wing Women, 141–192.

  • 52. Peter Winn, Weavers of Revolution: The Yarur Workers and Chile’s Road to Socialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

  • 53. “Interview with Enrique Malbrán,” Memoria Obstinada, DVD, directed by Patricio Guzmán (1997; New York: Icarus Films, 2009).

  • 54. Joan E. Garcés, El estado y los problemas tácticos en el gobierno de Allende (Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1974), 32.

  • 55. Garcés, El estado, 34.

  • 56. Joan Garcés, Allende y la experiencia chilena (Barcelona: Ariel, 1976), 365–369.

  • 57. Clark, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat, 101–102.

  • 58. Amorós, Allende: La biografía, 375.

  • 59. Tomás Moulian, Conversación interrumpida con Allende (Santiago, Chile: LOM/Universidad Arcis, 1998), 35, and Marian Schlotterbeck, “Everyday Revolutions: Grassroots Movements, the Revolutionary Left (MIR), and the Making of Socialism in Concepción, Chile, 1964–1973” (doctoral dissertation, Yale University, 2013).

  • 60. Julio Silva Solar, “¿Era viable el proyecto de la Unidad Popular”? in Salvador Allende, ed. Lawner, Soto, and Schatan, 101.

  • 61. Peter Winn, “The Furies of the Andes. Violence and Terror in the Chilean Revolution and Counterrevolution,” in Greg Grandin and Gilbert M. Joseph, eds., A Century of Revolution. Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Violence During Latin America’s Long Cold War (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 246.

  • 62. Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile & the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 121–123.

  • 63. Among others, Kornbluh, The Pinochet File; Harmer, Allende’s Chile; and U.S. Senate, Staff Report of the Select Committee, Covert Action in Chile, 1963–1973.

  • 64. Harmer, Allende’s Chile & the Inter-American Cold War, 198.

  • 65. Ozren Agnic, Allende: El hombre y el politico: Memorias de un secretario privado (Santiago, Chile: RIL Editors, 2008), 59–62; and Miguel Labarca, Allende en persona: Testimonio de una intensa amistad y colaboración (Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Chile America, 2008), 67, as cited in Clark, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat, 64.

  • 66. Amorós, Allende: La biografía, 252.

  • 67. Lavretski, Salvador Allende, 110.

  • 68. Hernán Soto, “El gobierno de Allende y las Fuerzas Armadas,” in Salvador Allende, ed. Lawner, Soto and Schatan, 141–145.

  • 69. Soto, “El gobierno de Allende y las Fuerzas Armadas,” in Salvador Allende, 145.

  • 70. Miguel González Pino and Arturo Fontaine Talavera, eds., Los mil días de Allende (Santiago, Chile: Centro de Estudios Públicos, 1997), 1: 689.

  • 71. El Mercurio (Santiago, Chile), August 23, 1973.

  • 72. Salvador Allende, “Al pueblo de Chile,” in Salvador Allende en el umbral del siglo XXI, 95.

  • 73. Kornbluh, The Pinochet File, 95–96.

  • 74. Miria Contreras (“La Payita”) provided a detailed account of the final days before the coup in a letter she sent to Beatriz Allende a few weeks after the coup. It was published in The Clinic (Santiago, Chile), September 4, 2003.

  • 75. New York Times, January 26, 1974. The photographer, Luís Orlando Lagos Vásquez, remained anonymous until his death in 2007.

  • 76. All citations from Salvador Allende, “Ultimo Discurso (Discurso: Texto Completo),” September 11, 1973. Author’s translations.

  • 77. The account of Allende’s suicide, doubted for years, was confirmed by Dr. Patricio Guijón, his doctor and a close friend, who witnessed it. Two autopsies, the last performed in 2011, confirmed the account. “Chilean President Salvador Allende committed suicide, autopsy confirms,” Guardian, July 19, 2011.

  • 78. Debray, The Chilean Revolution, 57.

  • 79. Cited in Lavretski, Salvador Allende, 122.

  • 80. Clark, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat, 6.

  • 81. Mario Amorós, Allende: La biografia; and Victor Figueroa Clark, Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat.

  • 82. Patricio Guzmán, director, Salvador Allende (New York: Icarus Films, 2004).

  • 83. Eduardo Labarca, Biografía sentimental; and Labarca, Allende en persona; Osvaldo Puccio, Un cuarto de siglo con Allende; Carlos Jorquera, El Chicho Allende; Jorge Timossi, Grandes Alamedas. El combate del Presidente Allende (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1974); and Óscar Waiss, Chile vivo: Memórias de un socialista, 1928–1970.

