By Ernesto Carmona
One week after judge Mario Carroza accepted the suicide thesis regarding Dr. Salvador Allende and arranged delivery of the body to his family, his remains remain in the Santiago morgue awaiting a new funeral, planned for September 4 by his daughter Isabel, senator for the Socialist party. The most relevant legacy of Allende’s school of thought today are the hundreds of thousands of young people that were born much after his death: the student movement calling for re-nationalization of the copper industry, whose privatization was led by the military and undertaken in the 20 years of the Concertación government . While others prepare to polish up his memory in order to trace the decline of Socialism in the polls, the “Allende doctrine” continues to generate ideological battles 38 years after the death of its author, as likewise happened with other grand figures of the universal imagination. Meanwhile, disputes continue surrounding the suicide verdict.
The date planned for the new funeral, September 4, has a powerful symbolic connotation in Chilean politics, which actually extends to the rest of the month as well. Open forums held on September 18, 1810 began the transition to independence from Spain, often known as “The month of the homeland.” During September, Chileans also witnessed numerous Coups, including that of Pinochet, which was September 11, 1973, an official holiday until 1998, and to this day honored through the name of an important avenue in the wealthiest area of Santiago, originally conceived of as an extension of the well-known Bernardo O’Higgins Parkway. No one has faced charges for changing the name of this important artery in Providence, a Santiago Commune governed by a right-wing mayor, an ex-military who formed part of the intelligence services of the dictator. Nor are any relevant arteries of the capital named “September 18”, except for four tiny streets. Dr. Allende’s name is also not honored with a single thoroughfare, merely four tiny streets in outlying suburbs of Santiago’s large metropolitan area.
Every 6 years, September 4 was the day of presidential elections, until the military coup disrupted this legal framework. Dr. Allende won these elections in 1970, leading the coalition ‘Popular Unity’ (Unidad Popular). But before the first time he ran for office in 1952, supported by only a fraction of the Socialist Party, the majority of the party was leaning toward the ex-dictator Carlos Ibañez del Campo (1927-1931), who was elected in a landslide to serve from 1952-1958 and assembled a government criticized for corruption. In 1958, Allende made another presidential attempt as a champion of a socialist-communist coalition, the Popular Action Front, (FRAP for its initials in Spanish), which was defeated by a mere 30 thousand votes in favor of Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez (1958-1964), the only politician of the right elected in the polls in more than half a century, until the accession of Sebastián Piñera in 2010. Alessandri also intended to govern with a cabinet made up of “managers”, as high executives of the private sector were known at that time. Allende, indefatigable, ran again in 1964, once more with the FRAP coalition, but this time the Christian Democrat candidate, Eduardo Frei Montalva, won, presiding from 1964 to 1970, during which he developed an agrarian reform program under the motto “Revolution in Freedom.” He handed over power to Allende in 1970, and in 1973 was one of the architects of the coup, later seeking vindication from the president of the Global Union of Christian Democrats, Italian Prime Minister Mariano Rumor (Frei Montalva, like his party, ended up distancing himself from the dictator and was assassinated by military agents in 1982).
Allende’s remains received their first large-scale public funeral in Santiago on September 4, 1990, following his exhumation from an anonymous tomb in the Santa Inés de Viña del Mar cemetery—where he had been quietly buried, without a ceremony, in an urn sealed by the military the night of September 12, 1973. Dr. Allende’s body was exhumed again on May 23, 2011 following a judicial order meant to resolve the controversy over whether he died by suicide or murder. In total, the body of the popular leader has been subject to three autopsies: first by the military in 1973, another “informal” review, primarily for identification purposes, in 1990, under the government of Patricio Aylwin, and the final study ordered by judge Carroza.
Judicial power practically closed the case on Allende’s death with the suicide verdict released by eleven forensic experts gathered by the federal Legal Medical Service agency, although judge Carroza has yet to formally close the “inquiry”. Allende’s family consented because they always supported the suicide thesis. Meanwhile, questions have arisen about the suicide verdict laid-down by the eleven experts : Marisol Intriago Leiva, anthropologist, commissioner of the Forensic Identification unit of the Legal Medical Service; Germán Tapia Coppa, coroner; Ángel Medina Bejarano, physical anthropologist; Isabel Martínez Armijo, archeologist; Agustín Hernández Canihuante, forensic photographer; Douglas Ubelaker, physical anthropologist; Mary Luz Morales, pathologist; David Pryor, ballistic expert; the ad hoc expert Francisco Etxebbería Gabilondo, coroner, designated by the Allende family; the international overseers Felipe Donoso, Regional Representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (CICR, for its initials in Spanish) of the Southern Cone of America and Brasil; and Luis Fondebrider, anthropologist, member of the Argentine Forensic Anthropologist’s team, advisory body of the High Commission of Human Rights of the UN.
