A snapshot of efforts to thwart Allende

In the 1960s through 1970, the CIA was engaged in several covert efforts to try to block perennial Marxist presidential candidate Salvador Allende from becoming president.

During part of this period, including the crucial 1970 presidential election, our protagonist Henry Hecksher was station chief in Santiago.

“The overwhelming objective — firmly rooted in the policy of the period — was to discredit Marxist leaning political leaders, especially Dr. Salvador Allende, and to strengthen and encourage their civilian and military opponents to prevent them from assuming power,” wrote the National Intelligence Council in a 2000 document known as the Hinchey Report.

The agency delivered the report as a requirement of legislation passed earlier that year.

The document lays out a series of actions, starting with covert financial support in dating back to 1962, for the centrist Christian Democrat party, whose candidate Eduardo Frei became president in 1964.

Let’s go over the key bullet points of the report. We’ll start in 1967, when Hecksher is reported to have moved down to Santiago.

That year, the CIA set up a “propaganda mechanism” to place information in radio and news media, the Hinchey report states.

Then in July 1968, the 303 Committee, the Lyndon Johnson administration’s interdepartmental body for reviewing and approving covert action, approved a program to support moderate candidates running in Chile’s 1969 congressional elections.

As the 1970 presidential elections neared, the 40 Committee, the Nixon administration’s replacement for the 303, ordered the CIA to carry out “spoiling operations” to prevent an Allende win.

That, as we know now, didn’t work out, and Allende won a plurality, though not a majority that would have given him an outright win, in the September vote.

With Chile’s congress teed up to hold a runoff vote to decide the next president, the CIA pursued Track I, a bid to sway to vote away from Allende.

But that was just one tact. Track two sought to “instigate a coup” to prevent Allende from taking office, according to the Hinchey Report.

When that failed and Allende took office, the CIA sought to redirect Track I efforts to support opposition politicians, with efforts in 1971 focused on the centrist Christian Democrats.


Sources

“Subject: CIA Activities in Chile”, National Intelligence Council, https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports-1/chile/index.html#15, accessed May 14, 2013.

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