The Long Road to Justice: Senate Resolution Acknowledges U.S. Role in the Chilean Coup

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Author: Ana Roig

It’s been 50 years since the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was toppled in a violent U.S.-backed military coup led by Augusto Pinochet. In that time, the U.S. spent millions of dollars to prevent Allende from taking office and block his ability to govern once in office.

The installation of dictator Augusto Pinochet, who reigned from 1973 to 1990, ushered in a period of brutality and terror in Chile. During the Pinochet dictatorship, an estimated 40,000 Chileans were killed, disappeared, tortured, or exiled. Thousands of activists, students, teachers, and political opponents were targeted and imprisoned in secret detention centers throughout Chile. The fate of most of those who disappeared during the regime is still unknown. When Pinochet’s reign ended, the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation investigated the regime and found more than 3,000 documented cases of human rights violations. The Rettig Report also found that over 2,000 people had been killed for political reasons. Relatives of those harmed by the dictatorship continue to campaign for truth and justice to this day.

Pinochet completely changed the Chilean constitution and government institutions. Following the dictatorship, Chileans had to rebuild their democracy. It was not until 2019 that they took to the streets in El Estallido Social to demand a new constitution, one free of Pinochet’s legacy, which they are still in the process of creating.

U.S. policymakers are finally beginning to admit the role the U.S. government played in supporting the coup and the dictator. This year, Senators Bernie Sanders (VT) and Tim Kaine (VA) introduced a concurrent congressional resolution (S.Con.Res.20) that recognizes the “decades-long effort of prodemocracy forces in Chile to end the dictatorship and restore civilian governance” following the coup. It expresses regret for the role of the U.S. government in destabilizing Chile’s political institutions and calls for the declassification of U.S. records pertaining to the coup. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY14), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Greg Casar (TX-35), and Nydia Velázquez (NY-7) will soon introduce the legislation in the House of Representatives.

This is a big step in acknowledging the depth and severity of U.S. involvement. The LAWG team supported this resolution by reaching out to congressional offices and urging the members of Congress to co-sponsor the resolution. LAWG also co-sponsored an Institute for Policy Studies’ event at Sheridan circle in Washington D.C. commemorating the 50th anniversary of the start of the coup, where President Boric spoke about his generation and how they are grateful for the life they have now, all in thanks to the
work of human rights defenders that came before them.

And on October 12, the LAWG team attended the Institute for Policy Studies’ 47th Annual Letelier-Moffitt Awards. The Letelier-Moffitt Awards are held in the honor of human rights defenders Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, who were assassinated in Washington D.C. by the Pinochet regime for standing up for democracy in Chile. Hopefully the resolution and admission from the U.S. will usher in a period of a U.S. and Chilean friendship and collaboration that protects and deepens democracy. LAWG will continue to advocate for a just democracy in Chile and in Latin America by reaching out to members of Congress and educating the public.

Now YOU can help honor the fight for democracy in Chile and help the United States recognize and make amends for the U.S. role in the coup by asking your senators to cosponsor S.Con.Res. 20 and your representative to cosponsor the House resolution when it is introduced. Together, our fight for truth and justice continues.