1 The Artful Staging
of a "Suicide"
disciplined, organized, and aware people is, along with an
loyal armed forces and military police, the best
the Popular government and of the future of the
ALLENDE, speech May 1, 1971, in Plaza Bulnes,
"And they have the power, they
can smash us, but the social
processes cannot be held back either by crime or by force.
History is ours, and
the People will make it."
ALLENDE, speech September 11,1973, at 9:15
A.M., in the Palacio de La Moneda, Santiago, Chile, taped
as the attack by the rebel generals was under way and
broadcast by Radio Magallanes.)
Six or seven minutes past 2 P.M. on September 11, 1973, an infiltration patrol of the San
Bemardo Infantry School commanded by Captain Roberto Garrido burst into the second floor
of the Chilean Presidential Palace, Santiago's Palacio de La Moneda. Charging up the
main staircase and covering themselves with spurts from their FAL machine guns, the
patrol advanced to the entrance of the Salon Rojo, the state reception hall. Inside,
through dense smoke coming from fires elsewhere in the building and from the explosion of
tear gas bombs, grenades, and shells from Sherman tank cannons, the patrol captain saw a
band of civilians braced to defend themselves with submachine guns. In a reflex action,
Captain Garrido loosed a short burst from his weapon. One of his three bullets struck a
civilian in the stomach. A soldier in Garrido's patrol imitated his commander, wounding
the same man in the abdomen. As the man writhed on the floor in agony,
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
Garrido suddenly realized who he was: Salvador Allende. "We shit on the
President!" he shouted. There was more machine-gun fire from Garrido's patrol.
Allende was riddled with bullets. As he slumped back dead, a second group of civilian
defenders broke into the Salon Rojo from a side door. Their gunfire drove back Garrido and
his patrol, who fled down the main staircase to the safety of the first floor, which the
rebel troops had occupied.
Some of the civilians returned to the Salon Rojo to see what could be
done. Among them was Dr. Enrique Paris, a psychiatrist and President Allende's personal
doctor. He leaned over the body, which showed the points of impact of at least six shots
in the abdomen and lower stomach region. After taking Allende's pulse, he signaled that
the President was dead. Someone, out of nowhere, appeared with a Chilean flag, and Enrique
Paris covered the body with it.
The furious battle between the first and second floors continued. Dr. Paris's
group left the half-destroyed Salon Rojo, whose roof was now in flames. In groups of four
and five people, the defenders continued fighting, most of them unaware that President
Allende was dead.
Less than an hour later, around quarter to three in the afternoon, the
civilian defenders were overcome by troops from the Infantry School, the Tacna Regiment,
and the 2nd Armored Regiment. Thirty- two people had survived of the original group of
forty-two men and women who had been defending La Moneda for five hours. The entire second
floor of the building was now occupied by the invading troops.
The commander of the attack on La Moneda, Brigadier General Javier
Palacios Ruhman, followed by Captain Garrido and his patrol, marched into the Salon Rojo,
leaned over Allende's body, and pulled away the bloody Chilean flag. Turning to Garrido,
General Palacios ordered: "We must seal off this room. Don't let anybody else in. No
one is to see the President's body. Put me through to headquarters, to General Pinochet in
" Attention Post One! Attention Post One! Combat Unit Alpha One
here. General Palacios requests to speak to General Pinochet."
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
Palacios took the radio microphone and reported in a dry, precise voice:
"General Palacios to General Pinochet. Mission accomplished. Moneda taken. President
"How is the body?" the Army's commander in chief asked.
"Don't let anyone see it. Wait for instructions."
It was then a few minutes before 3 P.M. on September 11, 1973. At 6 A.M.
that morning, the high command of the Chilean armed forces had mobilized some 100,000 men
and launched an all-out attack against the economic, political, social, and administrative
centers in the country. No less than 3,000 leaders of laborers, farmers, office workers,
and political parties were murdered on September 11. Between the eleventh and the
fifteenth, 5,500 more were to be killed combating the rebel military forces, and some
6,300 persons would be imprisoned and shot or murdered in some other way between the
twelfth and the thirtieth of September. In the first eighteen days, there were
approximately 15,000 civilian casualties. Of these, slightly less than 6,000 were in
Santiago: 800 murdered on the eleventh, 2,900 killed later in combat, and 2,200 shot or
murdered after being taken prisoner with or without "summary trial in time of
These tragic statistics are the result of the second part of the coup
plan, Operation Beta One, which the rebel generals had intended principally to affect
Santiago. It involved the military occupation of the city's two main industrial
concentrations: Los Cerrillos, in the southeast, and Vicuña Mackenna, in the central
eastern area. In conjunction with these occupations, commando units composed of
military personnel and civilian fascists were to engage in "pincer
Between 6 and 8 A.M. on the eleventh, these units would arrest about 6,000 persons
throughout the country. Prisoners were to be taken to military headquarters, subjected to
brief, pointed interrogations, and executed immediately afterward. The military
described this as "cleaning up the motors of Marxism"; these people were leaders
of towns, unions, farm worker settlements, political parties, and leftist cultural
organizations. The list of their names had been in
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
preparation since November 1972. Its compilation was a joint effort of Chilean Army, Navy,
and Air Force intelligence. The Chilean military had close affiliations with the
intelligence departments of the U.S. Southern Command in the Canal Zone and with members
of the Brazilian Embassy in Santiago.
The rebel generals believed Beta One could be completed during the afternoon
of the eleventh, but the people's resistance in Vicuña Mackenna and Los Cerrillos
surprised them, continuing through the night of the eleventh. Around noon on the twelfth,
the workers' scanty munitions gave out, and mass murders in the Santiago labor housing
sectors, including La Legua and Lo Hermida, finally stopped most of the resistance.
It was only then that the generals felt confident about announcing the
achievement of the first part of the coup, Operation Alpha One.1*
This was the "suicide" of Salvador Allende Gossens.
During Alpha One, La Moneda was to be taken in order to capture the
President himself. Estimated time for its completion was 120 minutes after the onset of
the attack on La Moneda (9 A.M., September 11, 1973). The rebels' intelligence estimates
did not envision resistance from the handful of civilians inside the palace. They
expected Allende to surrender at once when faced with infantry, armored cars, tanks, and
the threat of aerial bombardment. After transferring him to 2nd Armored barracks, the
rebel generals probably thought that as a result of various humiliations they planned for
him Allende would commit suicide if momentarily left without a guard. This would be
announced to the country around one o'clock that afternoon.
Instead, it took five hours to capture La Moneda and subdue
civilians armed with submachine guns and one bazooka. This small group held off a siege of
eight Sherman tanks (each equipped with a 75-mm. cannon and a .50-caliber machine gun),
*Notes, documenting or elaborating on statements made in the text, begin on
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
75-mm. cannons mounted on jeeps, and two hundred infantrymen from two Santiago regiments,
and the bombardment of a pair of Hawker Hunter fighter jets, equipped with eighteen
rockets apiece (of which eighteen were released, striking their target between 11:56 A.M.
and 12:15 P.M.). The jets also strafed the rooftops and the second floor of
It was not until 2:50 P.M. that the rebel high command could announce to the
country that "the Palacio de La Moneda has been taken by the armed forces."
Owing to the unexpected resistance in La Moneda, the original scenario of Allende's
"clean suicide" collapsed. It took the conspiring generals four hours (from 3 to
7 P.M.) to improvise a new script. This entailed "discovering" Allende's
"suicide" inside La Moneda and finding an "eyewitness." Their drama
was so shoddily concocted that superficial inspection would reveal its many contradictions
and obvious lies. The members of the rebel high command were painfully aware of this, and
for more than twenty hours they stalled, reluctant to inform the Chilean people of the
President's death. Finally, the news was leaked abroad and the Chi- leans learned from
foreign correspondents that their President had "committed suicide."
THE REBEL FORCES
The purpose of this bloodbath has been exposed to the world by subsequent events in Chile.
By altering the entire political and economic system of Chile, the rebel generals
intended to restore and protect the interests of the North American multinational
companies and about twenty Chilean oligopolies in industry, commerce, and finance. To
ensure their continuing control, the generals undertook to liquidate the Chilean workers'
capacity to fight back and make demands, by subjecting them to a regime of brutal
dictatorship, in which factories, offices, farms, streets, and private houses were to take
on all the characteristics of military barracks.
These repressive forces had been in the making for more than
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
twenty years. In 1952, Gabriel González Videla, the President of Chile and head of the
Radical party, signed a Mutual Aid Pact with the United States. Since that time, the
Chilean military had been trained and financed by the U.S. armed services.2 On September 10, 1973, these Chilean troops and their officers
were mobilized to attack the constitutionally elected Chilean government. Their combined
strength consisted of:
Army: Just over 30,000 men, organized in six divisions, one of
which is cavalry. There are six cavalry regiments, two armored regiments, and two of
mobile artillery geared for use in mountainous territory. Ten of the sixteen infantry
regiments are motorized. There are five artillery regiments. Out of the total number of
regiments, eight are stationed in Santiago, the capital. Training is permanently advised
by the U.S. military missions, whose teaching duties range from the Academy of War (for
officers in the General Staff) to the Junior Officers' Training School in Santiago. Here
all the teaching plans, discussion groups, and courses in "general culture" in
the Army regiments (and Air Force, Navy, and military police units) are pre- pared with
the advice of U.S. experts.
Air Force: Just under 9,000 men. It includes bombardier, air
attack, antiaircraft, combat helicopter, and ground support units. It depends on the U .S.
Air Force to such an extent that its commander in chief prior to the present one (Gustavo
Leigh Guzmán, a member of the military junta), Cesar Ruiz Danyau, was known to his aides
as "the Yankee," because he was in constant contact with the U.S. Air Force
mission in Chile.
Navy: Slightly over 15,000 men. In addition to a combat fleet,
the Navy has Marines, naval aviation, and naval engineer units. Its officers are the
heirs of British Navy tradition, and its commanders consider themselves the military
aristocracy of Chile. In planning the military coup against Allende, they proposed the
massive Operation Pincers plan to assassinate popular leaders.
Military Police: Slightly more than 30,000 men. Its organization is
militarized, possessing automatic weapons and a company of antiriot
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
tanks equipped with one .30-caliber machine gun each. Here, too, training is overseen by
Americans. A major scandal erupted in 1969 when the complete text of the antiriot training
primer employed by the motorized section of the military police was published by a leftist
magazine, Causa ML. Classified "secret" for civilians, this primer had
been produced by the U.S. Pentagon.
The entire Chilean armed forces total approximately 85,000 men; these were
supplemented on the day of the coup by more than 10,000 civilians (ex-soldiers, reserve
officers, and so on), who belonged to armed fascist groups such as Fatherland and Liberty
(Patria y Libertad), the ex-Cadet Commandos, and the Rolando Matus Commandos, and
supplied with arms by the Marines and the Air Force. These 10,000 civilians played a
supporting role during the military coup as "independent units," receiving
orders directly from the coup's central Command.
One would like to believe that not all units of the armed forces
participated in the uprising, but the facts show that internal dissent was minimal. For
instance, in Santiago, only a very few of the commanders of the Junior Officers'
Training School, the Railwaymen Regiment of Puente Alto, and the Military Police
School opposed the coup. They were murdered by their own unit companions.
