The story of Chilean president Salvador Allende’s downfall is the subject of Birkbeck-based academic Oscar Guardiola-Rivera’s new book. The book itself is riddled with problems, but one thing may be said in its favour: it does have a story worth telling.
Twenty-eight years before the day took on a new meaning signifying a change in the order of the world, 11 September marked a change in the order of Chile. On that morning in 1973, the country’s armed forces swarmed over the capital, Santiago, in a coup d’état. Salvador Allende, a democratically elected Marxist, broadcast to the nation from La Moneda Palace: ‘I have not sought this. I am not a martyr,’ he said. ‘But let them understand this very well, those who wish to roll history back and disavow the will of the majority of the people in this country … Only with bullets will they stop me from realising the project of the people of Chile.’
So bullets were what they used, along with tanks and fighter jets. Soon, the palace was burning. Allende’s body was discovered on a sofa at around 2pm. He had shot himself in the head with an AK-47. The rifle had been a gift from his Cuban ally, Fidel Castro. From