  • 84. Gonzalo Vial Correa, Salvador Allende: El fracaso de una ilusión (Santiago, Chile: Universidad Finis Terrae y Centro de Estudios Bicentenario, 2005).

  • 85. Paul Sigmund, The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1964–1976 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977); Mark Falcoff, Modern Chile, 1970–1989: A Critical History (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1989); Vial Correa, Salvador Allende; Arturo Fontaine Aldunate, Todos querían la revolución. Chile, 1964–1973 (Santiago, Chile: Zig Zag, 1999); and Nathaniel Davis, The Last Two Years.

  • 86. Among others, Pedro Naranjo, et al, eds., Miguel Enríquez y el proyecto revolucionario en Chile: Discursos y documentos del Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (Santiago, Chile: LOM, Centro de Estudios Miguel Enríquez, 2004); Carlos Altamirano, Dialéctica de una derrota (Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1978); Ruy Mauro Marini, Dos estratégias en el proceso chileno (Caracas: Fondo Editorial Salvador de la Plaza, 1974); Gabriel Smirnow, The Revolution Disarmed. Chile 1970–1973 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979); and James Petras and Fernando Ignacio Leiva, Democracy and Poverty in Chile: The Limits to Electoral Politics (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994).

  • 87. Regis Debray, The Chilean Revolution; Jorge Arrate, Salvador Allende, ¿Sueño o proyecto? (Santiago, Chile: LOM, 2008); Luís Corvalán, El gobierno de Salvador Allende (Santiago, Chile: LOM, 2003); José G. Martínez Fernández, Allende: Su vida, su pensamiento político (Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Palabra Escrita, 1988); Joan E. Garcés, El estado y los problemas tácticos; Ian Roxborough, Phil O’Brien and Jackie Roddick, Chile: The State and Revolution (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1977); Sergio Bitar, Chile: Experiment in Democracy (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1986), James D. Cockroft, ed., Salvador Allende Reader: Chile’s Voice of Democracy, trans. Moisés Espinoza and Nancy Nuñes (New York: Ocean Press, 2000), and Salvador Allende Gossens, Su pensamiento político (Santiago, Chile: Granica, 1973).

  • 88. Among others: Peter Winn, Weavers of Revolution; Power, Right-Wing Women; Rosemblatt, Gendered Compromises; Thomas Klubock, Contested Communities: Class, Gender, and Politics in Chile’s El Teniente Copper Mine, 1904–1951 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998); Gywnn Thomas, Contesting Legitimacy in Chile: Familial Ideals, Citizenship and Political Struggle, 1970–1990 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011); Heidi Tinsman, Partners in Conflict: The Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Labor on the Chilean Agrarian Reform, 1950–1973 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002); and Mario Garcés, Tomando su sitio: El movimiento de pobladores de Santiago, 1957–1970 (Santiago, Chile: LOM, 2002).

  • 89. Among others: U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Covert Action in Chile, 1963–1973; and Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1975); U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations, The International Telephone and Telegraph Company and Chile (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1973); Peter Kornbluh, The Pinochet Files; Seymour Hersh, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House (New York: Summit, 1983); Lubna Z. Qureshi, Nixon, Kissinger, and Allende: U.S. Involvement in the 1973 Coup in Chile (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009); Jonathan Haslam, The Nixon Administration and the Death of Allende’s Chile: A Case of Assisted Suicide (London: Verso, 2005); and Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup against Salvador Allende, 11 September 1973 (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

  • 90. See, in particular, Sigmund, The Overthrow of Allende; Falcoff, Modern Chile; Davis, The Last Two Years; William D. Rogers and Kenneth Maxwell, “Fleeing the Chilean Coup: The Debate Over U.S. Complicity,” Foreign Affairs 83.1 (January/February 2004), 160–165; Jack Devine, “What Really Happened in Chile: The CIA, the Coup Against Chile, and the Rise of Pinochet,” Foreign Affairs 93.4 (July–August 2014), 26–35; as well as Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979); and Kissinger, Years of Upheaval (Boston: Little, Brown, 1982).

  • 91. Allende’s Chile & the Inter-American Cold War.

  • 92. See, for example, James D. Cockcroft, ed., Salvador Allende Reader; and Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Thomas Miller Klubock, Nara B. Milanich, and Peter Winn, eds., The Chile Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).