115. Backchannel Message From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Meyer) to the Ambassador to Chile (Korry)1

1. We greatly appreciate your two-part message (Santiago 3824 and 3828)2 describing the fast-moving situation in Santiago and how [Page 298] you see the various possibilities which Frei is turning over in his mind. Your complementary message of September 22 in this channel put the other two messages in helpful perspective.3

2. We have noted the several possible ways you describe that the political forces might move so as constitutionally to block Allende from taking power. We conclude, however, that both you and Frei have virtually abandoned the hope that Alessandri could get enough votes to be elected on October 24.

3. Your reporting, including both the two-part message and others from your DAO,4 indicate that the military seek, above all, a constitutional way out and hope somebody else will provide the means. They appear at the same time to be edging toward some “moral” justification for thwarting Allende. We are unclear, however, as to the relationship of this new military awareness of the danger of Allende taking office to the scenario which would result in entry of military officers into the cabinet. How do you visualize a military-dominated cabinet, oriented toward constitutionality, frustrating an Allende assumption of power on October 24? Would not Frei and his lieutenants then be up against the same wall mentioned in the paragraph above—that is, lack of votes in the Congress—or is there some other formula which could be worked out whereby “constitutionality” could be maintained while [Page 299] preventing Allende from taking over? We would appreciate any thoughts you have as to the scenario which might be involved in such a formula.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 777, Country Files, Latin America, Chile, 1970. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Hurwitch and Little (ARA).
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–16, Documents on Chile, 1969–1973, Document 24 and footnote 1 thereto.
  3. Document 110.
  4. The DAO reporting refers to Defense Attaché cables DATT 250, 251, and 252 from Santiago, September 22, all in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 777, Country Files, Latin America, Chile, 1970. DATT 250 cites the Commander of the Chilean Air Force Guerraty as stating that, “Chilean armed forces plus carabineros are prepared to step in and take over govt if they can find legal excuse to do so.” Guerraty explained that over the long term the armed forces have “imbued their personnel with the ideal of constitutional legal behavior, and that troops of all services would not respond unless legal pretext exists.” Guerraty admitted that the “Allende govt would ‘destroy armed forces’ as they presently exist ‘within six months.’” The DAO concluded: “This information is a complete reversal of all the info we have received concerning military reaction to elections. It is first indication that Chilean military apparently not living in the dream that all would be business as usual under a Marxist govt.”

    DATT 251 reported a discussion between the Army Attaché and the head of Chilean Army Intelligence, outlining the Chilean Army concern that the Unidad Popular was attempting to encroach on the military before Allende was legally elected President. The General also expressed hope that President Frei would persuade the PDC to deny Allende the presidency. The Army Attaché noted that his contact, “like many other Generals, is looking for an easy way out of a difficult situation. He continues to believe politicians will resolve present situation and, although aware of the consequences of a Communist govt, he is reluctant to take any action. As a result these Generals may well placidly allow the Communists to assume control of their country and eventually the armed forces without lifting a finger.”

    DATT 252 reported on a conversation with a member of the Chilean Navy General Staff. The Staff member said “that Allende was moving very fast to gain control of the country and it appeared as if the military was the only obstacle in his path to success, but the military needed a moral and constitutional excuse to stop the Marxists from assuming control of the government.” Concern was expressed that if Allende were elected, material support and training from the United States would end.