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Now the Americans can know how the Chileans felt

Ariel Dorfman is a Chilean-American writer. His books have been published in over 40 languages and his plays staged in more than one hundred countries. He is the author of Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 

Dorfman writes on CommonDreams how, given the interference by the Russians in the recent presidential election, Americans can now perhaps understand how Chileans feel about the US intervention in their democratic processes during the Allende period back in the 1970's.

"On the morning of Oct. 22, 1970, in what was then my home in Santiago de Chile, my wife, Angélica, and I listened to a news flash on the radio. Gen. René Schneider, the head of Chile’s armed forces, had been shot by a commando on a street of the capital. He was not expected to survive.

Angélica and I had the same automatic reaction: It’s the C.I.A., we said, almost in unison. We had no proof at the time — though evidence that we were right would eventually, and abundantly, surface — but we did not doubt that this was one more American attempt to subvert the will of the Chilean people.

Six weeks earlier, Salvador Allende, a democratic Socialist, had won the presidency in a free and fair election, in spite of the United States’ spending millions of dollars on psychological warfare and misinformation to prevent his victory (we’d call it “fake news” today). Allende had campaigned on a program of social and economic justice, and we knew that the government of President Richard M. Nixon, allied with Chile’s oligarchs, would do everything it could to stop Allende’s nonviolent revolution from gaining power.

The country was rife with rumors of a possible coup. It had happened in Guatemala and Iran, in Indonesia and Brazil, where leaders opposed to United States interests had been ousted; now it was Chile’s turn. That was why General Schneider was assassinated. Because, having sworn loyalty to the Constitution, he stubbornly stood in the way of those destabilization plans.

General Schneider’s death did not block Allende’s inauguration, but American intelligence services, at the behest of Henry A. Kissinger, continued to assail our sovereignty during the next three years, sabotaging our prosperity (“make the economy scream,” Nixon ordered) and fostering military unrest. Finally, on Sept. 11, 1973, Allende was overthrown and replaced by a vicious dictatorship that lasted nearly 17 years. Years of torture and executions and disappearances and exile."

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