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Military dictatorship in Chile
Pinochet remained in power for 16 years, leaving thousands of dead and missing in his wake. Photo: Chas Gerretson

Before September 11, 2001, there was another 9/11

Before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States, the world remembered the same infamous day in 1973 that marked the beginning of a…

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Before the notorious attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States, the historical reference of 9/11 alluded to the military coup in Chile, with the support of the U.S. government, which deposed President Salvador Allende to install the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Amid a fierce global positioning strategy during the Cold War against the former Soviet Union, the Nixon administration sponsored the Pinochet military despite having knowledge of the extrajudicial executions of political opponents. After the assassination of the leftist president Allende, the military dictatorship in Chile lasted for 16 years, leaving at least 3,000 people dead or missing and thousands more in exile.

The other 9/11

After the military coup happened on September 11, 1973 in Santiago, which ended with the suicide of the democratically-elected president, the government was dissolved and reformed under a military dictatorship in less than 24 hours.

Although initial U.S. support for the military government of Pinochet was unofficial, sympathy grew towards new free market policies and good deals with the multinationals also consolidated relations between the two countries. Pinochet also kept at bay the communist threat in Latin America, which was of highest priority for the U.S. In addition to the support from the Nixon administration, the military dictatorship had the support of the other Western governments until the return of democracy.

Until the end of 1989, the systematic practice of torture by members of the government's police force was conducted in Chile. It was a criminal exercise justified by the defense of the country's freedom and which, 32 years later, continues to raise thousands of legal disputes on account of the deaths and disappearances that occurred under state order amid the military dictatorship.

Despite being in the framework of the Cold War, the dictatorial and military governments of South American countries such as Chile, Argentina and Brazil were well regarded by the United States and its allies. As a result, the end of the last century brought the world a feeling of rejection towards policies of state such as those imposed by dictatorships and, in general, against governments that violated human rights and prevented free and democratic choice to elect leaders.

September 11 is not only a date on which the terrorist attacks against the United States are commemorated, it is also the day on which a crime against the legitimate government of Chile was supported on account of a power play between the most powerful nations of the world. A game that, like the 9/11 attacks, left thousands dead who still cannot rest in peace.

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