Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile

With a sign that reads in Spanish "I have faith in Chile and her destiny," supporters of Chile's late President Salvador Allende gather at an event marking Allende's 1970 electoral victory outside La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. Allende was ousted from office

Remarks by
Ambassador Francisco O. Mora
September 5, 2023

Mr. Chair and colleagues,

Today, we reflect upon the legacy and impact of Salvador Allende, the former President of Chile.  As we mark the 50th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 1973, we recall Allende’s commitment to social equity and justice, and the consequences of the coup that reshaped Chilean history.

It bears recalling that September 11 will forever be etched in our collective memories — whether it be in Santiago, in New York and Washington and Shanksville (Pennsylvania), or in Lima where we adopted the Inter American Democratic Charter in 2001.

Salvador Allende was more than just a political figure, Mr. Chair — he was a symbol of hope and social justice for many in Chile and across the Americas.  A humanist and statesman, he believed fervently in the principles of equality and the empowerment of the marginalized.  Allende’s presidency marked a significant departure from the traditional political landscape.  He sought to address pressing issues such as income inequality, access to education, healthcare, and land reform. President Allende came to power through a democratic process. His dedication to social justice was evident in his efforts to create a more inclusive and participatory society, where citizens’ voices were heard and their rights upheld.

In recalling the events of September 11, 1973, we are confronted directly with the stark reality of Allende’s downfall. The military coup that toppled his government had far-reaching consequences for Chile and for the Americas as a whole.  The coup led to the dissolution of the Chilean Congress, the suspension of the Constitution, and the installation of a military junta that initiated a brutal program of persecution against dissidents. This period saw the disappearance and death of thousands of civilians, leaving a lasting scar on Chilean history.

Mr. Chair, in response to a request from the Government of Chile and to allow for a deeper understanding of our shared history, I want to share that on August 25, the U.S. Government completed a new declassification review – publicly releasing portions of the President’s Daily Briefs related to Chile, from September 8, 1973 and September 11, 1973.  We remain committed to working with Chilean partners to try and identify additional sources of information to increase our awareness of impactful events throughout our shared history.

The coup also had broader implications for the region. The overthrow of a democratically elected government sent shockwaves throughout the Americas, raising concerns about the stability and strength of democratic institutions. The memory of those dark days serves as a reminder of the fragility of democracy and the importance of safeguarding it. Despite the tragic end to his presidency, Salvador Allende’s legacy endures as a symbol of courage and of our hemisphere’s ongoing pursuit of social equity and justice. His commitment to the rights of the marginalized continues to inspire generations of leaders and activists across the Americas.

Mr. Chair, as we reflect on the results of the coup, let us also recognize the incredible progress that Chile has made since those tumultuous days. Chile’s return to democracy serves as a testament to the resilience of its people and the power of collective action. Healing the painful wounds of the past, Chileans from across the political spectrum have rededicated themselves to rebuilding representative institutions and the rule of law.

It’s estimated that over the course of the oppressive regime of General Augusto Pinochet, tens of thousands of Chileans relocated to the United States. Fleeing political persecution, human rights abuses, and economic hardships, displaced Chileans brought with them their unique cultural perspectives, professional skills, and determination to rebuild their lives in a new land. Their presence enriched society in the United States by contributing to various fields such as academia, the arts, sciences, and politics.

Moreover, the Chilean diaspora played a significant role in raising awareness about the human rights violations occurring in Chile, mobilizing international support for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in their home country. The legacy of these Chileans remains a testament to the resolve of individuals in the face of adversity — and the positive impact of diverse perspectives on the fabric of U.S. society.

The United States will continue to work closely with the people of Chile – as their friend and a partner – to strengthen the cause of democracy and human rights in Latin America, throughout our hemisphere, and indeed around the world. So, as we remember the events of September 11, 1973, let us honor Allende’s memory and all those who were impacted as a result — by reaffirming our commitment to human rights and the pursuit of a better world, causes which we all can embrace.  Thank you very much.