THE BACKGROUND OF THE CONSPIRACY
The conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional government of Chile started in
October-November 1972, when American intelligence agencies probably concluded that,
despite Allende's devotion to the Constitution, the workers and peasants were now on the
verge of going beyond constitutional means to attain their increasingly revolutionary
About a third of the Army generals, the majority of the Air Force
generals, almost the whole of the Navy high command, and the majority of the military
police's commanders began to make plans. There is convincing authority for the premise
that the U.S. Southern
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
Command in the Canal Zone, as well as various elements within the Department of Defense in
Washington, were carefully apprized of these plans. Two stages were envisioned: first, a
"softening" of public opinion, through activities of the Christian Democratic
and National parties, and of controversial fascist groups such as Fatherland and Liberty,
ex-Cadet Commandos and Rolando Matus Commandos, and employers' guilds such as the Society
for Industrial Development (Sociedad de Fomento Fabril, grouping the industrial
oligarchy), the National Agriculture Society (grouping the agricultural oligarchy), and
the National Confederation of Production and Commerce (grouping the industrial,
commercial, and financial oligarchy); second, "attacking the prey," when the
prey (the Allende government) was already cornered and breathless and without much popular
This scheme included a "wait-and-see" period to evaluate
the outcome of the March 4, 1973, elections for the seats of 150 Deputies in the Lower
House of the Chilean Parliament and 25 Senate seats (out of a total of 50) in the Upper
House. At that time, the fate of Salvador AIlende, once he had been ousted, had not
been determined. Until June 1973, the prevailing idea had been to send Allende into exile.
In addition, a minority of the generals, especially those in the Army, believed that they
could convince Allende to head a "national unification " civilian-military
government, excluding the leftist political parties from official participation. This they
referred to as a "soft coup." But in the March 1973 elections, Allende's Unidad
Popular ticket carried almost 44 percent4 of the vote.
Pressure from laborers', peasants', and office workers' unions began to create the climate
for the formation of grass-roots power structures that just might find a way to supplant
the economic, political, and social power of the North American multinationals and the
national oligopolists. The attitude of the most reactionary generals, as well as that of
the Pentagon Latin-American desk, hardened. They began to pressure those generals who
still clung to the idea of a "national unification" civilian-military
government headed by Allende. On the other hand, Allende
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
himself, impelled by the growing revolutionary tide of his grass-roots constituency, made
it clear to Generals Prats and Pinochet that he would not lend himself to heading a thinly
veiled military dictatorship.
In July 1973 the high command of the Chilean Navy upset the balance of
military opinion with one daring, macabre stroke. A team of professional assassins, led by
a member of Navy intelligence, murdered Allende's naval aide, Commodore Arturo Araya
Peters, in his own home on the night of July 26, 1973. They accomplished this in concert
with the ex-Cadet Commandos.* The assassination had been plotted with the rebel group in
the military police, who controlled military police intelligence.
The members of the Navy high command taking part in the conspiracy believed
two objectives had been accomplished by this assassination:
1. It prevented Araya Peters, a personal friend of Allende and a member
of the "constitutionalist" faction in the armed forces, from being promoted to
rear admiral. This would have made him a member of the General Staff of the Chilean armed
forces. According to military regulations, in September 1973, when Araya Peters finished
his two-year assignment as naval aide to the President, he would be returned to active
duty and, also by regulation, would be promoted to the second-highest rank within his
section of the armed forces. This would give President Allende an important man in the
heart of the Navy General Staff-that is, in the heart of the conspiracy to
constitutional government, where he just might discover it prematurely. In July 1973 the
rebel generals had not yet set a date for the coup. Their consensus was that around the
end of 1973 or the
*In August of 1973, Roberto Thieme,
second-in-command of Fatherland and Liberty, was detained by the civil police and
confessed that his men, as well as those of the ex-Cadet Commandos' organization, were
trained by Federico Willoughby Mac-Donald, who is currently the press secretary for the
military junta. Prior to the coup, Willoughby worked as a public relations man for the
Ford Motor Company. It is believed that Thieme also revealed associations between himself
and Willoughby and the CIA.
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
beginning of 1974 would be the most propitious time, since by then they expected the
economic situation to be intolerable, exacerbated by a national work stoppage that was
scheduled to begin in August.
2. With the complicity of military police intelligence, the rebel
admirals hoped to hatch a plot to blame the Socialist party for the naval aide's
death, thus inducing the rest of the senior officers of the armed forces and military
police to react favorably to the idea of the conspiracy. The Socialists were the principal
party in the govern- ment's Unidad Popular coalition (Salvador Allende belonged to it),
and his bodyguard, the GAP (Grupo de Amigos Personales, or Group of Personal Friends), was
drawn from it.
The commando assassins hired by members of Navy intelligence did a very
clean job. Several days after the murder, military police investigators arrested an
"alleged assassin." He was an employee of the lowest rank in a branch of the
Production Development Corpora- tion (Corporacion de Fomento de la Produccion), who
(surprise, surprise), after being beaten in the first basement of the Defense Ministry
under the vigilant eyes of naval prosecutor Aldo Montagna, had confessed that he was a
"Socialist" and had agreed to be one of the assassins "by contract with one
of the GAPs." He now "repented doing it," for which reason "he had
surrendered himself," drunk, to the night guard of the Santiago Intendencia, the
location of the First Prefecture of Military Police, which was under the direct command of
General Cesar Mendoza Durán, afterward a member of the junta. *
In the second week of August, the tidy little plot began to fall apart.
A group of detectives from the Homicide Squad of the Chilean civilian police, whose
director, Alfredo Joignant, was a member of the Chilean Socialist party, began to gather
up the threads leading to the identity of the commando assassins. President Allende
received a police report on the case, in which two facts were established:
1. The man arrested as the "alleged assassin" had been forced
*Puro Chile published an
interview with the suspect in which he denounced Aldo Montagna.
The Artful Staging of a
sign a declaration he had not even read. The text of the confession was known to a
legislator of the extreme right (Gustavo Alessandri) and had been read by him in part over
the National Agriculture Society's radio station (the property of some large landholders)
two hours before the "alleged assassin" had been arrested.
2. The identification of the actual members of the assassination team-seven
persons-had revealed at least two with connections to a senior naval officer. A concurrent
investigation of the military police intelligence captain who had persuaded the
"alleged assassin" to sign the confession revealed that he had met, two weeks
prior to July 26, with another senior naval officer.
With this evidence, part of which he made public (omitting the "senior
officers in the armed forces"), the President met on the morning of August 8, 1973,
with the commander in chief of the Army, Division General Carlos Prats
commander in chief of the Air Force, Air General Cesar Ruiz Danyau; the commander in chief
of the Navy, Admiral Raúl Montero; and the director general of the military police,
General José Sepúlveda Galindo.5
The political situation was extremely serious. On July 27 a new nationwide
strike of truck owners began: it was directed by Leon Vilarin, a man directly connected to
the coup plot through Eduardo Frei and Onofre Jarpa (see Chapter 5). On August 7
discussions had terminated between Allende and the national directorate of the
Democratic Christian party (controlled by the group of Eduardo Frei, whose liaison with the
military opponents of Allende was General Oscar Bonilla, the present junta's ex-Minister
of Defense). These DCP / Allende discussions had been requested by the Archbishop of
Santiago, Raul Cardinal Silva Henriquez, for the general purpose of "reaching a
political pact of non aggression to stop the civil war that would be unleashed by a
military attempt at a coup d'etat." Naturally, Frei was not interested in having
these discussions succeed.
The same day on which the discussions began, July 30, General Oscar
Bonilla met with Eduardo Frei and Senator Juan de Dios Carmona (Defense Minister during
the Frei regime) and reportedly
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
urged them to sabotage attempts at political conciliation and to make their fundamental
goal "an agreement from Parliament to declare Allende's government illegal."
The morning of August 8 was full of political storm clouds. On the one
hand, an industrial stoppage intended to wreck the Chilean economy had begun. On the other
hand, the workers' organizations were pressuring Allende to let them "solve the
industrial stoppage with our own hands."
Allende's information about the military conspiracy appears to have been
fragmentary, most of it contrived by Army and military police counterintelligence. They
had painted their own picture of the conspiracy's extent, and accordingly Allende believed
that it was restricted to "a small nucleus" in the Navy, headed by the commander
in chief of the First Naval District (Valparaiso, Chile's main port, an hour and a half
from the capital by freeway) and Vice-Admiral Jose Toribio Merino (later a member of the
military junta), plus another isolated "little nucleus" in the Air Force, which
had "the sympathy" of General Cesar Ruiz Danyau. Allende believed that he could
solve the huge political crisis he was faced with by a sudden turnabout against the
civilian as well as the military conspirators. His plan was to incorporate all the
branches of the armed forces and military police into his Cabinet of Ministers in order to
take the steam out of the workers' organizations' attempts to undermine the oligopolists.
He would take a strong public stand backed by the four commanders in chief.
On the morning of August 8, Allende read the four military leaders the
civilian police report on the assassination of his naval aide, com- modore Arturo Araya
Peters. He then explained that "if the people discover the truth about this, half a
million people will die in Chile," that the workers and peasants "would assault
the Navy and military police barracks to crush the conspirators and Araya Peters's murder-
ers." He described the police report as a time bomb, and suggested that it would be
preferable to solve the problem of the Navy and military police "conspiracy" in
a "confidential, institutional way."
The Artful Staging of a
Allende added that the civilian police report had a second part, which he
chose not to reveal for the time being, in which "the connection between Araya
Peters's assassins and foreign military forces" was proved.
Thus, Allende went on, it would be best for "the military institu- tions
of Chile to show their loyalty to and support of constitutionality and the law" by
joining a Cabinet of "national unity," "to appease the passions," to
find a solution to the work stoppage now as it was beginning, not when it became serious
"like the one in October 1972." This would give the Executive Office time to
promulgate several laws that the Christian Democrats and the National parties were asking
for on behalf of the Society for Industrial Development and the National Agriculture
The commanders in chief accepted. The Navy chief was named Treasury Minister;
the Air Force chief became Minister of Public Works; the Army chief, Defense Minister; and
the head of military police, Minister of Housing. On the morning of August 13, Salvador
Allende dramatically announced to the country the composition of his new Cabinet,
characterizing it as one aimed at "national security" and "the last chance
to avoid a confrontation between Chileans."
What Allende had done, in fact, was virtually to write the first part of his
own death sentence. The consensus among the conspirators in the high command was that
Allende was "dangerously close to the truth" and that given time to pursue the
investigation, he might uncover the complete Pentagon-Navy-Air Force-Army-military po-
lice connection, of which he could make considerable political use in exile. According to
sources within the military hierarchy, it was Vice- Admiral Jose Toribio Merino who first
voiced the opinion in the ensuing days that Allende must be killed or made to commit
suicide, that there was no other choice.
Still, the final decision to murder Allende was not reached until Tuesday
night, August 21, at a meeting which the subchief of the Army, General Augusto Pinochet
Ugarte, did not attend. Pinochet probably never knew that Allende was to be assassinated,
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
likely found out only on the afternoon of September 11, when the President's death
was already a fait accompli and the spectacle of the suicide was being
arranged. As of August 20, apparently only Vice-Admiral Jose Toribio Merino, then head of
the First Naval District, General Cesar Mendoza Durlin, of the military police, and
General Gustavo Leigh Guzmán, commander in chief of the Air Force, were agreed that
Allende's suicide was essential to the success of their coup.
Their final decision must have been made in response to a major blunder
committed by General Cesar Ruiz Danyau. Driven by personal ambition and believing that
"the situation was ripe," Danyau arranged the air garrisoning of Santiago from
two bases, one for ground support and the other for chase and bombardment, in preparation
for a planned "military pronouncement" on Monday, August 20, which, he believed,
would draw the rest of the armed forces to his side. To trigger the coup, he resigned his
new appointment as Minister of Public Works on Friday, August 17. This meant that Allende
would have to ask for his resignation as commander in chief of the Air Force. According to
Ruiz Danyau's plan, the Air Force would then rise up and cause Allende's downfall. This
would be followed by the nomination of himself, Ruiz Danyau, as head of a military junta.
Allende, partly aware of Ruiz Danyau's ploy, delayed accepting his
resignation until the next day. He called a meeting in the Palacio de La Moneda of the
Navy chief, Admiral Raul Montero; the Army chief, Carlos Prats; and the second-ranking
general of the Air Force, Gustavo Leigh Guzmán (the latter, unknown to Allende, was one
of the heads of the conspiracy). Allende played them a tape recording of a conversation
between a retired Air Force colonel and two or three other people.6
The colonel could be heard saying that "the group" had already begun to
"operate various units" to convince the senior officers of the three branches of
the armed forces "to abandon Allende" and "join the crusade against
Marxism." The tape continued that "the Americans are aware of our activities and
approve of them," and said once, "My general Ruiz Danyau is with us to the
At that point Allende pointed out to Leigh Guzmán that "this plot"
The Artful Staging of a
was "treason to our country," since generals "of the republic of
Chile" were actively conspiring with a foreign power. Then he ordered Leigh Guzmán
to take over command of the Air Force, to approve the forced retirement of Ruiz Danyau,
and to persuade those air units that might support Ruiz not to. Leigh Guzmán accepted
Allende's orders after the President threatened to "let Chile know about this
The next day, Sunday, August 19, without consulting Ruiz Dan- yau, Leigh
Guzman informed Vice-Admiral Toribio Merino, Cesar Mendoza of the military police, and
Augusto Pinochet of the Army of what had transpired and told them that Ruiz Danyau had to
be dumped. They agreed.
On Monday the officers of the air bases at El Bosque and Los Cerrillos in
Santiago mobilized their men and requested support from the Navy Yard in Valparaiso, the
Tacna and Buin regiments, the Junior Officers' School, and the 2nd Armored Regiment,
quartered in Santiago. At least Ruiz Danyau had chosen the day well: Allende traveled by
helicopter to Chillan (some 500 kilometers south of Santiago) to take part in a ceremony
commemorating the birth date of General Bernardo O'Higgins, the Father of the Country.
Nevertheless, the rest of the conspiring generals, heeding Leigh Guzman's advice, had
decided to abort the "untimely coup" and let the ax fall on the neck of their
From the Defense Ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff took steps to persuade
the Air Force officers to demobilize. By noon, everyone was agreed that they had to
"wait," and that, in the meantime, General Ruiz Danyau would go into retirement.
Leigh Guzman would become commander in chief of the Air Force, and another Air Force
general, Hector Magliochetti, would be named Minister of Public Works. (Magliochetti is
presently assistant to General Pinochet.)
This series of events appeared to be a resounding political victory for
Allende. Joan Garces, a Spanish citizen and Allende's economic adviser, testified to the
General Assembly of the U.N. on October 9, 1973: "That night, on his return to
Santiago, President Allende was informed that General Pinochet, sub-commander in chief,
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
asked to join the coup, but, in his own words, he answered: I am a general respectful of
the Constitution and I will be loyal to the government to the end.' "
It is worth noting that until the morning of September 11, when
General Pinochet was at Peñalolén in the Andean foothills of Santiago, directing the
military invasion of the city and the attack on La Moneda, Salvador Allende considered him
a "loyal general" and would call him up to ask, "What's going on,
But Allende's "political victory" was a Pyrrhic one,
achieved at the cost of letting his enemies know that he had solid information about the
conspiracy. Allende had written the second and final part of his own death sentence. The
leaders of the conspiracy were then aware that he knew far too much. Allende in exile,
having documents within reach and arousing the sympathy of most of the governments and
peoples of the world, would be a more than formidable enemy.
From Tuesday, August 21, Leigh, Mendoza, and Merino began to sketch out
the final details of their plan. They were advised by a team of men from SIM (Servicio de
Inteligencia Militar), the Army, Navy intelligence, and U.S. Army intelligence. To
complement the "basic ideas" of the plan, information about Allende's
personality was hastily gathered from those military officers who were said to know him
best. They depended chiefly on the opinion of Brigadier General Manuel Torres de la Cruz,
commander of the 5th Army Division in the extreme south of the country, and fourth-ranking
in seniority among the Army's generals. Torres de la Cruz was the leader of the extreme
fascist faction in the Army and since October 1972 had been the prime mover behind the
conspiracy against the government. Yet he was considered by Salvador Allende and his
"military matters adviser," Senator Alberto Jerez, of the Christian Left, to be
"the only Allendist general in the Army" and a "loyal friend."7
General Torres de la Cruz's reports caricatured Allende as an
"individual who drinks to excess, who is easily swayed, vain, cow- ardly, the easy
prey of discouragement in difficult moments" (this assessment was based on attacks
against Allende which appeared in the Santiago right-wing newspapers).
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide "
Taking into consideration the views of General Torres de la Cruz, as well as
those of military police General Jose Sepúlveda Galindo and Allende's Army aide, the
conspirators, also advised by the U.S. Army intelligence group in the Chilean Defense
Ministry, calculated that once Allende was trapped on the day of the coup, either in his
private residence on Tomas Moro Street in the eastern part of the capital, or in the
Palacio de La Moneda, there were but two probabilities. Some of my informants had access,
briefly, to documents which set forth what these probabilities were. According to the
transcript they made:
Probability One: The objective, intimidated by the deployment of
armored cars and infantry, and under the threat of aerial bombardment, will commit suicide
before the battle begins. This is highly probable, keeping in mind that the objective has
on innumerable occasions, even in front of senior Army officers, expressed his admiration
for Jose Manuel Balmaceda, a president who committed suicide in 1891 after his troops were
defeated by insurgent armed forces.
Probability Two: The objective, realizing his defenselessness and
knowing perfectly well that the civilians are incapable of defending themselves against a
joint attack of the country's entire armed forces, will surrender. This may happen before
or after an aerial bombardment intended to "soften" but not demolish his
residence or the palace.
If Probability One takes effect, the military press will assume
charge of announcing it immediately and will at the same time begin Press Phase Two
involving the disaccreditation of the suicide's character, focusing on an image of a
drunkard, libertine, and hedonist (contact will be made with a group encharged to
If Probability Two occurs, the objective will be segregated at
once from accompanying civilian or military personnel. He will be conveyed under guard to
the Military School. Once isolated, he will be taken under maximum security to 2nd Armored
HQ. There he will be treated in a degrading manner by selected military personnel of low
rank. They will subject him to humiliations (disrobed, in ridiculous poses; objective will
be forced to commit humiliating acts, which will be openly photographed) based on
information we have about him. Their traumatic effect should result in suicide.
Preparations should include allowing objective to see material previously gathered to
discredit him publicly. If this inducement is successful, the military press should
immediately begin Operation Public Knowledge on the terms cited above.
If objective resists the team's efforts to create a traumatic
effect, and if positive results are not achieved 60 to 90 minutes after the
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
will be immobilized and killed as if by suicide. This will be followed by military press
activities as described above.
In both procedures, it will be announced that objective was treated with
respect for his rank by his captors, and for that reason his clothing was not examined
before leaving him alone in the regimental officers' quarters, thereby facilitating
objective's concealment of a 7.65-caliber pistol in his clothing. Objective committed
suicide while alone in the room awaiting the arrival of the commanders in chief to witness
the signing of his resignation, which he had agreed to do, as well as to say a few words
to the people so that at no time would they resist the military institutions' activities.
Objective had also agreed to leave for Cuba in an aircraft put at his disposal by the F
ACH [Chilean Air Force].
STAGING THE "SUICIDE"
General Pinochet, the military leader of the insurrection, had known about Allende's death
for less than thirty minutes when, toward 3 P.M. on September 11, General Javier
Palacios Ruhman informed him that all resistance from La Moneda had ceased. Earlier,
Palacios had dispatched an Army Jeep with a pouch marked "classified" (the
American word used by the Chilean Army to mean secret information) from the La Moneda
area to headquarters at Peñalolén to report details of the assassination to Pinochet.
Palacios had discreetly not informed Pinochet over their portable radio-telephone
transmitter-receiver set (walkie-talkie). Pinochet and his General Staff must have known
that the news of Allende's killing would make the workers' opposition much fiercer; his
death had to be made to look like suicide at any cost.
They postponed discussing the suicide details until they actually had
possession of the President's body. But, at the same time, they released an
"unofficial bulletin" for foreign publication claiming that Allende had
committed suicide. To do this, they employed the un- scrambled radio-telephone system they
had been using all day, knowing perfectly well that Chilean and Argentine ham operators
were tuned in, along with all the U .S. news agencies in Santiago.
The Artful Staging of a
Around 2:40 P.M. instructions from Pinochet were transmitted in Morse code
from Peñalolén to Post 5 inside the Defense Ministry
( 150 yards away from the besieged Palacio de La
Moneda), ordering Post 5 to transmit the news, as if it were secret information, among the
various command posts of the military insurrection. Post 5 carried out the order at 2:45
P.M., using the unscrambled radio-telephone system. A leftist ham operator monitoring the
military's messages was able to record the transmittal:
..Attention! This is Post Five, Patricio's post (Vice-Admiral Pa- tricio
Carvajal Prado]. This is to inform you that Infantry School personnel are now inside La
Moneda. The following will be transmit- ted in English, in case we are being monitored: They
say President Allende committed suicide. Do you read me?"
To use English to keep a message secret was ridiculous, because English
is taught from grade school in Chile. However, as Vice- Admiral Carvajal knew, for the
purposes of the North American correspondents listening on their monitors in Santiago and
in Men- doza, Argentina, it wasn't at all ridiculous. It facilitated what the rebel
generals wanted most: to have the news teletype machines all over the world saturating the
foreign public with "Allende's suicide. "
But this was the easy part of the script. The hard part began barely
fifteen minutes later when Pinochet ordered the palace area cordoned off.
They must have debated for half an hour about a possible means of
suicide. Finally it was agreed that the head would be destroyed with bullets from a
submachine gun resting under the chin. The body would be dressed again to prevent
witnesses from seeing the other wounds. The body had to be moved to another, more
appropriate location, since the Salon Rojo was half destroyed. They chose the Salon
Independencia, the President's private place to rest and receive visitors. There, SIM men,
under the command of General Javier Palacios Ruhman, divested Allende's body of the
bloodied turtleneck sweater he had been wearing throughout the siege. They also removed
his blue trousers, which were perforated and had blood stains around
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
the abdomen. They dressed him in dark gray pants, scavenged from one of the cadavers
inside La Moneda, and Allende's own gray turtle-neck, the stains on which they covered by
putting him into his gray tweed jacket and fastening the bottom button (the President had
removed the jacket during the battle and left it on his work table). Then the SIM men
seated him on the red velvet sofa against the wall that faces Morande Street, propped him
against the back of the sofa, placed in his hands the machine gun he had been using almost
an hour and a half earlier, and pressed the trigger just once. Allende's head split in
two; part of his brain, blood, and pieces of hair flew upward and stuck to a tapestry more
than three yards above on the wall behind the sofa. The scene was now set. Because the
body was already stiff from rigor mortis, it had not been easy to arrange on the sofa; the
SIM men had to use force to straighten the President's legs, leaving them wide apart to
stabilize the body. The arms were left hanging slightly apart from the torso.
It was 3:30 P.M., more than three hours after the fire at La Moneda had
been started by the exploding rockets from the Hawker Hunter jets. The 5th Brigade's
firemen (whose fire engines had been standing ready since 12:20 P.M., when the aerial
bombardment ended and flames appeared over the Government Palace) finally received permis-
sion to fight the fire. The fire station is less than 300 yards from the Palacio de La
Moneda, on Nataniel Street, on the ground floor of the building occupied by the offices of
the American news agency UPI.
