55. Memorandum by the Acting Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division, Directorate of Operations, Central Intelligence Agency ([name not declassified])1


  • Phase II Planning

1. The Ambassador and the Station have for some time pondered steps to be taken to prevent Allende’s election in the congressional runoff. This paper addresses itself only to one of several contingencies, without necessarily implying that it is the most probable one: Alessandri’s emergence in the first place, followed by Allende in second place by whatever margin, neither having won an absolute majority on 4 September.

2. Given the above contingency, we predicate our planning on the assumption that the U.S. Government will have reached a firm determination that the interests of the U.S. in Chile, and in the Western Hemisphere as a whole, are best served by Alessandri’s election to succeed Frei and by a denial of the presidency to his principal opponent, Allende. Whereas during Phase I, considerations counselling against U.S. Government involvement in Alessandri’s campaign had to be viewed as overriding, those considerations will by and large cease to apply once Phase II has been ushered in. To the extent deemed practicable, we shall continue concealing the American hand and shall carefully weigh the risk factors involved in each step we take. It should be clearly understood, however, that in order to win Phase II, help may have to be tendered to Alessandri and Frei in a variety of ways. Financial help, if necessary, will be securely provided via third parties. Discussions with Alessandri would be conducted via his authorized representative and not with Alessandri himself. If either Alessandri or Frei seeks our counsel, we ought not be debarred from offering it.


3. In the main part of our presentation, certain questionable assumptions will become readily apparent and are flagged as such. The following listing of such assumptions, reflecting gaps that need to be filled in due time, is not meant to be exhaustive, but singles out certain assumptions we have found particularly troublesome:

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A. In the absence of reliable indices suggesting the obverse, we have to assume that the army will adhere to the letter of the hands-off doctrine (Schneider statement). This notwithstanding, the size of Alessandri’s majority and serious prospect of major turbulence during pre-runoff period could give the army and President Frei food for thought. Congressional prerogatives could be deemed by Frei and the military alike a lesser evil.

B. We assume and yet have exceedingly limited information and scant precedent to go by, that Frei’s influence in his party’s councils will, in the aftermath of his party’s electoral defeat, not only emerge unimpaired but may be greater than before. Assuming the latter to be true, we further are inclined to believe that he will throw the weight of that influence into the scales even at the risk of splitting his party.

C. We assume that the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), if confronted with a choice between Alessandri and Allende, will break party discipline and split along ideological and economic lines. It may turn out, however, that with Tomic relegated to the backbench an opening to the left and all that entails may lose much of its deceptive lure.

D. We assume that after 4 September there will ensue a coalescing of moderate forces, with Alessandri and Frei in the van, and consequently view Phase II as a low-key supplementary effort designed to preclude untoward realignments of power factions with the non-Marxist camp.

E. We assume that the Unidad Popular alliance will lose much of its cohesiveness and that calls to mass demonstrations and violence, if made will go largely unheeded.

F. We assume that the Communist Party of Chile (PCCh), short of recourse to violence, will engage in massive political action designed to split the PDC and dissuade Radical Party (PR) congressmen from deserting en masse to Alessandri’s camp. (This assumption, we consider the least questionable of all.)

G. We assume that in a predictably close runoff, congressional votes will become available for sale in sufficient numbers to tip the balance and that delivery of votes that have been bought can be assured with a tolerable degree of certainty. As we have not been able to raise this issue with knowledgeable Chileans, this represents a definite soft spot in our planning exercise. We know that there is ample precedent for the purchase of congressional favors. We lack anybody of experience to fall back on in predicting what safeguards are available to prevent the loss of a bought vote in a secret congressional ballot. Nor can we provide you with any reasonable estimate of whether the political mores and parliamentary traditions of Chile reasonably permit prom-ises of remuneration to be fulfilled only on the condition that the congressional vote satisfies the purpose we hoped to achieve by holding [Page 149] out financial inducements. Since we are requested to disregard figures previously “bandied about” and to the best of our ability come up with a monetary estimate for this obviously important operational aspect, we pull out of the hat a figure of $500,000 for congressional bribes only, again without benefit of advice by knowledgeable Chileans. We reason that the market for congressional votes will be a bullish one if the race appears close and would not rule out that predictions of closeness will become rife once it appears that “big money” is getting ready to enter Chile. We depend heavily upon the [less than 1 line not declassified] to protect the U.S. Government against a royal fleecing.