The New Funeral
The Socialist Party senator Isabel Allende explained to the press that the family’s decision responds to numerous solicitations to undertake another ceremony and added that the initiative has the support of her party. “I have already spoken with the president of the Socialist Party (Osvaldo Andrade); they are of course very much in agreement, so the idea is to do it on September 4,” she added.
As some aspire to embellish their political careers with an additional funeral, assuming it will again be a grand public event, the most authentic vindication of Dr. Allende’s ideology does not lie in his party, nor in the students demanding high quality, free education, financed by the state through the re-nationalization of copper—70% of whose global production today belongs to Chilean and foreign private corporations, with less than 30% overseen by the state, under the authority of the Copper Corporation (Codelco). The political memory of Dr. Allende is linked to the redistribution of wealth that improved the standard of living of working people, made possible by the income derived from the nationalization of the primary mineral wealth of the nation.
When the Concertación coalition assumed power in 1990, 90% of the production of copper was still under the control of the state (80% of Codelco and 10% in the National Mining Company, Enami), but stealthily passed laws pushed forward by this conglomeration, in alliance with the traditional right, permitted the entry of private equity, returning to private hands a copper industry today 10 times greater than during the times of Allende, according to economist Julian Alcayaga . In 2010 alone, these private entities made more than $25 billion in profits, five times the amount that all of Chile’s families pay for higher education, plus the contribution of the State, economist Manuel Riesco affirmed . “Profits, according to the balances of the companies themselves, totaled 76,800 million in the period between 2005 and 2009,” Riesco specified. The organizers of the new funeral were participants in the covert denationalization process initiated in 1983 through a law pushed forward by José Piñera, brother of the current president.
The primary challenge to the Legal Medica Service’s suicide theory was presented to the tribunals by Roberto Ávila representing “a group of socialists.” For others close to the President, such as his friend Víctor Pey—proprietor of the state-abolished newspaper Clarín, and protagonist of 14 years of struggle against the State for the restoration of the Allendista daily—the suicide may seem ugly to the Christian sensibilities of the majority of Chileans, but he is convinced Dr. Allende took his own life to avoid being humiliated by the architects of the 1973 coup. He believes that Allende’s final words, transmitted live and direct by journalist Guillermo Ravest through the ‘disappeared’ signal of radio Magallanes, clearly announced his intent to commit suicide when he said, “In the midst of an historical transition, I will repay the people’s loyalty with my life.” Allende was the only Latin American president, at least in the 20th century, to give his own life rather than submit to a successful military coup.
For Victor Pey, “a phenomenon is taking place whose causes I cannot understand, and which leads journalists (and others) to perpetuate the most fantastical versions of the [story of Allende’s death], without seeing the ends their bizarre fantasies advance,” alluding to the theory of an “assisted suicide” undertaken by a bodyguard, or a projectile that supposedly entered Allende through his eye, along with other theories. He also dismissed “the historical autopsies” based solely on the analysis of documents, and criticized this impulse for its “sacrosanct ‘judicial truth,’ as if history transformed itself into an exact science to the extent that it taps into those ‘judicial truths’.” Like Pey, many of us think that the suicide does not detract from the political integrity of Dr. Allende, nor that of Augusto Olivares Becerra, friend of Allende and Chilean journalist, who also immolated himself that day in the Palacio de la Moneda. Very few of his collaborators survived; the majority of those who were detained by the military became part of ‘the disappeared.’
Translation by: Jesse Strecker— firstname.lastname@example.org
The Concertación, or Concert of Parties for Democracy, is a coalition of center-left political parties that won Chile’s presidential elections uninterrupted from the end of the military dictatorship in 1990 to the election of conservative candidate Sebastián Piñera in 2010. (wikipedia.org)
In Chile, Communes or Comunas, are the most basic administrative division of geographic space. In this particular case, the Providence Comuna is like a neighborhood of Santiago, but is independently governed by a City Hall kind of administrative body.
This long letter, presently historical, can be found widely on the internet, among other sites at:
See the Multidisciplinary Analysis, the Dental Report, the Ballistic Report, the Report Evidence, the Anthropological Report, the Entomological Report and the Exhumation Act (all in Spanish, except the Ballistic Report, in English) at: