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Death of Salvador Allende


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Salvador Allende, President of Chile, reportedly committed suicide during the Chilean coup of 1973. Since that time, there has been great controversy between supporters and detractors of Allende on the circumstances of his death, since the military junta's version of his suicide was discounted by his supporters. Questions continue to surround the events that led to his death.

Historical event

On September 11, 1973, just prior to the capture by the military of the Palacio de La Moneda (the presidential palace), while gunfire and explosions were clearly audible in the background, President Salvador Allende made what would become a famous farewell speech to Chileans on live radio (Radio Magallanes), speaking of his love for Chile and of his deep faith in its future. He stated that his commitment to Chile did not allow him to take an easy way out and be used as a propaganda tool by those he called "traitors" , clearly implying he intended to fight to the end.

Shortly afterwards, Allende reportedly committed suicide. An official announcement declared that he had committed suicide with an assault rifle, and an autopsy labelled his death as suicide.Gonzalez Camus, Ignacio, El dia en que murio Allende ("The day that Allende Died"), 1988, pp. 282 and following. The weapon purportedly used by Allende to commit suicide was an AK-47 assault rifle given to him as a gift by Fidel CastroWhelan, James, Out of the Ashes: The Life, Death and Transfiguration of Democracy in Chile, 1989, pp. 511-512 and 519-520. and which bore a golden plate engraved To my good friend Salvador from Fidel, who by different means tries to achieve the same goals.

This (now) general acceptance is based on statements given by two doctors from the Moneda Palace infirmary who witnessed the suicide: Dr. Patricio Guijon, who made a statement at the time, and Dr. Jose QuirogaPape, Eric, Five Degrees of Exile, Los Angeles Times Magazine, 11 July 1999. Reproduced online as part of an archive of Pape's articles, accessed 22 September 2006. who only confirmed it many years later.

Official version of the death

At approximately 1:50 PM local time, President Allende ordered the defenders of the La Moneda Palace to surrender. The defenders then formed a queue from the second floor, down the stairs and onto the Morande street door. The president went along this queue, from the ground floor up the stairs, shaking hands and thanking everyone personally for their support in that difficult moment. After he finished, he directed himself toward the Independence salon, located in the north-east side of the Palace's second floor.

At the same time, Dr. Patricio Guijon (a member of La Moneda's infirmary staff) decided to return upstairs to recover his gas-mask as a souvenir. He heard a noise, and opened the door of the Independence salon in time to see the president shoot himself with his AK-47 assault rifle. CHILE ENDS EXILE OF ALLENDE FAMILY, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 2 September 1988. Accessed online 30 June 2008. From the other side of the salon and through an open door Dr. Jose Quiroga,Patricio Zamorano, Muerte de Allende: los testigos que quedaron fuera de la historia , La Opinion Digital, 11 September 2003. Accessed online 22 September 2006. Arsenio Poupin, a member of the cabinet, Enrique Huerta, a palace functionary, two detectives from the Presidential security detail, and some GAPs (Presidential Security) were able to see the moment of death, or arrive a few seconds afterwards, attracted by the noise.


All sources seem to agree that at least the following witnesses were present:

Dr. Patricio Guijon member of the Presidential Medical Staff Survived

Dr. Jose Quiroga member of the Presidential Medical Staff Survived

Arsenio Poupin Oissel Presidential Assesor and member of the cabinet Executed a few days later

Enrique Huerta Corvalan Palace Intendant Executed a few days later

David Garrido Detective (Presidential Security Detail) Survived

Ricardo Pincheira Detective (Presidential Security Detail) Survived

Pablo Manuel Zepeda Camillieri GAP (Presidential Security) Survived

Of these witnesses, only Dr. Guijon spoke about the events immediately after they happened, and was roundly vilified for doing so. Some sources misattribute Guijon's declarations to "Allende's personal doctor": Dr. Enrique Paris Roa, who was at La Moneda not on his professional role but as a member of Allende's cabinet. He does not appear to have made any such statement as he was executed shortly afterwards.Anne-Marie O'Connor, Out of the Ashes, Los Angeles Times 22 October 2000. Reproduced online on the site of Oberlin College professor Steven S. Volk, accessed 22 September 2006. The other witnesses kept silent until after the restoration of democracy in Chile, as they believed (according to their own statements) that to corroborate the version of a suicide would in some measure downgrade Allende's sacrifice and lend support to the military regime.


At the time and for many years after, his supporters nearly uniformly presumed that he was killed by the forces staging the coup, and many theories have been put forward to imply he was ruthlessly assassinated. This view was first expressed in a speech given in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion on 28 September 1973 (only two weeks after Allende's death.) On that day Fidel Castro told a crowd of about 1 million Cubans that Allende had died in La Moneda wrapped in a Chilean flag, firing at the army with Fidel's rifle. Another version stated that Allende was killed in combat on the steps outside the Presidential Palace.

The "murder-in-battle" theory that states that Allende was killed by Pinochet's military forces while defending the palace was officially set forth in 1975 by Robinson Rojas in his book The murder of Allende and the end of the Chilean way to socialism.Rojas, Robinson. The murder of Allende and the end of the Chilean way to socialism. 1985. This book has generally lost favour since the 1990s.

For years after Allende's death, Fidel Castro in public addresses continued to express the view that Allende had died while exchanging gunfire with Chilean troops. In 2002, however, he spoke of Allende's death as a suicide, changing his earlier opinion.In "Fidel Castro: o: biografia a dos voces (a two-voiced biography), pub. Debate Publishing House ISBN 0307376532, the Cuban president told Ignacio Ramonet that he told Hugo Chavez: "Don't kill yourself, Hugo. Don't do (sic) like Allende, who was a man alone. You have most of the Army on your side. Don't quit, don't resign." [*]

In recent years, the view that Allende committed suicide has become more accepted, particularly as different testimonies are confirming the details of the suicide in news and documentary interviews. Also, members of Allende's immediate family including his wife and his daughter, EUA tentaram impedir posse de Allende, diz documento. Washington: Associated Press-Agencia Estado, in O Estado de S. Paulo, september 10, 2008, 15:56 always outspoken, never disputed that it was a suicide.

However, some supporters still dispute the idea that it was suicide. In 2008 the Chilean doctor Luis Ravanal published an article in the magazine El Periodista stating that Allende's wounds were "not compatible" with suicide. Asked to comment on Dr. Ravanal's hypothesis, the Chilean congresswoman Isabel Allende, the President's daughter, said that the suicide version is the correct one.

See also

Chile under Allende

U.S. intervention in Chile

Augusto Pinochet

Chilean coup of 1973

Government Junta of Chile (1973)

External links

La Tercera, Chilean newspaper, September 11, 1973

La Tercera, El Once, includes news of different newspaper of days previous to the coup

Las 24 horas que estremecieron a Chile. Detailed minute-by-minute account of the events of September 11, 1973 by historian Ascanio Cavallo, on the site of La Tercera.

Salvador Allende's "Last Words" (with English translation.) The transcript of the last radio broadcast of Chilean President Salvador Allende, made on 11 September 1973, at 9:10 AM. MP3 audio available here.

September 11, 1973: President overthrown in Chile coup, BBC News "On this Day", undated. Accessed 22 September 2006.

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