DixPix Photographs



  Social Aspects: THE MILITARY (Chilean Coup)  


There was a time, centered on the 1970's, when the United States managed most of South America through obedient military dictatorships, which they found more convenient and predictable than elections.  Chile's coup (called a golpe) came in 1973, on the 11th of September (a date which would eventually become monumental in the United States).  It is difficult to be objective about this event, decades later it is still a matter of bitter dispute in Chile itself.  Certainly the military and police were far more cruel and bloodthirsty than was necessary, given the lack of any credible armed opposition.  This may have been at the behest of the United States.  On the other hand, the Chilean Military were less corrupt than others in South America, and were the only ones who ushered in the beginning of an economic recovery.


For several years following the coup, there was a nightly curfew and nightly sounds of gunfire.  Groups large and small of armed military seemed to be everywhere. Click to see big picture (600x480 pixels; 140 KB)
These pictures where highly illegal when taken in 1975.  I think the chap on the left has just spotted me. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 110 KB)
The expressions on the faces of the crowds as the troops marched by often said what they dared not speak. military
The army, navy, air force and police came together in the coup, killing or imprisoning any of their own who would not obey. Click to see big picture (320x480 pixels; 80 KB)
While many involved in the elected government lost their lives or freedom, others lost their jobs for having voted the wrong way.  Here someone hunts for edible seaweeds with a backdrop showing the might (and wealth) of the Chilean navy. Click to see big picture (596x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Shanty towns sprang up for those who had lost their livelihood or who found it advisable to disappear. Click to see big picture (326x480 pixels; 69 KB)
The Chilean Navy converted their training ship the Esmeralda (here photographed in 1966) and other boats into floating torture centers. Click to see big picture (640x399 pixels; 88 KB)
And the wide doors of the Air Force helicopters are said to have been useful in disposing of people, alive or dead, over the ocean. Click to see big picture (640x443 pixels; 121 KB)
One of the saddest things to see was the growth of military mentality in the schools. Click to see big picture (327x480 pixels; 58 KB)
The opposition had little recourse except to graffiti, and much of that was leveled against the "yankees" who were well known to be the instigating power. Click to see big picture (640x393 pixels; 93 KB)
There were also some demonstrations in North America and Europe against U.S. actions in Latin America, especially in areas with refugees from those countries. This one is in Vancouver.  Alas, few gringos knew of the atrocities, let alone cared. Click to see big picture (640x424 pixels; 138 KB)
The Moneda, center of the elected government, and the site where President Allende had committed "suicide" under military bombardment during the coup, was boarded up and guarded during the military reign. Click to see big picture (329x480 pixels; 43 KB)
The military pushed nationalism, and in time started to fall out with adjacent military dictatorships. Click to see big picture (323x480 pixels; 46 KB)
There was a period when it looked like Chile might be attacked by all three of its neighbors.  These are fortifications (of doubtful use) erected near the Peruvian border north of Arica, in case Peru's military wanted to avenge the War of the Pacific.  Nothing ever happened, the U.S. did not approve of a squabble among its minions. Click to see big picture (640x342 pixels; 77 KB)
But Chile also land-mined its borders with Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina.  Most of the signs such as this one have blown away, but mines remain, and there have been deaths.   Some local people drive a couple cattle in front of them when in dangerous areas-- if they hit a mine it's hamburger for dinner. Click to see big picture (640x393 pixels; 71 KB)
Finally, in 1990, the military held a referendum.  They lost, and returned power to democracy.  The Moneda was reopened and here they are drilling in its plaza again.  The same socialist coalition that sparked the coup was voted back in.  This time the U.S. responded by offering the possibility of a sister of NAFTA. Click to see big picture (575x480 pixels; 121 KB)

The more corrupt Argentine dictatorship started later than Chile and did not last as long, but brought their country closer to ruin.  Finally they sought to divert attention by attempting to take the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands from England.  Due to a twisted history of the islands on which Argentine school children are raised, this was an appeal to national pride.  But it backfired completely, and they were forced to relinquish power in 1982.

Click to see big picture (541x480 pixels; 87 KB)