40 years ago, on Tuesday September 11th, President Salvador Allende was to address the Chilean people of a proposed referendum. Gridlock had consumed the Chilean Congress as the reactionary National Party blocked all efforts by the Popular Unity government, a historic coalition of center-left parties that for the first time gave voice to factory workers, students, humanists, and peasants. 1971 saw tremendous economic resilience as workers headed the call to lift Chile on a peaceful road to socialism.
Allende had assumed the presidency in November of 1970. His Popular Unity government was sabotaged from the outset. It would later be uncovered, during a U.S. Senate investigation in 1975, that the Nixon administration had conspired with right-wing politicians and seditious elements of the Chilean Armed Forces to destabilize and eventually depose the Popular Unity government.
What followed were 17 years of dictatorship: the Congress was shut down along with the free press; dead bodies turned up on the streets and thousands upon thousands went missing. Terror reigned. Over 37,000 Chileans were tortured; over 3,000 remain disappeared. An estimated 100,000 were forced into exile for decades. Among the first casualties of the violent coup d'état were Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, and Pablo Neruda.
On this occasion, a then university student, member of Popular Unity movement, and supporter of President Salvador Allende, speaks about the aftermath of the coup d'état in his country, in Chile. Consider: What does it mean to understand the fragility of civilian government and representative democracy?