Salvador Allende reader


Interview with Chilean Journalists

On the radio show "The Great Inquiry," September 10, 1972

On the well-known Radio Portales program "The Great Inquiry," Allende dialogues for one-and-a-half hours with the show's journalists. He repeatedly denounces small fascist groups like the "ill-named" Fatherland and Liberty and the illegal and violent destabilizing tactics of big U.S. corporations like Kennecott Copper and ITT. He comments on the subtlety of imperialism's tactics, including its "invisible blockade" and disinformation campaign that are becoming more powerful every day. He answers questions on topics ranging from food shortages (rationing and hoarding) to incidents of violence and threats by ultra-rightist and ultra-leftist groups. He says how deeply moved he is by recent peaceful pro-government street marches incorporating hundreds of thousands of Christian Democrats and members of other groups outside the governing Popular Unity coalition. In the face of growing demands from different sectors, however, Allende warns of the dangers of violent confrontation and stresses the importance of finding peaceful political solutions to the problems facing the country. He criticizes the Christian Democrats for breaking earlier agreements but reiterates his invitation to dialogue with all the political parties of the opposition. Finally, he speaks to the rights of Chile's middle classes, including small shopkeepers, in whose interests the revolution is being made, and to the rights of women, children and youth.

Question: The past 15 days have been marked by violence. Many events in several cities of the country have disclosed a panorama that, to say the least, causes concern and unrest among Chileans. Because of this, we thought it would be interesting to devote this program to talking freely with the president.

Chileans know that Dr Allende is the president of Chile who talks most with his people, who travels most and who is in the closest contact with the masses. A foreign journalist has said of you, Dr Allende, that you have set up your office in a plane and in the back seat of your car. This means that you are constantly on the go throughout the country. However, you do not talk with a group of reporters often. This is the first time since you became president that you have granted an interview to a radio program.

We would like to talk with you about the most important and urgent Chilean problems, such as the economic problem. I think we will talk about that. But the most recent news is about the situation created in the country by a U.S. firm that used to exploit our copper mines. Would you prefer to begin with this topic?

Salvador Allende: As you wish, but first let me clarify that I have been meeting and I will continue to meet frequently with national and foreign journalists. It is true that this is the first time that I have talked with a regular radio program since the time I spoke when I was president-elect. I take advantage of the microphones of Radio Portales and of the "Great Inquiry Program" to greet the listeners of Radio Portales, to greet my compatriots and to tell them that I am prepared to talk about any topic that you might suggest.

You have brought up the Kennecott matter, and I believe that there is good reason for every Chilean to be concerned and indignant over the decision of that foreign company. It is trying to embargo Chilean copper production and our copper shipments to get even — according to them — for our not paying indemnity.

It is necessary to again emphasize that the government has only applied a constitutional amendment that was unanimously approved by the Congress — where the government is in the minority, a marked minority. It is not only paradoxical but unbelievable that a firm should reject the verdict of a court to which it has taken its case. How legal can this be, what can this attitude mean?

I think that all of Chile, not just the political parties that approved the government's proposal in Congress, all of Chile should react with the dignity of a country — with nationalism and patriotism. There is an international awareness about these transnational companies. Chile already knows how ITT acted, how it practically led us to a civil war. And now we have an aggression by these big firms that thrust their exploiting claws into many hemispheres, that crushed our countries. This is why, Leonardo Caceres [presumably radio reporter] I am convinced — and I am pleased that you have asked this question — that Chileans, regardless of their ideological position, regardless of whether they have an ideological position, will support their government in this matter of defending Chile — its tradition, dignity and future.

Question: President, for a long time now there has been talk abut Chile being the victim of an invisible blockade by big foreign powers. This is no longer an invisible blockade, it is an actual blockade. Does this mean that this is an aggression?

Allende: It means a much clearer attitude, an effort to block the popular government's economic progress. You understand that they are going to embargo the copper shipments, that is, the production of copper which has been already sold. Furthermore, an international campaign has been waged saying that Chile will not be able to meet its commitments. Can you imagine that, comrade reporters of "The Great Inquiry"? On the international banking level, the copper contracts have been handled the same way that any bank in Chile handles bank documents — drafts for example. We have all had drafts with the banks at one time or another, I probably more often than you, right? If you draw against an unbacked draft, but if you have had an account and honored the payments, the bank will give you an advance on this document, right — a percent that is quite high — 50, 60, even 80 percent. This is what was happening with the copper contracts. They are real documents and were given to the banks for collection by them. Therefore, there was a certain interest on them.

But also foreign currency in dollars was advanced. Why? Because the accounts are in dollars. An international atmosphere has been created with the campaign waged in Chile about great faults and deficiencies, that we will not be able to meet our commitments, that three, five reverberating furnaces burst, and so on and so forth. Then what about these drafts sent to the banks? These documents are no guarantee for the banks today because they are not going to be backed by copper production; they are just pieces of paper. This embargo has enormously harmed Chile. Go ahead.