H. We assume that during the period leading up to the day the two houses of congress convene to elect the next President of Chile, the congressional base position will remain unaltered, namely:

1. Congressmen supporting Allende (including the PR)

2. Congressmen formerly committed to support Tomic

3. Congressmen supporting Alessandri

Summary of Proposals

4. With the above basic assumptions guiding us, we can project certain likely courses of action which the Ambassador and the Station feel it within their competence to execute:

A. To monitor closely Frei’s, Alessandri’s and the armed forces perceptions of the post-electoral situation and to make ourselves available for use by them as sounding boards and as honest brokers if they manifest any desire to invite us in that role.

B. To brief [name not declassified] on significant insights we may develop and, as appropriate, seek his counsel on any major action departures in influencing the congressional vote.

C. To use [name not declassified] as our chosen instrument in carrying forward certain aspects of the Phase I program into Phase II and to make intensive use of his facilities for secure funding operations.

D. To use [name not declassified] long-standing relationships with Alessandri and Frei, to assist us in staying abreast of their thinking and planning, and to unattributably inject compatible U.S. Government counsel and offers of support in manipulating the congressional vote.

E. To encourage [name not declassified] to widen the range of his military contacts in the three branches of the armed forces, so as to provide up-to-date readings of military attitudes and early warning of drastic changes in those attitudes.

F. To keep intact action instrumentalities, developed both unilaterally and bilaterally under the aegis [less than 1 line not declassified] for apposite use in Phase II, and to organize new ones if considerations of operational security and of effectiveness dictate our doing so.

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G. To stay abreast of political activities, such as funding, undertaken by the American business community during Phase II, but eschew cooperative ventures or actions which, were they to become known, could be adduced by the Chilean left in proof of U.S. Government intervention in the congressional runoff.

H. In making monetary estimates, our rate of spending during Phase I provides us with a yardstick of limited utility. To repeat this once more, we have to assume a close congressional runoff vote (i.e. a political setting in which financial inducements could become pivotal) and the launching under Communist auspices of a no-holds-barred political action program, which has as its objective to “convince” the Chilean people and its parliamentary representatives that Allende rather than Alessandri be voted into power. Given those two assumptions, both of which require checking out, we submit that parsimony would be difficult to justify and that adequate provision ought be made to:

1. Buy congressional votes up to $500,000 and

2. Carry on a political action program of the type outlined below which may cost $300,000 or more.

Political Factors

5. Certain fundamental considerations about the political environment in Chile have strongly influenced our proposals:

A. The political climate in Chile is not conducive to any but the most discreet uses of American influence. There remains a limited reservoir of good will for the United States among well-disposed Chileans on which the U.S. Government will be permitted to draw in bringing carefully dosaged and highly discreet pressures to bear, opposing or favoring major political groupings and their leadership. Hence, the highest attainable standards of tradecraft in concealing the American hand ought to be adhered to in Phase II as they were in Phase I.

B. Chilean initiatives to prevent Allende’s election will be of primary importance and the American role will be distinctly ancillary. It may have to consist only in buttressing courses of action upon which Chileans themselves have already decided to embark.

C. Alessandri and Frei as leaders of distinct and antagonistic power factions will probably be the principal actors in lining up congressional votes against Allende. Alessandri has long-standing and natural access to the Radical Party which was a coalition partner in his first administration. President Frei’s ability to instill in his party a sense of national destiny, if unscathed by a temporary electoral setback, would go a long way toward assuaging among party ranks a sense of unreasoning despondency and defiance. On the other hand, if un[Page 151]checked, those feelings might find release in unthinking acquiescence in an Allende victory.

Frei and the PDC

6. Christian Democratic attitudes, if forced to choose between Alessandri and Allende, are a matter of much speculation. For want of more reliable estimates, we are willing to accept Frei’s estimate that at least 18 of 75 PDC congressmen will vote for Allende anyway. If all others vote for Alessandri, the latter’s election is assured. But Frei may not be able to ensure the delivery of these “uncommitted” votes to Alessandri. PDC congressmen, in arriving at a decision for whom to vote, will have to heed extraneous pressure which may override deeply felt ideological preconceptions and summons of party loyalty. Pressures will doubtless be generated by the margin of Alessandri’s victory whose size could resuscitate respect for constitutional precedent to invest the presidency on the candidate with the largest majority. Armed forces preferences, appropriately enunciated, would have to be accorded their due weight in making up congressional minds. Frei’s intervention to sway pro-Allende holdouts, and a fortiori ours, will become marginal if extraneous factors are overpowering.