Jaime Egaña, captain of the fire brigade, said afterward: ..A moment
we'll never forget was when the fire engine left the station; the doors opened and the
soldiers posted themselves in various places. When we came out, the soldiers shot in
different directions all at once to cover our advance."
When they got to La Moneda, the firemen saw that the conflagration had
spread all over the Morande Street area, to the second and third floors and the whole
north facade of the Ministry of the Interior (on the right, entering by the main door on
Moneda Street), and the Presidential Palace (on the left). It would take them until ten
o'clock that night to put out the flames.
The Artful Staging of a .'Suicide"
The order for the firemen to intervene had come from the Defense
Ministry , after General Palacios had given notice that everything was ready in the
President's private sitting room. But, pressed by the fire which threatened to reach the
room where they were preparing the deception, General Palacios was too hasty in giving the
Defense Ministry the all-clear signal. At least two firemen entered the Salón
Independencia and were shoved out at machine gun point. But they got in far enough to see
one of the soldiers putting a gun on the knees of the corpse seated on the sofa, while
another was placing President Allende's combat helmet and gas mask beside him. After this,
all the firemen were notified that they couldn't enter that room because "President
Allende shot himself and nothing can be moved." As they fought the fire, the 5th
Brigade firemen were warned that they were under "military jurisdiction" and
were not to "tell anyone what you have seen inside this area."
When the Infantry School soldiers entered the second floor of La Moneda for
the second time, after the civilian opposition had crumbled, they behaved with
uncontrolled brutality, slapping and kicking their captives, striking them with the butts
of their guns, forcing them to lie face down on the floor with their hands on the back of
their necks, and running on top of them with heavy combat boots in order to pass through
the corridors. Among the captives, the SIM men managed to find a witness.
This man was Dr. Patricio Guijon Klein, who since November 1972 had been a
surgeon on the medical team of seven attending the Chief Executive. He was not a member of
a Unidad Popular party; he had agreed to be Allende's doctor merely because it was a step
up professionally. That afternoon he had been trapped in the palace with the rest of the
medical team. His fate was to be the witness of a suicide.
By 10 P.M. the President's body was already in the Military Hospital to be
put in a coffin and to be viewed by a team of doctors from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and
military police, who would then copy out on a death certificate what had been established
hours earlier by the detectives of the Homicide Squad. The detectives had been summoned
at 4 P.M. by General Ernesto Baeza Michelsen, commander of
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
the military troops who had invaded the center of Santiago beginning at 6 A.M. that
day. This was one of several serious mistakes made in the confusion of the afternoon.
From the central command post at Peñalolén, General Pinochet had issued an
order through General Oscar Bonilla. According to a tape recording made by a ham radio
operator, this was the order:
"General Bonilla here. General Bonilla to Vice-Admiral Carvajal. Orders
from Pinochet. General Bonilla on behalf of the commander in chief: Imperative that as
soon as humanly possible the chief physicians of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and military
police medical corps, including the Santiago coroner, certify the cause of Mr. Allende's
death. ..so that the politicians will not later blame the military for his death. ...I
repeat, as soon as humanly possible. ...Do you read me?"
"I read you. Chief physicians of Army, Navy, Air Force, and also military
police, plus Santiago coroner, to certify cause of death of Mr. Allende ...so that.
"Yes. ...Chief physicians of each institution including military police.
...Over and out."
The military leaders' teamwork was highly uncoordinated that afternoon.
Brigadier General Ernesto Baeza Michelsen made contact much earlier with Brigadier General
Sergio Arellano Stark, his immediate superior, and leader of the troops occupying the
whole of Santiago Province. Baeza seemed to have concluded, logically, that after the
military blitzkrieg in which thousands of civilians had been shot and killed throughout
the country, the military's word was not going to be worth much in Chilean public opinion.
For this reason he must have decided that certification of the suicide ought to come from
the civilian police. To that end he called the Homicide Squad to La Moneda, disobeying
Pinochet's orders to have the military doctors present. The Homicide Squad team proceeded
I. Draw up and execute a deposition about the "scene of the incident,
" just as they found it when they entered the Salon Independencia in La Moneda
around 4 P.M.
The Artful Staging of a
2. Examine the suicide-type wound in Allende's head, and nothing more.
3. Waive circumstantial investigation at the scene of the incident.
The Homicide Squad team, led by Inspector Pedro Espinoza Valdés, whose
political ideas were openly unsympathetic to the overthrown government, began their
"job" at 4:20 P.M. and finished it at 6:10 P.M.
An hour after this, General Pinochet, through General Oscar Bonilla, continued
to insist on the presence of the military physicians and, furious, asked why the
"certificate of suicide" still had not reached central headquarters of the
occupation troops in the capital. A ham radio operator tuned in on and recorded this
conversation over the military radio-telephone system, between General Bonilla and Air
Force General Nicanor Diaz Estrada, who was in command of Post 3, the coordination unit
inside the Ministry of National Defense:
"Nicanor, listen. We need to know if the chief health officers and the
city coroner have identified the body and made the deposition yet. This is very important.
They should not take him to the morgue to do an autopsy because it's a nest of
extremists and they may try to steal the body. .."
"Roger. We gave the order for a secret transfer to the Military
Hospital. The coroners have been summoned to the Military Hospital. I gave orders for the
deposition to be brought here to General Staff, but they haven't brought it yet. ..it's
been an hour and a half. ..but we still don't have any news. .."
"Okay, Nicanor. Tell Herman Brady to vouch for the absolute
security of the Military Hospital. This is important. ..over to you, Nicanor ..."
"I took care of that."
It is clear that the leaders of the troops invading Santiago were very
concerned to keep the assassinated President's body well out of sight of all personnel
outside their institutions. Their concern was so zealous that the next day they would not
let his widow, Hortensia Bussi, have a last look at her husband.
The following account was given to the Mexican journalist Manuel
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
Mejido, correspondent of the newspaper Excelsior, by Allende's widow on
September 13 in the Mexican Embassy:
"The next day [Wednesday, September 12] they told me over the
telephone that Salvador was in the Military Hospital and that he was wounded. I went
there, and although I openly identified myself, the soldiers wouldn't let me in. Afterward
I spoke to a general who greeted me with these words: 'Madam, I was the friend of Salvador
Allende. Let me offer you my deepest condolences.' Only then did I learn that he was
"This general, whose name I don't know, promised me a Jeep and an
officer to escort me to the Group Seven Airfield of the Chilean Air Force, where he said I
had to go. But then another general came out, I didn't know him either, and told me to go
there in my own car, because there weren't any vehicles or officers available.
"I decided to make the trip in the small car belonging to my
nephew, Eduardo Grove Allende. At the airfield they told me that Salvador's body was on an
Air Force plane. Before boarding it I spoke by telephone with my daughter Isabel, but she
couldn't come with me because she didn't have a safe-conduct.
"I boarded the plane. Imagine the scene I saw: a coffin in the
center, covered with a military blanket, and on either side my other nephew, Patricio
López, and Salvador's sister, Laura Allende. With me were the Presidential Army
aide Roberto Sánchez and Eduardo Grove. We flew toward Viña del Mar. The airplane landed
at the Quintero Air Base. The flight was smooth, there were no problems. Then they took
"I asked to see him, to touch him, but they wouldn't let me. ..they
said the box was soldered shut. In two cars following the hearse we went to the Santa
Inés Cemetery. The people watched us curiously. They didn't know what it was all about,
or whose body was in the hearse. There were many soldiers and military police, as if they
expected a crowd. We five who went with Salvador walked in silence to the family crypt,
where a month ago we buried Inés Allende, Salvador's sister who died of cancer.
"Once again I insisted on seeing my husband. They wouldn't let me, but
they removed the outer lid, and all I saw was a cloth covering the coffin. I didn't know
whether it was the head or feet. I wanted to cry. The officers kept me from seeing him.
They repeated that the coffin was soldered shut. Then I said in a loud voice to the
officer escorting me: 'Salvador Allende cannot be buried in such an anonymous way. I want
you at least to know the name of the man you are burying. ' I grabbed some flowers from
nearby and threw them into the grave and said: 'Here lies Salvador Allende, who is the
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
of the Republic, and whose family they wouldn't even allow to accompany him to the
The preparations in the Salon Independencia of the Chilean Government Palace were so
hasty that the various participants committed some crass errors -errors that would enable
any third-rate detective of the Santiago civilian police to see right through the
scenario. But the Santiago civilian police are not interested in discovering who killed
President Allende. The present director of investigations of the Chilean civilian police
is the same general who gave the order to investigate to Inspector Pedro Espinoza and the
Homicide Squad technicians who were summoned to La Moneda to examine the suicide-type
wound in Allende's destroyed head. The general, Ernesto Baeza Michelsen, was named
director of investigations on the very afternoon of September 11.
However, under the psychological pressure of the events of September 11,
the inspector and his subordinates did not think clearly enough to rectify a mistake made
by the SIM agents. It was preserved for posterity in the "police report"
prepared at La Moneda and read on September 20 by General Baeza Michelsen to a press
conference of those journalists who survived the military invasion of Santiago on the
eleventh. It states:
"The corpse was seated on a garnet-red velvet sofa against the west
wall between two windows looking out on Morande Street, with the head and torso slightly
inclined toward the right, upper limbs slightly extended, lower limbs stretched out and
somewhat separated. "
And something else important for any investigation is added:
". ..The projectiles causing suicide were shot from the
weapon placed between the knees and the barrel pressed against the chin. ..."
What type of weapon was used by Salvador Allende, according to this
"AK-type machine gun, Serial No.1651, Soviet make, inscribed
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
with the following words: 'For Salvador, from his comrade-in-arms Fidel. '
That is to say, it was a large-caliber firearm with tremendous
Any police reporter (and I was one for a long time for La Tercera, a
Santiago newspaper) has plenty of experience of suicide deaths by
firearms as well as of suicides seated on a chair or other piece of furniture
without any armrests. This allows us to reconstruct the events beginning with the Homicide
Squad's assertion that Allende committed suicide by resting an AK-type machine gun on his
knees, sitting on a fairly wide sofa, that is, a sofa without any lateral support.
Because of the height of the sofa seat (we reporters were well
acquainted with the sofa in question), and also to steady the machine gun's stock with his
knees when he sat down to commit suicide, Allende would have had to put his weight on the
points of his toes. This would have resulted in a tensing of all the muscles in the legs,
and his torso leaning forward, arms very flexed, head resting on the machine gun's barrel
point. It would have been what one might call an "uncomfortable" position of
"unstable equilibrium" frontward.
By pressing the trigger in this position and shooting off half his head
with two bullets, the "suicide" would have experienced a terrific jolt in his
body, separating the knees, and the machine gun would have dropped to the floor, while the
body would have leaned forward and to the right, falling to the floor next to the sofa.
None of this happened. Allende's case seemed to have been very
"special." His body became rigid immediately after the shots, the spread
legs were already rigid, to keep from falling off the sofa, and best of all (so that there
would be no doubt): the machine gun remained in the alleged suicide's lap.
(This detail is contained in the actual legal deposition made by the
Homicide Squad, and in the statements made by General Javier Palacios Ruhman on September
22 in Bogotá to the Spanish news agency EFE: "I approached the body. The President
was sitting in the middle of the red-upholstered sofa with the machine gun in his
The Artful Staging of a
his helmet and gas mask to one side, his glasses on the floor. The face was swollen and
the skull was split in two, like a watermelon." Please observe how General Palacios,
in his desire to give more details, reveals the inconsistencies: the body was
"seated" in the "middle" of the sofa, the head was destroyed
"like a watermelon" by a machine gun -and yet death and rigor mortis came
instantly, causing him to remain seated with the gun in his hand, after the tremendous
impact of two bullets of the caliber of a Soviet AK model!)