Question: President, from your words one can see that the basic problem is, one could say, the following: For us, for the Chilean process, the form of imperialism was more sophisticated, more concealed, than in the case of other peoples and experiences. This, maybe, is the biggest problem today as far as achieving internal unity. I do not know if this is your opinion.

Allende: Of course, you are right Fernando Reyes, [presumably another reporter] because in this country nobody would accept a direct intervention, nobody would accept what happened in Santo Domingo [Dominican Republic, invaded by U.S. Marines in 1965]. Chile is a country that has great nationalism, and everybody has reacted, I think everybody, even the government's most stubborn opposition, has reacted. But then, the people do not see this concealed, veiled way of acting. The people are unaware of this. Furthermore, what does the peasant know, what, for example, do many comrade workers — including employees and even professionals — know? Since we have not indemnified the copper companies, they think we have taken the mines without taking over any commitments.

No, the companies have a $726 million debt which they must pay the Chilean Government. But since we did not indemnify the companies because we applied the constitutional reform, they have cut off our short-term credits in the American banks. Even though we renegotiated Chile's bank debt with them — and this was under good terms, I would say with understanding from the banks — yet they have not reopened the lines of credit. Chile had $230 million in U.S. lines of credit. We do not have a penny. Just think what it means — besides all this, the price of copper has gone down extraordinarily.

In 1970, during Mr. Frei's administration, the price of copper was 59 cents a pound. In 1971 it was 49 cents a pound, or $175 million less in income. We produced more copper because the Exotica and La Andina mines began operating. This year we are going to produce more copper because production is really going to increase. Now that the Exotica and La Andina are operating, we are going to produce more than in 1971. However, our income is going to be less because the price of copper will not even reach 49 cents. It will be 48 cents. Go ahead, Comrade Gana.

Question: President, I would like to ask a question on this matter. The truth is that the Kennecott affair, besides being serous, is critical. You say that the people must support their government, something which I consider to be absolutely logical because after the unanimous approval of the constitutional reform it has become obvious that there is a consensus of opinion in the country, that there is a unanimous opinion on copper matters. But, what will the government do to defend itself against the Kennecott attack, because as far as people can see, it is not only the problem but the manner of defending the country? Your decision can strengthen support.

Allende: First of all create awareness. To insist on this and explain why what I have referred to as Chile's paycheck — copper — is steadily decreasing, but not for the reason the opposition is giving — not because of less production but because of lower prices and threat of embargoes, h is really important that the people positively know why, because now We have at our doorstep other conflicts that are also a result of Congress's approval of the executive branch's proposal. You know, comrades of "The Great Inquiry," and Raúl Tarud had better not forget this — I can tell that he is interested in what I am saying — do not forget that we have submitted a bill to nationalize ITT. It has been unanimously approved by the Chamber of Deputies. It is back in the Senate now. Undoubtedly we are going to have problems, difficulties, because they expect us to pay indemnification to this firm which practically led us to a civil war. This firm intervened, spent money, used its influence, practically determined which the Chilean groups should be, from the armed forces to the politicians. It had influence on the murder of General Rene Schneider. Well, the nationalization if ITT is coming.

ITT is supported by a big insurance company for which the United States is responsible. They say that to pay ITT this insurance when it is nationalized, the United States will have to tax the American taxpayer. This then will create several problems that the people are unaware of — in other words, problems which they do not realize exist. As Fernando Reyes Matta was saying, this is a much more concealed way, but it is extraordinarily harmful, and this is why the people must be made aware, we must tell this to them. Furthermore, excuse me just a moment Comrade Caceres, in reply to Juan Gana, I say that, in juridical terms, we must conduct more serious and in-depth studies.

We must also appeal to international awareness, if some markets are closed to us. El Teniente production, for example, nearly 70,000 tons — of special significance in copper production — is basically earmarked for England. We do not believe that England will fail to demand the fulfillment of the long-term contract. But we also have the possibility of placing this copper in other areas where they will be unable to embargo it.

But it interests us very much that there is a great demonstration of national protest and also that internationally it is being noted how these companies operate. It was clearly established in the UNCTAD III meeting. In the United Nations also, the secretary general, and especially the under-secretary, condemned the Geneva meeting. Our delegate Hernan Santa Cruz obtained a unanimous agreement which I never thought would be approved — get this, unanimously. In other words, an international condemnation exists, and this is favorable to Chile's position.

Question: There is a latent subject in all that we have discussed which we have called the people's unity. I would like to speak of this a little, perhaps Hernan Rodriguez...