7. Considerations of enlightened self-interest plus fear of political obliteration under Allende government may be sufficient inducements to prompt these same uncommitted votes to be cast for Alessandri. We may find that the PDC, acting as a corporate and moderately disciplined body, will find even a relatively small margin of victory for Alessandri sufficient cause to opt for democratic survival versus the ineluctable alternative of forfeiture of democratic freedoms under a regime dominated by the Communist Party.

8. The tide of emotions in Chile is running higher than ever before and the campaign will leave deep scars. For Christian Democrats to seal their election defeat with an affirmative vote for Alessandri is asking a lot. The ensuing dilemma could strain party cohesion beyond endurance and make options for the candidate of the left palatable. Much will depend not only on Frei’s persuasive powers and leadership abilities but also on Alessandri’s unique ability to bind wounds and to offer Christian Democracy a constructive role to play in carrying on some of the social and economic reforms for which they can justly claim credit.

9. In weighing the pros and cons of enlisting U.S. Government support, Frei and his supporters will obviously have to take into account tremendous political risk factors which that transaction, even under optimum security conditions, would entail for their movement. Animosity in the PDC toward the U.S. Government and bitterness engendered by Tomic’s defeat may become key factors in their final decision.

10. Our posture, therefore, should be one of watchful waiting accompanied by discreet reminders to those PDC leaders who are still [Page 152] predisposed to heed American advice that the situation calls for their exercise of courageous and non-partisan judgment. In this way the first steps can be taken to promote national reconciliation. In numerous meaningful ways the U.S. Government will be able to render appreciable contributions to that process and assist in laying the groundwork for a reconstitution of the political center of Chile in which Frei and the bulk of the PDC have a vital stake and role to play.

Alessandri and the Radical Party (PR)

11. It devolves upon Alessandri to persuade 27 Radical Party congressmen to vote for him, rather than for the leftist candidate whom their party is officially committed to support. Among extraneous pressures influencing their individual determination will also be the margin of Alessandri’s victory. If it appears, as currently predicted, that the party’s rank and file in its overwhelming majority deserted to Alessandri, pressures generated at grassroot level are likely to sway many congressmen, confronted with the alternative of their party’s total disintegration. To win over an already existing oppositional grouping among Radical congressmen led by Senators Bossay, Juliet, and Acuna, should pose no insuperable difficulties. We surmise that either financial inducements or offers of patronage or a mix of both should carry sufficient conviction. They will naturally assay the relative merits of patronage under Allende’s aegis as compared with Alessandri’s; in so doing, they cannot view with indifference the circumstance that their mortal enemies, the Socialists, are senior partners in an alliance they will be invited to join. Besides, they can be depended upon to ponder carefully the fact that under Allende, the present congress will be replaced by a unicameral body with no place for a party system.

12. We believe that Alessandri is endowed with a consummate understanding of the Radical Party’s modus operandi and its pressure points. He comprehends that many congressmen, though reluctant to provoke ouster from their party and to find themselves cast adrift in uncharted political seas. This reluctance has been abetted by the party leadership by not insisting on strict party discipline. As a result, several congressmen, in good standing, have openly campaigned in favor of Alessandri. We are sanguine in anticipation of sizeable Radical defections to Alessandri when the congressional vote is called. They will have no ideological compunction in switching allegiance, especially since the secrecy of the congressional vote enables them to indulge their self-interests without fear of disciplinary retribution. While it would ill behoove us to place ourselves in the vanguard of any drive to win Radical votes for Alessandri, we may be asked by him to lend a helping hand in the provision of material inducements. Since the hard core of opposition to the Radical alliance with “Unidad Popular” centers around a group of senators strongly dedicated to the preserva[Page 153]tion of their party’s integrity and to bringing its dissidents back into the fold any further pursuit of the Station’s program to hasten the par-ty’s demise would obviously be counterproductive. Since we have achieved no signal results in achieving that end, we would not hesitate at cutting our losses. Whether the rift between Senator Duran and his erstwhile party colleagues can still be healed, remains to be seen. We do not now and have not in the past had any stake in the Radical splinter movement and its political fortunes per se. We feel under no obligation to them.