The most serious discrepancy of all was a difference of two hours between
the actual death of President Allende and the time of death given in the Homicide Squad's
This error is contained in the final lines of the police report, accord-
ing to the version published in the Santiago daily El Mercurio on September 21. It
"Time of death, at 18:10 when the examination was completed, was
estimated at six hours previous"-12:10, two hours before Allende actually died.
Of course, the police under Inspector Espinoza's command cannot be
blamed. When they arrived at La Moneda, there was fighting all over the city and it was
still not clear which side was going to win. So although the police must have realized
that there was something highly irregular about Allende's suicide, they acted
professionally and merely put in writing, in the deposition, the entire scene, exactly as
they found it. The police experts, in acting as they did, thus left "a door
open" for their own role should the military be defeated later by the civilian
But it isn't only the Homicide Squad deposition that reveals
inconsistencies. Let us begin with the most important, the statement of Brigadier General
Javier Palacios Ruhman, chief of the armored and infantry troops that attacked the Palacio
de La Moneda.
On September 22, in Bogotá, Colombia, General Palacios was inter-
viewed by journalist Arturo Abella on the TV news program "Seven O'Clock." The
transcript of his remarks follows:
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
"When we surrounded the Palacio de La Moneda in pincer formation, aircraft had
destroyed a large part of the building. We went in without gas masks and were received by
gunfire from the members of Allende's personal guard, who were shouting 'Marxism does not
surrender'. We were almost blinded by the smoke, but we overcame the opposition. When I
went up to the second floor looking for the President, his working offices were empty and
in disorder...I continued walking through the area that was not destroyed. I came to the
anteroom before the large dining hall in the palace. I opened the door, and there Allende
was, sitting on a sofa."
"You recognized him at first glance?"
"No. It didn't seem to me to be Allende. Beside him, or in a corner, there was a
doctor named Yojon or Gijon. He was shaking and could hardly speak. He said, 'It's the
President. It's the President.' The President was sitting in the middle of the
red-upholstered sofa, with the machine-gun in his hands, his helmet and gas mask to one
side, his glasses on the floor. The face was swollen and the skull was split in two, like
a watermelon. The hand were black with powder. There was almost no blood. I ordered my men
not to touch anything until the coroners arrived to examine the body. Coroners came from
all three branches of the Chilean armed forces. They verified that it was suicide.
Photographs were taken which are now in the government's possession and will be presented
"They say that there were wounds in various parts of the body?"
"Not one. Not a single one. The coroner's report shows this. There was also a bottle
of whiskey in the room. I asked the coroners to determine if there was any evidence of
alcohol in the body of the President. Allende had had absolutely nothing to drink."
Note that these declarations by General Palacios were made on September 22
while he was in Bogotá as head of the Chilean military sports delegation to the Fifth
South American Festival of Cadets. Palacios had no knowledge of the "perfecting"
going on in Chile with the story of Allende's suicide under the supervision of General
Ernesto Baeza Michelsen.
Palacios, after 4 P.M. of that day, didn't speak again to Baeza or anyone
else involved in the "suicide" operation. He simply returned to headquarters,
which had been transferred to the Bernardo O'Higgins Military School, and spent the days
before he left for Bogotá doing his part in the "cleanup of downtown Santiago".
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
Thus, when he made his very detailed statements in Bogota about the
incident, he was unknowingly contradicting General Baeza's "official version."
Palacios's version reveals that his troops fought defenders who had
no intention of surrendering. If that was so, then why had Allende committed suicide?
Forty-eight hours earlier, on Thursday, September 20, back in Santiago
General Ernesto Baeza Michelsen, now director general of investigations of the civilian
police, released the "official report" on the material, which completely
contradicted General Palacios's statements two days later.
I. General Baeza said that Palacios's troops entered La Moneda after it
surrendered. Why the insistence on a surrender? Only if AIIende surrendered would there be
any justification for the suicide.
As has been established, the defenders in the Palacio de La Moneda never
expressed any desire to surrender, but all morning long the rebel officers were repeatedly
announcing Allende's "surrender" on the radio stations in their control, and
they had even issued an official communique to that effect just after 1 P.M. on the
To lend "seriousness" to the surrender thesis, on September 20 Baeza
read to reporters the "deposition" of Dr. Patricio Guijón Klein (who was freed
unconditionally in December 1973 by the military authorities):
The President said "give yourselves up," that "Payita [the
President's private secretary, Miriam Rupert] should go out first, I'll go out last."
We began to get organized. Somebody provided a broom, and I took off my white doctor's
coat, which we were wearing to identify ourselves. As we were going down to the Morande
Street door to give ourselves up, I remembered that I had left my gas mask behind and went
back to look for it. And just as I went to look for it, I passed in front of the door to
the next room. Just in front of me, to the right, sitting on a sofa, I saw President
Allende at the precise moment when he shot himself with a gun placed between his legs.
I could see his body shake and his head explode upward in smithereens. I
couldn't determine whether it was one or two shots because the intensive fire going on
outside prevented my distinguishing the shots made by his gun.
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
At once I ran to him to see if I could be of any assistance, but when I got
close I could see there was nothing to be done. The damage was too extensive, and
certainly caused instant death. I was completely disconcerted by this situation and
realized there was nothing else to do. Since I had lost contact with our group, there was
no one else in the room, and I couldn't think of anything to do but sit down beside him
and wait for whatever happened.
If Dr. Guijón and the rest were going down the Morande
Street stairs, and if he had taken off his "identifying" white
medical coat (usually a life preserver in such situations), why did he go back for
his gas mask? Wouldn't his life have been better protected by staying with the
surrendering group and not by separating himself from it?
And last, if he realized that Allende had killed himself in a room
a few steps away from the Morande Street stairs, why didn't he cover these few steps at
full speed and shout, "The President has killed himself'?
Dr. Guijón's activities seem strangely unnatural, given the circumstances
in which he found himself.
2. General Palacios says he found Dr. Guijón "beside him, or in a
Palacios says that Guijón "was shaking and could hardly
speak." But General Baeza said something else. "Dr. Guijón was next to the body
of the President, and when General Palacios entered, he identified himself as Mr.
Allende's personal physician and gave an account of what had happened." And to give
rise to new difficulties, Baeza quotes the following from Dr. Guijon's deposition: "I
was sitting right next to the President" when "the general" entered. And as
it happens, "the general" (Palacios) on September 22 in Bogota can't remember
whether Guijon was "beside him or in a corner."
3. For the police to assert that a man can commit suicide sitting down
in an unstable position with a machine gun held between his knees, and remain seated when
dead -wait, with the machine gun in his lap- is grotesque. This is precisely what
the Homicide Squad report says. How could this mistake be rectified? Guijon said
that he had pushed the suicide machine gun away from himself to avoid
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
having the soldiers think he was a combatant and that afterward General Palacios, in an
"excess of zeal" "not to move anything at the scene of the suicide,"
had ordered him to put it on Allende's lap, and that the civilian police, in
"describing" the scene, had done only that, "describe" what they saw.
The weapon was resting on the body's lap because General Palacios had ordered Guijón to
put it there.
On Thursday, September 20, Baeza read this part of Dr. Guijón's deposition,
and he repeated it to reporters in interviews granted the following December. This is
Guijón 's statement: " At a given moment I removed the weapon because I was sitting
right next to the President, and there wasn't very much space between the body and
myself, and the weapon was too close to me. Then I thought that if in a given moment
soldiers came in they might think I meant to defend myself. So I decided to remove the
weapon and place it at the other end of the sofa. Later I showed this to the general
who came in [Palacios], who made me put the weapon back in its place. "
Now, that is a very good statement, but as it happens, General Palacios
forty-eight hours later in Bogota was saying something quite different: "I approached
the body. The President was sitting in the middle of the red-upholstered sofa with the
machine gun in his hands, his helmet and gas mask to one side, his glasses on the floor. The
face was swollen and the skull was split in two, like a watermelon."
4. To complete this canvas, General Palacios related on September 22 in
Bogota: "I ordered my men not to touch anything. ...Coroners came from all three
branches of the Chilean armed forces. They verified that it was suicide. Photographs were
Palacios did in fact order his troops "not to touch anything,"
but that was in the burning Salon Rojo of La Moneda. The transfer of Allende's cadaver to
the Salon Independencia was accomplished after 3 P.M. not by Palacios's men but by members
of the SIM team sent by General Baeza. Palacios received instructions from General Pinochet
at Peñalolén headquarters to let the chief health officers of the three service
branches and the military police into the room, but these officers did not go to La
Moneda. Palacios, of course, did not know
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
this, because after about 4 P.M. he was out of touch with the scheme. Thus
General Baeza's account contradicts General Palacios:
"When President AlIende's death became evident, the high command summoned
detectives and experts from the Homicide Squad to La Moneda, keeping Dr. Patricio Guijón
Klein at the scene of the incident. He appeared to be a suspicious member of the GAP and
possibly had assassinated the Chief Executive. " These policemen were the ones who
took "seventy photographs" of the scene of the incident.
In conclusion, Palacios says that "coroners came from
all three branches of the Chilean armed forces. " General Baeza says no, that they
were "technicians from the Homicide Squad. " Palacios says that the
"soldiers" took the photographs at the scene of the incident. General Baeza says
no, they were taken by the Homicide Squad technicians, as it actually happened.
And to add a lyrical appendix to this bundle of contradictions,
here are the words of the coroner's report on Allende's body, produced to eliminate all
doubt about the "suicide":
" Analysis of the skin on the hands and chin showed the
presence of gunpowder, caused by the use of a firearm."
This, in a simple suicide, is often conclusive proof. But what
it prove in Salvador AlIende's case? He had been fighting for four and a half
hours, using this weapon.
5. On September 22, General Palacios emphasized that " Allende had
had absolutely nothing to drink." It is to be assumed that Palacios made this
assertion after having spoken with some of the doctors who performed the autopsy on
However, the final autopsy report says that " Allende's body showed
a 90% level of alcohol poisoning." Why was this done? Was
it necessary to have a "drunken President" for Allende's suicide to be good? Did
it serve the junta's project of smearing Allende's reputation?
On his return to Chile, General Palacios was met with the news that his troops
had taken a "Government Palace that had surrendered." He modified his Bogota
statements and in the first week of October 1973 read them to Christian Democrat and
right-wing journalists (the
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
only survivors in the Chilean press after the rebel generals' strikes against the leftist
press). This was the general's new version of the taking of La Moneda:
At the moment of entering through the Morande Street entrance, a white flag on
a stick was seen, which later turned out to be the white coat of a doctor and which was
put out by Payita at Allende's orders. At that time, approximately thirty civilians exited
from the building, all members of the personal guard (GAP), and several doctors, who
surrendered to our forces. When we reached the second floor of La Moneda, it was
already transformed into an inferno by the effects of the fire. At the same time, we were
getting surprise shots from snipers hidden in some offices.
But stubborn details kept plaguing General Palacios in his "amended"
statement. In recounting his deployment inside La Moneda, he made it clear that he ran
toward the Salon Rojo. That is, he did not bother to first check the rooms that were still
in good condition, where there might very well be "snipers hidden" (among these
rooms was the Salon Independencia, Allende's "suicide" room), and instead ran to
the Salon Rojo, which was in flames, and to the presidential suite, which was also
catching fire. Why? Naturally, nobody asked him.
