U.S. Covert Operations in Latin America By: Olivia Klele and Hannah crowley

In a 1967 "fact-finding mission" to several Latin American countries, Richard Nixon verbalized to his staff that Latin America was "not underdeveloped-but undergoverned"(Michael, 2008, p. 95) As Nixon outlined his perceived problems in Latin America, he stated that Latin America "needs a new revolution. Not of Arms but of attitude" This presentation is a brief look at the United States' involvement in Latin America governments during the Cold War.


The other September 11th.

La Moneda, Chile's presidential palace, up in flames on September 11th, 1973.

From 1932 to 1973, Chile was the only country in Latin America to practice and maintain a successful electoral democracy. Chileans took great pride in their representative democracy at a time when many Latin American governments were in turmoil. Until 1973, Chile was known for having one of the most stable democracies in Latin America.

Salvador Allende

Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile on September 4th, 1970. Allende was the first Marxist to be elected president of a Latin American country. Allende introduced the idea of socialism through a democratic process, guaranteeing basic democratic and human rights. (Tassinari, 1982, p. 59)||Allende was fierce in his vocalization for nationalizing Chilean industries that were dominated by United States corporations. (Michael, 2005, p. 109) Allende also planned to continue programs created by his predecessor, Eduardo Frei, in regards to the educational system in Chile and providing free milk to students. It's important to mention that Allende won the presidency by a narrow margin, 1.3% more votes than Jorge Alessandri.

United States Actions Against a Leftist Government

The United States aversion to a Leftist government began in 1962 by covertly providing financial assistance to the Christian Democrat party and other moderate candidates in preparation for the 1964 election. Eduardo Frei, a Christian Democratic candidate, won the presidency over opponent Salvador Allende by a significant margin of votes. Through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the United States provided more than three million dollars in anti-Allende propaganda before and after the election, through the use of radio and print journalism. These actions were known as "Track |" by the U.S. government.

Track | and Track ||

Track | and Track || were two different approaches to fighting Marxism in Chile with one common goal, preventing Allende's assumption of power. (Michael, 2005, p. 132) | As described above, the original means of preventing a Leftist government Track | was a contingency fund to support other candidates and CIA anti-Allende propaganda. While this approach initially worked in blocking Allende from winning the 1964 election, it ultimately failed in the 1970 election. The key tactics of Task | in relation to the 1970 presidential election were: 1. Convincing undecided Congressmen to vote for Alessandri 2. Publishing propaganda in Chile and other countries predicting an economic catastrophe if Allende was elected 3. Placing "economic pressures" on Chile. (Michael, 2005, p. 129) Ultimately Allende was elected much to the disapproval of the United States.

Track || was a much more combative approach to the election of Allende. Richard Nixon directly authorized the CIA to prevent Allende from coming into power or to unseat him by any means possible without the approval from the State Department or the Department of Defense. (CIA, Genesis of Project FUBELT, 1970) Notes from this meeting taken by Richard Helms, the Director of Central Intelligence at the time, described what the United States needed to do to foster coup conditions in Chile. Track || should be "top priority", "a full-time job", deserved the CIA's "best men", to be carried out with "no involvement of the embassy", and "$10,000,000 available, more if necessary" to finance the operation. The last notes penned by Helms were ominous, the CIA was to "make the (Chile) economy scream" and "48 hours for plan of action". (CIA, Notes on Meeting with the President on Chile, 1970)CIA agents help identify potential coup leaders and provided "sterile weapons" or weapons with no identifying features and money. (Michael, 2005, p. 136)

Assassination of General René Schneider

The CIA was aware that any possible coup in 1970 would require the kidnapping of army commander-in-chief General Rene Schneider. Schneider was initially approached by Chilean coup leaders to be a driving force in overthrowing Allende, he declined. Schneider was a strict Constitutionalist and wanted to preserve the military’s apolitical history. October 22nd, 1970 Schneider was assassinated in the attempt to kidnap him, because he resisted capture. (Michael, 2005, p. 136) The murder of Schneider did the opposite of what was hoped, it created overwhelming support for the confirmation of Allende.

The CIA maintains they were not actively involved in the attempted kidnapping. The official termination of Track || is unclear, after Schneider’s death on October 22nd the Chilean plotters were unwilling to continue to attempt a coup and the plans were halted, but were never officially “turned off”.

(CIA, Minutes of a Meeting of the Washington Special Actions Group, 1973)

September 11th, 1973

A military coup attacked the presidential palace of La Moneda, lead by commander-in-chief of the Chilean army Augusto Pinochet. During the attack on the palace, Allende gave his final speech broadcasted on the radio. Allende refused offers of exile and chose to stay and die for his beliefs.