13. In order to mesh our efforts at denying Radical votes to Allende with Alessandri’s at gaining them, we would seek information about the views of Alessandri soonest after the elections. We would do so through a trusted intermediary and without openly showing the American hand. We expect strong pressures on the part of Duran to persuade him to acknowledge and use him as the chosen instrument for forging such an alliance. Since he is anathema to many of the Radical congressmen whose sympathies lie with Alessandri, he must be presumed uniquely unsuited to fill that role. In order to sidestep unpleasantness, therefore, we have no choice but keep on the sidelines and to defer to Alessandri’s judgment as to how best sew up the Radical vote.

14. Through [name not declassified] and several of his most trusted associates with traditionally close Radical connections, we expect to obtain reliable readings on Alessandri’s strategy in coping with the Radical problem and to be apprised of any critical developments which may require our intercession. Requests for financial help in the inducement of Radical defections are likely to be levied against [name not declassified]. His appraisal of the scale of magnitude on which such help will have to be projected can be considered dependable. We are confident that Washington will be provided with the necessary estimates by mid-September.

Military Factors

15. In a recent message to Ambassador Crimmins on 11 August, Ambassador Korry addressed himself to the problems summed up under option 4 which should be read in conjunction with what follows.2

16. The army which is the most important branch of the armed forces is currently indisposed to enter the political scene to throw its support behind either of the two candidates. The prevailing mood among army officers is in favor of permitting congress to choose the president and opposed to involving the army in that decision. We find, at present, no significant backing for any use of army pressure to deny [Page 154] Allende the presidency. Elements of undetermined strength in navy and air force are reportedly opposed to Allende’s election and favor Alessandri. Without army support, however, they cannot make their views prevail. President Frei’s personal following in the army officer corps has dwindled and his ability to overcome the army’s apparent determination to stay within the constitutional framework should be considered negligible. We also take cognizance of a widely shared belief that President Frei will under no condition lend his support to extra-constitutional ventures that could usher in a military dictatorship. We need not speculate what his reaction would be, should the army confront him with an accomplished fact.

17. In any estimate of armed forces capabilities and intentions to intervene politically, allowance has to be made for the triggering of such intervention by a relatively subordinate army unit, as was the case during the abortive uprising of the Tacna Regiment in October 1969.3 It happened once and it could happen again. Many army officers on the senior level view the prospect of an Allende victory with profound preoccupation. What is holding them back is equally profound concern that the institution might not withstand the strains necessarily imposed by political intervention, especially since Allende is believed to have a respectable following among junior officers and non-commissioned officers. Whether or not this concern is soundly based, does not matter. What matters is that concern over the disruptive effects of political intervention by the army is widely shared and thereby inhibits receptivity to pleas for army moves to prevent Allende’s victory. To quote a distinguished senior officer, Alessandri and his followers should make it their business to win by a sufficiently large margin instead of leaning on the armed forces to pull political chestnuts out of the fire.

18. In any attempt at providing a reasonably accurate forecast of what the armed forces are likely to do or not to do in certain contingencies, we cannot permit ourselves to pass over General Roberto Viaux who came close to toppling Frei. He is still a military figure of some consequence, although retired. Recent reports indicate that he is prepared to incur considerable personal risks in preventing an Allende victory. Although we lack reliable intelligence and are unable to provide strength estimates, he may still enjoy considerable support in the Tacna Regiment and the adjacent school for non-commissioned officers which served as his base of strength in October 1969. He might conceivably be able to provoke a split within the army over the issue of whether or not to oppose Allende. We know for a fact that the army high command is not inclined to brush off General Viaux as a has-been and that his every move is being watched by the army and Ministry of [Page 155] Interior with vigilant concern. While they may have penetrated his movement successfully, privyship to his plans does not necessarily spell their ultimate failure.

19. The army high command can be under no doubt that the U.S. Government would view Allende’s victory as an event of exceedingly grave portent not only for Chile but for Latin America as a whole. It can therefore be argued that the U.S. Government would accept armed forces intervention to prevent such a victory with sympathy although nothing has been said or done to provide the armed forces with any factual basis for drawing that conclusion. We can assume that the army, in postulating its doctrine of political non-involvement, has weighed and discounted strong United States feelings over the installation of a popular front regime in Chile. We are consequently inclined to conclude that U.S. Government leverage in an attempt to divert the armed forces from a course of constitutional orthodoxy is negligible and that any impulses to change that posture will have to originate from within the institution. For purposes of Phase II planning, we doubt that any useful purpose would be served by placing reliance upon a military escape hatch. Economy of effort and focus on one major effort with reasonable prospect of success, dictate our concentrating on political warfare as the surest means of preventing an Allende victory without inflicting irreparable damage upon the very institutions whose defense provides the principal rationale for preventing an Allende victory.