But the general's "amended" statement does cohere with that of
the witness produced by Baeza and avoids the main contradictory elements in Points 2 and
Continuing our advance inside La Moneda and opening the doors into the Salon
Independencia, we came across the spectacle of Mr. Allende sitting on a sofa, dead of
gunshots he had fired at himself, placing his machine gun -a present from Fidel Castro-
under his chin, which caused death instantly. Inside this room we found a young man who
under questioning said he was Dr. Guijón, a member of the President's medical team. He
had heard Mr. Allende's shots as he was leaving the room and came back. Guijón was able
to attest that after giving them the order to surrender and leave La Moneda, A1Iende
stayed behind to commit suicide.
General Palacios was not very good at memorizing statements about facts
that never happened, and his version of what Guijón said is inexact and even
contradictory, though to a lesser degree than
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
before. The main thing is that Guijón, "shaking" and babbling, as described by
Palacios in Bogota, disappears and is replaced by a Guijon with aplomb.
Still, once again, Palacios lets himself be carried away by true
impressions, and he needlessly adds: "I ought to confess that I didn't
recognize Allende, poorly dressed as he was when we found him, and because of the manner
of suicide, which practically split his head in two. His hands were full of gunpowder from
the guns he himself had been shooting from the windows of La Moneda against the
A little clarification is in order: Which body did he not
recognize because he was so "poorly dressed"? Is he referring to the body of
Allende in the Salon Rojo, assassinated by the Infantry patrol around 2 P.M. ? Or the body
of Allende in the Salon Independencia, "suicided" by SIM personnel between 3 and
The body of Allende in the Salon Rojo was wearing only a gray turtleneck
jersey and blue pants that were wrinkled, sooty, stained, and filthy after four hours of
combat. The jersey was perforated by half a dozen bullet holes in the abdominal region.
This body corresponded to "I didn't recognize Allende, poorly dressed as he was
when we found him."
But if Palacios meant by this that he didn't recognize Allende's body as
later placed by SIM men in the Salon Independencia to simulate suicide, then he is wrong.
According to the Homicide Squad report, the body of the
"suicide" Allende was dressed in a "gray tweed jacket, fastened with the
bottom button; gray, high-necked pullover with dark gray geometrical figures, white sport
shirt, dark gray slacks, white socks, black shoes, and blue silk handerchief with red
polka dots in the upper left pocket. " This is not exactly a "poorly
The discrepancies even at the time were so serious that on Wednesday
afternoon, September 12, General Baeza, in the presence of civilian functionaries of the
police investigation, offered his resignation to General Pinochet, shouting: "It
serves us right for working with such
The Artful Staging of a
dumb sonofabitches!" What had aggravated Baeza was a press release on Allende's
suicide written by Federico Willoughby MacDonald [press secretary to the military junta]
and handed out to the press at 2:30 P.M. on Wednesday, September 12.
The press release had infuriated Baeza because it was full of inaccuracies
which later could cause problems, above all because it had appeared as an "official
communique of the military junta of government." According to a radio broadcast of
the military junta of the government of Chile officially announced that former president
Salvador Allende committed suicide and that his body was buried at noon today. Their
communique indicates that:
I. Yesterday, Tuesday, at 13:09, Salvador Allende offered to surrender
unconditionally to the military forces.
2. To this end, a patrol was immediately sent to La Moneda, but its arrival
was delayed by the skillful activity of snipers specially posted in the Ministry of Public
Works who attempted to intercept it.
3. Upon entering La Moneda, this patrol found Mr. Allende's body in one of its
4. Transferred to the Military Hospital, the body was examined by a medical
commission made up of the chief health officers of the armed forces and the military
police, as well as a coroner, who determined that the cause of death was suicide.
General Baeza's fury was justified, because according to that official
communique of the military junta, the "battle of La Moneda" had ended shortly
after 13:00 hours, in circumstances that were public and well known, and moreover were
sanctioned by a communique from the Defense Ministry the day before, September 11, that
"the Palacio de La Moneda has fallen into the hands of the military forces at 14:50
At the same time, this communique placed Allende's "suicide"
shortly after 13:00 hours. Late in the day on the eleventh, the prefect of investigations
in Santiago, Rene Carrasco, had told foreign correspondents of Agence France Presse,
United Press International, and Associated Press that "the personnel of the squad
specializing in these services attested to the death of the fallen President, which
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
approximately between 13:30 and 14:00 today."
And last, the official communique indicated that Allende's body
had been transferred to the Military Hospital to be examined by the armed forces units.
This was also false, since that transfer took place around 7 P.M., after the
Homicide Squad played the role that the communique had assigned to the chief health
officers of the armed forces and the military police.
General Baeza shouted in front of a dozen or so senior officers of
the Joint Command that "this kind of declaration makes us look ridiculous" and
"thrusts back on us precisely the suspicions that we want to avert": the
suspicions that Salvador Allende had been assassinated.
Furthermore, that afternoon of September 12, General Baeza had another
reason to worry. The groups of armed civilians aiding the coup d'etat (classed under the
generic name "independent units" by the Joint Operation Military Command at
Pefialolen) had, without authorization, set up a short-wave radio transmitter which, at 4
P.M. on September 11, had broadcast the news of President Allende's death with roughly the
Attention Chile. ...Attention the whole world. ...This is Santiago
thirty-three. ...This is Free Chile. ...Allende is a corpse. ...Captain Roberto Garrido
has executed the Communist tyrant in his own palace. Captain Garrido has liberated us from
Marxism. ...This is the Association of Free Chileans speaking. ...This is Free Chile.
...Allende has been executed by our glorious soldiers. ...
General Baeza, learning about this broadcast on the night of Sep-
tember 11, ordered an investigation to find out where the secret radio was located. To his
surprise the broadcast had come from the Defense Ministry, and furthermore his immediate
superiors suggested that he discontinue investigating it.
In the end, General Baeza had only one cause of satisfaction: having been able
to postpone for twenty-four hours the news about Allende's suicide, so that details could
be finalized, statements made, and civilian
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
groups prevented from stealing the President's body and discovering its many bullet
wounds. He had even been able to allow time for a reporter to view the scene. By 6:30 P.M.
on the eleventh Juan Enrique Lira, the head photographer of the most important paper in
Chile, El Mercurio, arrived. He later wrote: "Lighted by the firemen's
spotlights, President Allende was leaning back on a plush sofa, with his head completely
destroyed. He had a machine gun to one side. At that time I thought that he must have
fired a burst of more than two shots, from the condition of his head, but later only two
empty cartridges were found."
The military chiefs also allowed Lira and other reporters from the Catholic
University TV station to remain in the area for nearly a quarter of an hour, filming and
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
Chronologically, the events of Tuesday, September 11, actually took place in this order:
9:20 A.M. President Allende's three military aides left La Moneda, after
he had told them that "the generals betraying Chile have announced that they will
attack this presidential palace five minutes from now. You are free to act according to
the dictates of your conscience. I will be staying here inside La Moneda, and I will
oppose them to the last bullet." This conversation was witnessed by Drs. Enrique
Paris (a Communist) and Eduardo Paredes (a Socialist), various journalists of the Unidad
Popular, and some of the ministers who stayed with Allende. When the military aides left
the palace and entered the Defense Ministry a block away, the National Agriculture Society
radio station made its first spurious announcement of Allende's surrender.
11 A.M. When the Air Force bombing promised for that hour did not
materialize, the radio stations in rebel hands again announced Allende's surrender. But
the truth was that Allende had asked the generals to hold off the bombing for ten minutes,
so that "the women
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
and whoever else wants to can leave this place before the last battle." Allende
gathered together everybody, civilians and soldiers, in the Winter Courtyard. There,
addressing himself to the members of the palace guard of military police -fifty men- and
to military police Director General Jose Maria Sepulveda Galindo, Allende told them that
whoever wanted to could leave La Moneda. He added that the only thing "I ask is that
you give up your arms when you leave the palace. ...Those of us who are going to oppose
the military rebellion will need them." All the officers and soldiers left La Moneda
as soon as they were disarmed by the civilians, who had to keep them at gunpoint to avoid
any kind of betrayal. (Sepulveda Galindo defected from President Allende that morning. He
was later given a diplomatic post by the military junta.)
11:10 A.M. The first women left La Moneda, among them reporters
Frida Modak and Veronica Ahumada. The President had been trying since 9:30 A.M., when the
rebel troops surrounding La Moneda had fired the first shots at the palace, to make the
women and "the men who don't bear arms" leave the building. At 9:25 A.M.
Allende, in the Salon Toesca, called everyone in the building together to warn them that
the "traitor General Baeza Michelsen has announced to me that they are going to begin
the attack on La Moneda in two minutes." Allende made a short speech, the gist of
which was: "Just as no revolution can triumph if its leaders do not know how to
assume their responsibilities at all times and to the bitter end, it is also true that
useless deaths contribute in no way to the cause of the revolution. Hence, I fervently beg
all the men to help me convince the women to leave the palace, because those of us who
stay are going to fight to the bitter end."
Minutes after 11 A.M., Allende had spoken with General Baeza Michelsen
by telephone to ask for "a cease-fire of ten or fifteen minutes" to allow the
women to be evacuated. Beatriz Allende, the President's daughter, witnessed this
telephone conversation, and she remembers that Allende said: "General Baeza, you who
have betrayed your country, I hope that at least you haven't betrayed what a man must be
to a woman: at least respect them enough for this."
The Artful Staging of a
At that moment, the anxiety at rebel headquarters was tremendous.
Allende's plea for a cease-fire had been misunderstood by General Pinochet as an offer of
surrender. And when the first women came out of La Moneda, General Pinochet, from his
command post in Peñalolén, was desperately calling Post 5, the coordinating post, in
the Defense Ministry, headed by Vice-Admiral Patricio Carvajal. Their conversation,
recorded by a leftist ham operator, follows:
"Give me Admiral Carvajal ...Augusto to Patricio."
"One moment, please, General. Post 5 here."
"Patricio, the sooner the President leaves, the better, with all the
chickens he wants. ..all the chickens he wants. .."
"Not all, not the GAP. ..not all. Just now they said five women were
giving themselves up."
"From La Moneda to the plane. ..from La Moneda to the plane, old man
...don't play with him any more. ..keep the leash good and tight. ..let's not have any
problems. ..no GAPs with him. ..all GAPs are to be tried ...keep him closely guarded
because they can get him away. ..."
At this moment, fighting was going on in the industrial sectors of Los
Cerrillos and Vicuña Mackenna and downtown, between Plaza Italia on the east, the State
Technical University on the west, the Mapocho River on the north, and Matta Avenue on the
south (a rectangle of thirty by twenty blocks, more or less). General Augusto Pinochet,
who had not been apprised of Plan Alpha One to assassinate Allende, was convinced that the
ultimate object in attacking La Moneda was to put Allende on a plane at the Los Cerrillos
air base and send him out of Chile.8
Shortly after 11: 15, General Pinochet found out that there was no surrender,
that the "five women" had not given themselves up, as Vice-Admiral Carvajal had
told him, but instead those women and some male civilians had simply evacuated La
Moneda and that the fighting was still going on. Pinochet ordered a new cease-fire and
asked to speak with President Allende. Only Allende's half of the conversation remains:
"I do not make deals with traitors, and you, General Pinochet, are a traitor."
At this point, General Pinochet requested assistance from Vice-
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
Admiral Jose Toribio Merino, head of the insurrection in the Navy and one of
the four members of the self-proclaimed "government junta." Over the telephone
Merino demanded that Allende resign, to which Allende answered: "Surrender is for
cowards, and I am not a coward. The real cowards are the lot of you, conspiring like
gangsters in the dark of night."