Pinochet rose to supreme power within a year of the coup. The principal creator of coup conditions, the United States, swiftly recognized the new government and supported their takeover.

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and General Augusto Pinochet shake hands in a 1976 meeting

Pinochet’s time as the President of Chile was marked by extreme suppression of opposition. Pinochet banned all leftist parties and all other political parties. Those opposed to Pinochet’s regime were subject to torture, exile, and murder due to their beliefs. The true number of victims of Chilean political violence is unknown.

In a report prepared by the United States Intelligence Community in 2000 stated that “Although CIA did not instigate the coup that ended Allende’s government on September 11th, 1973, it was aware of coup-plotting by the military, had ongoing intelligence collection relationships with some plotters, and- because CIA did not discourage the takeover and had sought to instigate a coup in 1970- probably appeared to condone it.“ (CIA.gov, 2007)


"The Dirty War"

In 1973, Argentina was experiencing a political crisis. President Juan Peron was elected for a third time, and while he was highly favored by Argentines during his first two terms, his presidency during his third term was falling apart. The left and right wings of his Peronist party were becoming increasingly hostile. After Peron died of a heart attack in 1974, his wife Isabel Peron took over (Fun fact: she was the first female president of any country in the world). The two sectors of the Peronist party were battling for political influence. The left wing was made up of activists who opposed the government. The right wing came to be represented/supported by Jorge Fidela, who overthrew Isabel Peron in 1976.

"The Lost Children" of Argentina


"Peronism ventilated frustrations with the inequality and exploitation inherent to capitalism, but its proposed 'third way' between capitalism and communism promised to uplift the working population without really destroying the existing order" (Natalia Milanesio, 2012).


The term “Desaparecidos” {meaning The Disappeared} was used for all the innocent people who died under Videla’s regime. According to official records, 30,000 people were murdered. "In the concentration camps, women allowed themselves to be raped thinking that soldiers would not mistreat a pregnant woman. They were wrong. In the death chamber, hundreds of pregnant women were tortured without reservations. Many 'kind' torturers decided not to kill the babies and gave them away. In this process, as many as 500 infants were sent for adoption."(Pedro Moreno Vasquez, 2015) Through all of this, Kissinger still fully supported Videla.

"Each disappearance followed a similar pattern. Civilian authorities, such as the police, were told not to interfere in a certain targeted area. An armed unit would burst into the victim's house or apartment in the early hours of the morning; the attackers carried off the victim in an unmarked car, often ransacking the house, and always warning family members that appeals to the authorities would be useless. The attackers then drove the victim, usually with a hood over his head, to a clandestine detention center where they questioned him or her, usually with torture." (Paula K. Speck, 1987)

Jorge Rafael Videla

Trial of the Juntas

December 9th, 1985: The Camara (civilian court in Argentina) punished the members of the military junta for being responsible for human rights violations and murder. "The prosecution accused nine generals and admirals of crimes ranging from aggravated homicide, torture and illegal deprivation of liberty to falsification of public documents and cover-ups" (Paula K. Speck, 1987). The first Junta was composed of Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla of the Army, Admiral Emilio Massera of the Navy, and Brigadier General Orlando Ramon Agosti of the Air Force.

CIA Involvement in Argentina

"What emerges most clearly from the paper trail left by the State Department is that the US government was well aware that in the name of a “war on terrorism” the Argentine regime was carrying out a bloodbath. Clearly, Washington saw these actions as a necessary defense of both US interests and those of the native ruling elite" (Rafael Azul and Bill Vann, 2002). What is interesting, as well as frustrating, is that the US government never faced any repercussions for their involvement in terrorist-like activity taking place in these Latin American countries.

America as a World Power

The point of this project was to uncover the truth about America's involvement in Latin America. The US is a world power, so we are expected to help other countries whom are our allies. However, there is a fine line between helping and controlling. In the cases of Chile, Argentina, and countless other Latin American countries, the US overstepped boundaries because of fear of a Leftist government. The CIA tried to cover up their involvement in these countries, so as not to be responsible for the multiple deaths that took place, as well as the years of instability that followed.

Building stable economies and strong institutions must be complemented by developing a leadership that is committed to modernization, compromise, and reform. "Even so", Kryzanek argues, "the United States must recognize the limits of its influence in instilling democratic governance. If US policy toward Latin America is to be effective in the future, leaders from both the public and private sectors must rise 'above narrow interests and personal prejudices' to meet regional and US needs". (Kryzanek, 1996,p.6)


Created with images by ishane - "Stars & Stripes" • Eneas - "El Más Grande"

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