309. Memorandum From William J. Jorden of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Chilean Coup Planner Approaches U.S.

General Alfredo Canales, who has been planning a coup for some time against the Allende government, has made an indirect approach [Page 822] to the U.S. through a CIA contact in Santiago (see attached memo at Tab A).2 This information should be read in light of the information (in this morning’s brief) that Canales’ plotting is rather widely known and he may soon be dismissed from the Chilean Army.

A Chilean officer, who is a friend and supporter of Canales, has told us that if the coup plan succeeded, Canales would like the U.S.:

—to recognize his regime as soon as possible;

—send emergency food relief;

—consider granting loans to help Chile weather its dire economic crisis.

As outlined by this officer, the Canales plan calls for:

—suspension of civil liberties for three or four months;

—proscription of all political parties for an interim period;

—outlawing the Communist Party;

—termination of extremist groups of left and right.

After the initial suspension of civil liberties, Canales would bring about a “return to order” and gradually reduce restrictions on the public so that the democratic process could begin to function. Canales would then try to change the Constitution to limit the number of parties to two or three. Canales would remain in power until 1976 (date of the next presidential election). Until then, he would establish a government composed of “talented persons, civilian or military, who would renounce party affiliations and agree to work diligently for the government.”

Under Canales, the three sectors of the economy (private, public and mixed) would be preserved. But he would encourage private enterprise. He would also keep the agrarian reform program but would try to eliminate its strictly political aspects.

Ambassador Davis is aware of the above message. He has instructed that we make no response. If pressed for an answer, our contact will simply say that the information has been reported and that no response has been received. That seems the right approach under the circumstances—since Canales may soon be in jail and might, if pressed, disclose that he was in touch with the U.S. We should remain at arm’s length for the time being.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 776, Country Files, Latin America, Chile, Vol. VII. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. The memorandum was sent through Haig. At the top, Kissinger wrote, “Al—Discuss soonest. Davis is an idiot. HK.” On a covering memorandum, Haig wrote, “HAK—I’ve asked Walters to prepare plan—you and Kennedy may wish to talk to him before I return.” (Ibid.)
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is a memorandum from Cord Meyer to Kissinger, which describes the efforts of General Canales to mount a coup and what Canales wanted from the United States if he was successful. Also attached but not printed at Tab B is an undated briefing report that states that General Prats was firmly against a coup. In the margin next to the paragraph that described Prats’s opposition, “HAK Only” is written. The memorandum also concluded that Canales might be cashiered because of his plotting.