Despite persistent attempts on the part of Generals Pinochet and
Baeza and Vice-Admiral Merino, Allende refused to give himself up, and at the same time
declined to make any deal with them, "because I am your superior and I cannot make
deals with rebel subordinates." This led Allende to imagine that it might be useful
to conduct a "second-level" negotiation, and he charged Fernando Flores, ex-
Treasury Minister, Daniel Vergara, Undersecretary of the Interior, and Osvaldo Puccio, his
private secretary, to undertake an "embassy" to the Defense Ministry to discuss
with the generals the terms of a "political settlement" of the situation.
At 11 :30, these three left La Moneda and were conducted under military
escort to the Defense Ministry a block away. There, they asked to see Generals Pinochet,
Leigh, and Mendoza and Vice-Admiral Merino. Merino and Leigh were opposed to the parley,
while Pinochet and Mendoza wanted to negotiate. To force events, block the parley, and go
ahead with Plan Alpha One, General Leigh gave the green light for bombing La Moneda.
Without ever having spoken even to the commander of that post, that is, while they were
still sitting in the waiting room, Allende's three envoys were the terrified witnesses of
the bombardment of La Moneda by the Hawker Hunter fighter planes.
The air attack began at 11:56 A.M., going from north to south, from the
Mapocho River toward Bernardo O'Higgins Avenue. For the tens of thousands of
Santiago citizens living near Constitution Square, where the Chilean Presidential
Palace is located, 11:56 A.M. on September 11, 1973, marked the beginning of a
What did the two pilots feel as they flew their planes toward the palace? The
Santiago daily El Mercurio published an interview with them on Saturday, November
24. El Mercurio asked:
The Artful Staging of a
"What did you feel when you found out you had to bomb La Moneda?"
"I was very concerned. It was a shock. After all, I had to attack my own country, but
there were no moments of hesitation or fear. We are always ready to obey any order. The
precision? That's thanks to constant training over targets smaller than the Government
Palace, 200-liter barrels or parts of tank chassis. In this case, the rockets have a
greater degree of precision than the bombs and were launched from the Mapocho River, some
800 yards or so from the target, at a height of 500 yards and a speed of 250 yards per
"Why were only two pilots and two planes used?"
"Because that was enough."
"How did you feel psychologically after the air attack?"
"Good. Satisfied at having carried out the mission. Impressed by what we
had done. But in no way did we feel sorry about it, not at all. We were all glad."
The El Mercurio story says that, summoned by their code names,
two pilots of the Chilean Air Force were selected for the bombing. "The order of the
high command was crystal clear: Target: La Moneda." The newspaper adds: "From 8
A.M. the Hawker Hunters had begun to land at Los Cerrillos airport [which is next to a
Chilean Air Force base] from various bases around the country."
The two fighter craft made nine strikes between 11:56 and 12:15.
Eighteen rockets struck the two-hundred-year-old building. The upper floor was badly
damaged on the north side (where the President's and the Minister of the Interior's
offices are) and on the entire west wing. The smoke and the flames from a raging fire set
off in the northeast part could be seen from several kilometers away.
Between 12:15 and 12:20, from the Alameda corner of the Defense
Ministry, General Javier Palacios waited tensely for the "surrender" signal. But
it never came. He ordered a "demolition" attack by the Sherman tank cannons
through Morande and Moneda streets. At the same time, he deployed the Infantry School's
and the Tacna Regiment's infantry in pincers, behind the tanks and through Teatinos
Street. Intensive machine gun fire and two shots from bazookas from inside La Moneda
demonstrated to the attackers that the defenders had no intention of abandoning the
struggle. The advance of the 2nd Armored Regiment tanks was halted by General Palacios,
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
they could not move forward with the infantry under the intense fire coming from the
palace. At 1 P.M. General Palacios asked General
Pinochet what to do, since it was impossible to advance with his troops and take La
Moneda without another air attack. General Pinochet ordered him to cease firing for the
13:05. General Pinochet consulted with Vice-Admiral Patricio
Carvajal at Post 5 in the Defense Ministry and ordered him to send Osvaldo Puccio, President
Allende's private secretary, back to La Moneda with a note containing the conditions of
unconditional surrender. Pinochet asked Carvajal to explain in the note that "the
President will have safe-conduct to leave the country with his family and whatever other
personnel he may want." But Carvajal did not write that in the note. He sent Puccio
to La Moneda with the terms of an "unconditional" surrender and with
instructions that "the president should give himself up to the commander of
the armored troops" (it must be remembered that the final phase of Plan Alpha One,
which Carvajal knew about, but not Pinochet, envisioned the rapid transfer of Allende to
the 2nd Armored Regiment's headquarters, to carry out the presidential
"suicide"). At the same time, Vice-Admiral Carvajal ordered the other two envoys
sent by Allende, Fernando Flores, and Daniel Vergara, to be sent as prisoners to the
Bernardo O'Higgins Military School in the upper district (east) of the capital.
Osvaldo Puccio was taken toward La Moneda in a military jeep. But the
intensive fire from La Moneda and the Ministry of Public Works (near the palace, on its
east side) forced the jeep to stop.
13:10. General Palacios ordered the Sherman tanks to resume their
advance, firing their cannons, and gave his infantry the order for a "final
attack" on La Moneda. A curtain of machine gun bullets covered the walls of the
palace, along with the explosions of the tanks' cannon fire. This allowed the infantry to
go forward and at last reach shelter from the defenders' gunfire beneath the walls of the
13:15. As a result of the intensive machine gun and cannon fire, the
journalist Augusto Olivares Becerra, the director of National Television and a personal
friend of Allende's, fell defending the palace.
The Artful Staging of a
Thanks to eyewitnesses who survived the holocaust, Genaro Carnero Checa,
president of the Peruvian Journalists' Association, was able to publish in the Lima daily Expreso,
December 11, 1973, a reconstruction of the last day of Augusto Olivares's life. An
extract from his story follows:
"The last time I saw Augusto Olivares was in the President's office in La
Moneda, before Allende told me to leave," I was told in Havana by Joan Garces, one of
the President's closest collaborators [Garces left La Moneda around 11:15 A.M. on the
morning of September II, along with the women and other civilian functionaries of the
government whom Allende had personally asked to leave "to avoid useless
"He had a machine gun in his hands and was saying to the President:
'We're going to turn La Moneda into another Alcazar de Toledo, but in reverse
"Other people, now in Lima, have told me about Augusto Olivares's last
hours of fighting, as well as the ordeal of his wife Mireya [Mireya Latorre, a television
and theater actress, radio announcer, the daughter of the Chilean genre writer Mariano
Latorre) in rescuing her husband's body from the authorities. They are unimpeachable
sources, extraordinary witnesses, who have asked me to withhold their names for obvious
"Olivares phoned his wife at 6:45 A.M. on the eleventh. 'Things are
going very badly,' he told her. 'In a few minutes we're heading for La Moneda. A kiss and
lots of luck.'
"It was around 2 P.M. and Mireya hadn't heard anything but rumors
about her husband's fate. Meanwhile, President Allende, machine gun in hand, was fighting
inside the palace, which was being bombarded on all four sides. A gigantic cloud of smoke
could be seen from the farthest neighborhoods in the capital. 'I'm certain Augusto is
there,' Mireya told one of our witnesses. 'I know him well enough. He won't abandon
Salvador for anything, and if he dies, my husband will die with him.'
"The Palace phones by now weren't working and Mireya waited in vain
for another call. I was the first person to tell her: 'Journalist friends told me. Augusto
died in the Gallery of the Presidents on the second floor of La Moneda, in the heat of
battle, with his gun in his hands. Allende had the courage and dignity to ask for a moment
of silence for his friend's death.'
"But we couldn't confirm his death or locate his body. Night fell
as we continued our dreadful search. At the Central Post for Public Assistance, and at the
Military Hospital and the Legal Medical Institute, they denied his body
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
was there. The vast quantity of corpses hindered attempts at identification. "At
dawn, a telephone call confirmed the awful news. It was from an Army colonel, who
intimated to Mireya that although there was to be a total curfew the next day, she would
be allowed to bury her husband. But she could have no more than two hours and the burial
had to be entirely private -this last stipulation, in the middle of that strict curfew, was
almost funny. A military vehicle would be sent before 11 A.M. that day, Wednesday the
twelfth, to 'permit the operation.'
"The promised vehicle never arrived. In the afternoon we
decided to rely on the good will of a driver who worked for Channel 7 TV, of which
Olivares had been director. At the risk of his life, the driver got us as far as the
building. He didn't have the necessary pass to be out on the streets like this, so on the
route to Public Assistance, where Augusto's body lay, our vehicle was stopped many times.
Our only credential was Mireya's famous face, known from her many theater and TV
appearances. She got us through the patrols. The streets of Santiago were completely
deserted, shrouded in an ominous silence broken only by sniper fire and the occasional
chatter of machine guns.
"Once we got to Public Assistance, Mireya approached the director
and some other doctors. They were in quite a state-unnerved and dismayed by the incredible
number of casualties. 'We've already lost count of the corpses.' At the funeral homes
there was a great deal of turmoil, and it was a tremendous battle to get one of them
(the Santa Lucia) to agree to sell us a coffin (at 78,000 escudos!). But it was impossible
to find a hearse. We finally persuaded a driver at Public Assistance to let us use an
ambulance to transfer Augusto's remains to the Legal Medical Institute. He was the same
driver who had rescued Olivares's body at La Moneda and brought it to Public Assistance.
Mireya bravely went in alone to find her husband in the room full of corpses. The coffin,
inside the ambulance, was taken to the Legal Medical Institute. Because the gravediggers
and crematory workers were not on the job, we stayed there until the next day, when we had
13:40. Shortly after Augusto Olivares was killed, Infantry School
soldiers broke into the first floor of the palace, through the main entrance on Moneda
Street. A successful skirmish with the defenders enabled them to maintain this bridgehead.
13:52. The telephones were still working when Jorge Timossi, head of the
Cuban news agency Prensa Latina, got through from his offices in the capital to talk to
Jaime Barrios, director of the Central Bank and President Allende's economic adviser, who
was with the group
The Artful Staging of a
fighting off the rebel assault. Barrios said to Timossi: "We will fight until the
end. Allende is right nearby, firing his machine gun. It's just hell -the smoke is
smothering us. Augusto Olivares is dead. The President sent Flores, Vergara, and Puccio to
parley a couple of hours ago- it seems that the President wants written guarantees of the
workers' social victories- I don't think he'll resign. ..."
Jorge Timossi couldn't get any more details because just then telephone
communications were cut off. The phones in La Moneda were dead.
14:00. Eight minutes after this telephone call, Infantry School sol-
diers were taking the main staircase leading to the President's offices.
Six or seven minutes later, President Allende was dead.
Around 14:45, some forty minutes later, the soldiers completely overcame the
civilian resisters. General Palacios drew back the bloody flag covering Allende's body and
communicated to his commander in chief: "Mission accomplished. Moneda taken.
Sixty seconds later, the radio stations, all controlled by the rebel generals,
announced the fall of La Moneda.
Inside the palace, ten civilians were dead. Of the thirty-two survivors,
fourteen were wounded.9 General Palacios ordered the wounded
to be taken in military custody to the Central Post of Public Assistance. Miriam Rupert,
President Allende's private secretary and the only woman among the defenders, pretended to
faint. She was put with the group of "prisoners for the Central Post." At the
Post, where confusion reigned owing to the huge number of dead and wounded, she managed
to steal down a corridor, dress herself as a "doctor" in a white coat, climb
aboard an ambulance going out to collect the wounded, and escape.
