334. Editorial Note

On June 29, 1973, a small number of Chilean Army troops under the direction of Colonel Roberto Souper attempted a coup against President Salvador Allende’s regime. The troops attacking La Moneda (the Presidential palace) had only four tanks at their disposal. The battle between the Carabinero troops and the rebels lasted only about three hours and the pro-government forces emerged victorious. Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry A. Kissinger informed President Richard M. Nixon of the uprising in two separate memoranda of June 29. The second memorandum concludes: “All indications are that the coup was an isolated and poorly coordinated effort. Most of the military leaders, including the commanders-in-chief of all three branches of the Armed Forces, remained loyal to the government.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 777, Country Files, Latin America, Chile, Vol. VIII)

In an August 1 memorandum to Kissinger, the CIA assessed the ways in which a military coup would affect U.S.-Chilean relations and concluded that a military government would provide additional political and social stability for the following reasons: It would at least try for a “symbolic settlement” of the copper dispute (the memorandum noted it would only be an emblematic effort as Chile lacked the funds to offer a substantial compensation settlement), and it would be more open to private foreign investment than the Allende government had been. The overarching concern expressed by the Agency was that, as the result of ineffective leadership and resistance to the new regime, the new government might have a hard time maintaining public order. Consumed with dealing with resistance to the new regime, the government might not fully reverse Allende’s more problematic policies. The August 1 Intelligence Memorandum is Document 139 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–16, Documents on Chile, 1969–1973.