Holdover of Phase I

20. We envisage the necessity for a broad spectrum of political action moves (a) to counteract likely attempts by the PCCh to split the PDC and seal off the PR against further defections; (b) to influence members of congress to cast their vote for Alessandri.

21. The basic thrust of our propaganda campaign will continue to demonstrate that Allende’s election spells the end of democracy in Chile and a re-casting of that country’s political and economic structure in the image of Cuba and other peoples’ democracies. Invoking those countries as examples, appeals to the self-interests of parliamentarians will be launched and the prospect of a rapid withering of Chile’s party system will be conjured up. Propaganda will be targetted at individual congressmen, employing as media personal letters, newspaper editorials, political advertisements and black press releases. Other types of propaganda will be addressed to political parties and their district level organizations, engendering pressures from the grassroot level up. Ra-dio programs will play a major role. The poster campaign, on the other hand, has played out its role and is likely to become prohibitively risky after 4 September. We will continue to rely heavily on black propaganda operations to exacerbate differences within the leftist camp and promote a rapid disengagement of its non-Marxist components.

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22. In order to implement the above program with speed and efficiency, denying Unidad Popular much of a breathing spell and time for regrouping, our action mechanisms will have to be kept in a state of readiness to shift over to the support of Phase II objectives.

23. Obviously the election’s outcome and the reactions of the victors and the vanquished will set in train political currents which we find it impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy. Those currents, however, are bound to have a profound effect on our post-election strategy. Political movements, facing a real or imagined prospect of obliteration, will act and react differently from movements assured of survival and a prospect for regaining power under a system of government which assures the unimpeded play of political forces. Under Alessandri, such assurances have already been tendered and nothing should obviously be done to weaken their credibility.

24. Due to circumstances beyond our control, Phase I had to be carried out in defiance of Alessandri’s preconceptions about an anti-Communist campaign, although toward the end he appeared more disposed to view it as a distinct asset and as a complement to his own less combative campaign style. During Phase II it will be unavoidable to entertain a more closely integrated propaganda effort. The pivotal role played by [name not declassified] and by the infrastructure of action instrumentalities he controls will more or less automatically insure that we are not working at variance with Alessandri’s post-election strategy. We therefore propose to retain a high degree of flexibility to adapt our propaganda product and any related action ventures to political winds prevailing after the election returns are in.

25. While not much thought could obviously be given to an apportionment of our resources, we envisage sizeable expenditures in support of [less than 1 line not declassified] an early acquisition of prime radio time on a nation-wide scale. The termination of the poster campaign will result in considerable savings, but more will have to be spent on printed materials (pamphlets, et al.) and on political advertising. [3 lines not declassified]

Concluding Considerations

26. In answer to the review group’s question,4 we believe that in the time remaining before 4 September, there is not much more that could be done than is already being undertaken or planned. We have not felt unduly restrained in doing what needed to be done while keeping the U.S. Government’s hand concealed.

27. We estimate that delaying the implementation of Phase II until at least a week after the 4 September elections would redound to the [Page 157] benefit of Phase II. We reason that the precise margin of Alessandri’s expected plurality and, most important, the political estimates formed by Chilean policy-makers and opinion moulders, are bound materially to affect our own perceptions. Any temptation, therefore, to act on the strength of our earliest interpretation of the meaning of the election outcome, before responsible Chileans have been able to collect their thoughts, ought to be withstood. Shooting from the hip on 5 September is a temptation which the more thoughtful Chileans have learned to resist because they have found that first reactions are more a product of exhilaration or gloom than mature reflection upon the import of the election returns. Also, we are confident that Chile’s armed forces and police will provide a climate of domestic tranquility in which Chile can sort out its national problems in an orderly fashion. Though Phase II can safely wait through the first week after the elections, Phase I propaganda activities should be carried forward without hiatus as explained earlier.

28. Phase II planning is predicated on an electoral outcome in which Alessandri is first and Allende is second. There will be no need to implement Phase II if Allende is third. If Allende emerges first, even by a small margin, popular forces rallying to his support may soon prove to be overpowering.

[name not declassified]
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 128, Country Files, Latin America, Chile Wrap-Up and Post Mortem. Secret.
  2. Document 50.
  3. See Document 20.
  4. See Document 53.