Inside La Moneda, Dr. Enrique Paris made a fatal mistake: he allowed himself
to lose his temper. From the floor, where like the other prisoners he was lying face down,
his legs open and his hands on the back of his neck, he shouted: " Assassins! You
killed the President!" The soldiers took him to General Palacios. There he was
recognized. Paris, in a rage, shouted that he saw how they killed the
THE MURDER OF ALLENDE
President. Palacios ordered Paris to be taken to the Defense Ministry, a building less
than 200 yards away.
Four days later, on September 15, Dr. Paris reappeared, a babbling wreck, in
the National Stadium, which had been converted into a concentration camp. His eyes did not
focus. He was confined to a section of roofed boxes in the National Stadium, with only
twenty other people. He was heard repeating, "I am Quiñones the bull ...the
bull," and his companions heard him sobbing. In the middle of the afternoon, Dr.
Paris, or what remained of him, leaped over the railing of the presidential box. He
dislocated a leg. The soldiers ran toward him and struck his head with the butts of their
guns. Dozens of blows. His companions watched the brains of Enrique Paris scatter on the
floor of the National Stadium.
But let us return to September 11, in the Palacio de La Moneda, or at least in
the ruins of the Palacio de La Moneda.
Forty minutes after the radio stations announced the fall of the palace,
and while the SIM team was preparing the "suicide" scene, the generals broadcast
the following communique over the radio net- work:
"The occupation of La Moneda has made secure the authority that has
been imposed by the armed forces and the military police of Chile for the good of the
country. It brings forth new hope for the country this springtime, and we ask citizens to
show their loyalty to Chile by flying the flag in front of their houses. This liberation
and reordering of Chile is nothing but a cause for joy in this month in which we
commemorate the men and women who sacrificed themselves to give us our freedom."
The situation deserves the remarks made by the Chilean writer Fernando
Alegria, professor at Stanford University in California, in the December 1973 issue
of Ramparts magazine:
" The junta released a communique that appeared in the newspapers. They said that
Allende committed suicide and added that there were heavy traces
The Artful Staging of a "Suicide"
of gunpowder on his hands which suggested, according to the same communique, that the
President had been firing for a long time. Knowing Allende as I did, however, I am
convinced he died fighting, with a machine gun in his hands. He was determined to fight on
in La Moneda. If the junta is using the word "suicide" metaphorically to
describe the fact that Allende stood alone facing an entire army, then I can accept the
official communique, although I find their use of metaphors deplorable."
Notes for chapter 1
1. The Artful Staging of a
1. This reconstruction of Operation
Alpha One is made possible by information from various sources, including tape recordings
of radio transmissions between the rebels and accounts passed on to me when some senior
officers, who had been part of Alpha One and were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the
atrocity they had participated in, took junior officers and even civilians into their
confidence. Many of the details about what happened inside the palace were related to me
2. From the signing of the Mutual Aid Pact with the United States armed services, their
influence over the Chilean military institutions began to grow. In the early 1960s,
journalists and political parties of the left were already denouncing this trend. In one
of the best-known exposes, a campaign against U .S. military influence, beginning in 1968,
such magazines as Causa ML (vols. 2 and 3, 1968; vols. 7 and 10, 1969) published
photostatic copies of the textbooks used in Chile's military schools, which were mere
translations of those used by the U.S. Army. During 1970 and 1971 the magazine Punto
Final exposed "anti-Communist" programs in the Bernardo O'Higgins Military
School and the Playa Ancha Naval Academy in Valparaiso. In 1972 the Santiago newspapers El
Pueblo and El Rebelde divulged the presence of members of the U .S. military
mission in those military academies as "guest professors" with a year's
appointment. But this is hardly inconsistent with the philosophy of the Military Aid Pact
(PAM). The same sources added the following details:
"In 1963, the U.S. Department of Defense, in a document sent to Congress explaining
the philosophy of the Military Aid Pact with respect
N O T E S : page
Latin-American armies, stated that the pact contributed to the political aims of the
United States through its training programs, which brought many foreign military leaders
to the U.S., not only to improve the technical ability of the military, but also to expose
them to the requirements of reliable military leadership in contemporary society.
"On June 3, 1969, Melvin R. Laird,
U.S. Secretary of Defense, said to Congress: '. ..I am certain that the Military Aid Pact
will do everything in its power to guarantee that every dollar invested in aid granted
will be most effectively employed in helping the foreign policy and security of the United
"In 1963, Robert McNamara, the then
Secretary of Defense, said to Congress: 'Military and economic aid are frequently bound
together in support of U.S. objectives, providing the native armed forces with able
instructors through the military aid program, with the Agency for International
Development contributing the material elements. ..to reduce the vulnerability of the
native people to the flattery and threats of Communist agents involved in manufacturing
"In 1964, in the House of
Representatives, General Robert J. Wood, at the time director of military aid in the
Defense Department, stated: , A Security Program for the Alliance for Progress is being
carried out ...whose principal objective is a Latin-American military leadership.' "
For further information on this subject,
see James Petras, "Estados Unidos y el nuevo equilibrio en America Latina," Revista
de Estudios Internacionales, Jan.-March 1969, Santiago, Chile, pp. 490-518.
3. These words are an approximate reconstruction of what was said by the American
adviser to the conspiracy in September 1973; this is based on what was said in speeches
and meetings on Navy ships and in military centers by the conspiring officers from May
1973 on. As was reported during the first ten days of September 1973 in Puro Chile,
Ultima Bora, and the magazine Chile Hoy, the conspiring officers haranguing
mainly sailors and pilots asserted that "the Americans are backing us up,"
adding further details. These officers included: Colonel Juan Soler Manfredini, director
of the Air Forces Technical School; Colonel Carlos Ottone Mestre, director of the Captain
Avalos Aviation School; Second Lieutenant Jaime Olavarrieta, from the Sailors (Grumetes)
School at Quiriquina Island; Lieutenant Julio Meneses from the Valparaiso Naval Hospital;
Commodore Alberto Vazquez, commander of the aeronaval base at El Bolloto; Commodore
Martiniano Parra, from the naval base at Talcahuano; Commander Cesar Guevara Fuentes, from
the El Bosque Group 7, Air Force, Santiago, and his second-in-command Ivan
N O T E S : page 8
Doren as well as his
assistants Lieutenant Ernesto Gonzalez and Corporal Florencio Galvez. One of the most
outspoken officers was Air Force Colonel Ramon Gallegos Alonso, who pointed out that
"the Americans give us technical advice and backing in everything." He related
details of meetings from November 1972 on with representives of the U.S. Army to plan
Allende's overthrow. Gallegos Alonso was the public relations chief of the Chilean armed
forces until August 1973 and former Commander in Chief Cesar Ruiz Danyau's right-hand man
in the conspiracy of the second half of that month -along with officers Juan Pablo Rojas,
Guillermo Navarro Vicencio, Raul Vargas, and Antonio Quiros- in Santiago itself. In Antofagasta,
in the north of Chile, the squadron commander Juan Cvitanic, public relations chief at the
Cerro Moreno base, was another who touted the coup to his friends by describing its "
American backing." Another commander in the Antofagasta group was Patricio Araya
Ugalde, who was referred to as "Ruiz Danyau's alter ego." In Los
Cerrillos Group 10, there were German Fuchslocher and Carlos Alvarez; and in Quintero
Group 2 (near Santiago), Group Commander Pablo Saldias Maripangue.
Most of the information about the meetings
between the Chilean and the American officers from November 1972 on came from this type of
source, when, it seems, the conspirators were absolutely certain that nothing would stop
the coup. There were, of course, numerous other sources well informed about what was
happening in the core of the conspirators' group, but I cannot name these sources because
it would jeopardize the life of many Chileans, both civilian and military, who are still
in Chile now.
4. In this parliamentary election, the 44 percent received by the Unidad Popular is
really a victory, given the political system of Chile. Never before had any elected
Chilean government increased its percentage of the votes after the presidential elections.
A case in point is that of Eduardo Frei: elected in 1964 with 56.09 percent of the vote,
his party dropped to 42.3 percent in the 1965 parliamentary elections; three years later,
in the municipal elections of 1967, his government received 35.58 percent of the vote;
this decline culminated in the parliamentary elections of 1969, when the percentage was
21.8 percent. In the pluralistic system of democracy that existed in Chile until
September 11, 1973, this relative minority was not a sign of illegitimacy but rather a
measure of backing or rejection of a constitutional action. By the same token, in the 1958
presidential elections the winning candidate, Jorge Alessandri Rodriguez, received only
31.2 percent of the vote, but he defeated
NOTES pages 11-16
runner-up, whose total was 28.5 percent, Frei, with 20.5 percent, and the Radical, Luis
Bossay, with 15.4 percent. Nobody questioned the legitimacy of Jorge Alessandri's
With the Unidad Popular government, the
opposite was the case. Winning 36 percent of the vote in 1970, it raised this percentage
to 44 percent in 1973, a significant expansion of its plurality. However, the conspirators
"proved" the illegitimacy of Allende's government using the fact that he
"represented only a minority of 36 percent," a false argument given the context
of Chile's political system.
5. What happened in this meeting was related by President Allende himself to a small
group of Unidad Popular journalists in La Moneda on the night of the same day, August 8.
Some of these journalists are in prison in Chile, and others have gone underground; one of
them, Augusto Olivares Becerra, was killed.
6. The existence of this tape, a summary of its contents, and this version of the
meeting were revealed by Allende to a small group of Unidad Popular journalists in order
to explain his request that they not report any of these events, as the situation was
"extremely critical." The events of the following day were more or less public,
including harangues in the courtyards of the air bases involved and the comings and goings
of easily identifiable military couriers. However, the agreement with Allende was
respected, and the leftist newspapers did not inform the public of the event in detail,
but rather in a general and indirect way. Of course the newspapers of the right were also
7. During the 1970 presidential campaign, many journalists accompanied Allende day
and night as he traveled all around Chile, and at day's end the question of what the armed
forces would do if Allende won was often discussed. From that time on, it was known from
Allende's own mouth that he thought he had "at least one friend, General Torres de la
Cruz." Allende was later to define Torres as an " Allendista."
He even said that it was enough guarantee that Torres was fifth in seniority at that time,
preceded only by Schneider, Prats, Pinochet, and Urbina, and followed by Bonilla.
After the events of October 1970, Torres was again mentioned by Allende's military
advisers as "loyal." During March-April 1973, when the arms searches of
the factories began, Unidad Popular officials went to Punta Arenas to talk to Torres
(Allende had sent him there to "reinforce" the struggle against the fascists'
arms smuggling from Argentina) to find out what was going on inside the Army.
Naturally, Torres said that the brutalization and punishment of the workers of both sexes
were excesses proper to that type of action.
N O T E S :pages 39-56
8. The case of Augusto Pinochet in the drama
that Chile is living through today is very special. Today, he seems to be an extremely
cruel head of a fascist military junta. But until June 1973, the conspiring generals were
not at all sure of Pinochet, particularly because he always seemed to agree with his
superior, Army Commander in Chief Carlos Prats, in his political line, and because many of
the courses of action taken by the General Staff under his direction were carried out
under Prats's slogan of "defending the Constitution in case of military
insurrection." General Pinochet was the last important link in the coup to close. The
principal reason for Generals Leigh, Bonilla, Brady, and Arellano and Admiral Toribio
Merino to "invite" him to be chief of the junta was to avoid a rupture in the
Army. Perhaps the fact that he was excluded for such a long time from the conspirators'
group also kept him outside the plan to assassinate Allende.
9. According to unofficial testimony, there were eight dead and forty-three wounded among
the soldiers, in addition to a damaged but not inoperable Sherman tank. The official
report, however, announced "two dead and seventeen wounded" and made no mention
of damaged materiel.