251. Telegram From the Embassy in Chile to the Department of State1
Allende is a chameleonic person who over years has appeared on occasion as idealistic socialist reformer who believes democracy and other times as military revolutionist striving bring revolution a la Cuba to Chile. His motivation and drive for more than twenty years have centered on his ambition become first Marxist president of Chile and be first to bring “popular democracy” to power in South America. The essential opportunism of man is evident but always within a leftist sphere or orientation. He does not possess unusual intelligence and his [Page 559] ideas and program have changed little, if at all, over years. As politician he is good speaker and hard worker. Personally he is vain, quick tempered, easily offended, socially as well as politically ambitious, able turn on or off at will a considerable social charm. He is sensitive to charge he would be dominated by Communists or that he would institute anti-democratic measures. Nevertheless were he to achieve power we think he could be led by events into being harsh and ruthless with his opponents but more likely use exile than prison or pardon. It is probable that he thinks in terms Marxist regime similar Castro’s Cuba in its free-wheeling, relatively independent line but more sophisticated, cultured, without emotional excesses of “tropical” country such as Cuba.
Domestically his major objectives appear be:
1) Nationalization copper, nitrate, iron, public utilities, banks, insurance, foreign commerce; 2) drastic land reform; 3) fully planned economy; 4) franchise to illiterates and military enlisted personnel.
Foreign policy objectives appear be:
1) Alignment with underdeveloped countries; 2) establish relations bloc countries and ChiComs; 3) drastic reduction US influence in Chile and Hemisphere including termination Military Assistance Pacts; 4) closer association with Cuba and pressure on OAS end Cuba’s isolation and drastic but not clearly specified changes in OAS structure. As nearly as we can tell there is no visible disagreement on any above objectives between socialists and Communists. Presumably Allende as well as Ampuero socialists5 desire greater degree independence from Moscow, are against Communist proposed “single party of left” and logical and emotional grounds exist to explain rivalry which now present between parties. Despite Allende’s periodic statements (often to American press representatives) that he is not a Communist, and rather wide-spread belief among Chileans including many opposed to him that he basically democratic, mild socialist opposed to communism, record shows he has collaborated with Communists for more than 15 years with no apparent difficulty. We conclude shrewd Communist Secretary General Luis Corvalan has based his party’s support for Allende on some sureness of expectation that serious disagreements with Communists on Allende’s part will not arise. Probable that even should Allende be tempted to turn on Communist partners once in office he would be unable do so due perhaps as much to patterns and associations he has established over years as to any direct control by Communists.[Page 560]
If Allende should win the Communists will be able rightfully to claim most of the credit and we would assume they will press for due recognition in the form of positions within Allende’s government and will be granted them although socialists have told us and have been saying for years that these would not be key posts such as Interior or Defense. For Allende would be difficult say no to his principal supporting force which only one able effectively bring people into streets to support him should he desire it. We would expect many of Communists in various important but not top positions in ministries would come from those hundreds Chilean technicians and professionals now in Cuba who can be expected return immediately should Allende win. We would expect effective Commie control of several ministries could be achieved within few months after inauguration. We estimate bottom would drop out already shaky economy with Allende victory and beset by problems he likely turn naturally to Communists for support on more and more matters and in more and more areas. We think also Chilean middle-class will be rather easily intimidated by actual and threatened mob pressures which Communists can provide. Commie control likely become de facto in gradual manner not apparent most Chileans at least for many months.
Factors against takeover are first and most important armed forces including Carabineros, secondly Congress and thirdly strong Chilean democratic tradition which prevails in great majority presently politically aware Chileans. Communists are well aware obstacle armed forces present but they and Allende as well under existing system which calls for retirement of all officers senior to an officer promoted head service and promotion for all those below, at least have instrument which if played well offers possibility keeping armed forces neutral on sidelines political arena.
Among immediate effects Allende victory may be virtual panic among many upper and upper-middle class circles and certain paralization private investment. Our guess is Allende would try restore confidence by acting in reassuring manner fearing military and thinking of congressional elections in March 1965, but he would quickly have to take some nationalization step satisfy his supporters (most widely popular and least likely cause him trouble here would be telephone company). Should he gain control Congress through added socialist/ Communist seats and possibly agreement with radicals and/or left-wing Christian Democrats he would press ahead more vigorously with his program. We would expect Communists to favor “respectable” democratic via pacifica course until such time as they have achieved control political apparatus and at least have neutralized armed forces. We think possible but not probable that should he win by very small plurality over Frei and Congress hesitate on naming him he will gamble on armed forces traditional non-interventionist role and bring mobs [Page 561] into streets pressure Congress and if successful might then continue with drastic measures in hope of gaining sufficient control to handle likely reaction from democratic forces.
Negative economic impact will be very great immediately and probably over short-term as well. Allende would probably try expand activities and efforts existing GOC institutions which directly involved in economy in effort compensate for lacks and lags in private sector. He will undoubtedly seek help from bloc and “unaligned” countries but conceivably might make unreasonable request of USG (e.g. low interest loan pay for expropriation copper companies and utilities) expecting turn down which he could use as ostensible justification Chilean public for turning [to] bloc. In general economic deterioration after Allende victory would tend stimulate and be used justify extreme internal measures toward full statist economic power as well as shift to excessive Chilean dependence Communist bloc aid and trade.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 14 CHILE. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to POLADs at CINCLANT and CINCSO.↩
- Telegram 591 to Santiago, April 17, requested the Embassy’s assessment of Salvador Allende: his personality, political objectives, and the short-term effect of his election, including the likelihood of a Communist takeover. (Ibid.)↩
- Airgram A–703 from Santiago, January 29, 1963, reported that the Popular Action Front (FRAP) had nominated Allende as its presidential candidate. (Ibid., Central Files 1961–63, 725.00/1–2963)↩
- In airgram A–755 from Santiago the Embassy transmitted and analyzed the FRAP campaign platform. (Ibid., Central Files, 1964–66, POL 12 CHILE)↩
- Followers of Raúl Ampuero Díaz, secretary general of the Socialist Party.↩