Question: Mr. President: I would like to ask a question about that because in recent days I have been speaking with a U. S. reporter who is a Washington Post correspondent in South America. He has served in Buenos Aires for approximately two years, and very often visits Chile. He is extremely interested in the Chilean situation and was deeply impressed by last Monday's march. He was impressed, he said, because of the great support the government enjoys after two years in office — especially on the part of the working class. Because, he said to me, "the people who produce are the ones who marched there." The results of the Coquimbo elections also impressed him deeply, where Amanda Altamirano, a Popular Unity worker managed to defeat all the united opposition forces — an extraordinary feat. At least, this had not happened in Chile for many years. This undoubtedly demonstrates great popular support. Moreover, he commented on the CUT, how the CUT was operating, and how he did not understand much of the Chilean process. In this regard, he asked me why, within the CUT, the Christian Democrats were working beside the Socialists, Communists, and other parties of the UP [Popular Unity]. And later — forgive me for expanding on this — he would comment that in the nitrate refineries, as an example, in the Pedro de Valdivia offices, the head of the voluntary tasks elected by votes of the UP is a Christian Democrat. And undoubtedly all of this is also difficult to explain to the Washington Post readers.

Allende: What is significant is that the U.S. reporters attempt to explain it. The problem is that there is not much interest in telling it, in explaining it — at least according to what I see in the press clippings from U.S. dailies. There are also reporters with an ethical attitude who at least state what they see. In this case the reporter is understandably surprised. I have stated this. It is possible that some people do not believe it, but that is the truth. You yourself have just stated something that I want to emphasize. It is the first time during this government — and I believe it may be twice or three times at the most in the past 30 years — that the opposition and the government have confronted each other in a special by-election and the government has won. Recall the case of the by-elections during the Pedro Aguirre Cerda government. I refer not to the presidential elections, but to the parliamentary by-elections.

This victory at Coquimbo is therefore very significant. We obtained 53 percent of the votes. Furthermore, I have told Chile that this is the government with the greatest support. No government, after 20 months in office, has obtained such support at the polls against a united opposition as the government which I lead.

Without taking into account the municipal elections where we won, where the government obtained 50 point something votes, without considering those elections, but considering the by-elections lost by the government and those at Coquimbo which we won, the average is 47.8 percent. The PDC on the other hand, obtained 43 percent of the votes in the elections after 20 months in office.

Then there are the workers' social forces. Despite what happened, despite everything that was said, we obtained more than 70 percent of the votes in the CUT. They mobilized from Arica to Magallanes, in the provincial capitals and in several departments. According to reports I have received — and I believe them — more than 1.5 million Chileans were mobilized. And you must have heard about the rallies organized in Valparaiso, Antofagasta, Concepcion, Los Angeles and Puerto Montt. In Los Angeles they lived through the drama of the three murdered peasants as was also the case in Valparaiso with the death of a young man from the Communist Youth..

Never, never has such a large mass mobilized — almost 100 percent of the population. I said that this had only occurred in France when De Gaulle had to return to France in connection with the May events because of the problems that had arisen.

Not only did the people take to the streets, but the large industries, the copper, coal, and nitrate installations, the railroads, the hospitals, schools, and stores symbolically stopped their activities. They were demonstrating the great social force possessed by the people. But what is more important is to meditate on what I said before.

Here in Santiago no one has dared to talk about the figures which were released in order not to alarm the foreign reporters: they were 600,000 or 700,000 persons. But, when did all these people mobilize? They mobilized as the price increases began to hit their homes the hardest. They mobilized as the cost of living reached such high levels — levels which we ourselves had not imagined — when the readjustments were not in effect.

For this reason I was extraordinarily moved, I was deeply affected and became aware of what the people stand for. And I became fully convinced of what the people can do when they have faith and confidence, and that the workers know that this is their government. I became aware that they understood the mistakes and that at last they have admitted them and are ready to suffer. For this reason a worker carried a sign which said "I prefer to eat bread standing up than to eat chicken on my knees." I think this is the symbol of dignity, a dignity we had not seen before. And this is the force of the people, their awareness that they are a factor in history and that this is their government. They became aware that this is their government and therefore also became aware that the errors are theirs — the errors of the workers — since this is the government of the workers.

Question: In line with this subject, what importance do you attach to the joint statement issued by the Socialists and the Communists? I ask this question because there has been a lot of talk about the division existing within the UP.

Allende: Leonardo Caceres, I would not call it division. I would call it a lack of united, centralized thinking, a lack of a similar tactical concept since we must assume that there is a common strategy to attain socialism. Furthermore, I have already said this publicly.

I sent a letter to the UP parties and they answered independently. Who has responded? MAPU, the Christian Left, API, the Communists. However the Radicals and my own party have not yet answered.

The response of the four parties whose letters I have received does not represent united thinking, there are discrepancies. In all the world discrepancies occur, but here they are harshly criticized. Like what happened in Concepción when all the UP parties except the Communists participated with the MIR. What I have condemned in the strongest possible terms is what happened last Wednesday—the incidents during which one carabinero, Corporal Aroca, was killed and two others were wounded. And I said that it is inconceivable that anyone could think that one of the ruling parties could have deliberately, through one of its members, caused the death of a carabinero under circumstances in which public order — the order which the government needs — is maintained by the Carabineros. These actions were carried out by a provocateur or a degenerate who might have infiltrated the ranks of the popular parties. Naturally, such things do happen. Then the people must understand that they must take utmost care and avoid provocation. I have had to use my influence to hold back strong groups of workers, like the group in Cordon [industrial belt] Cerrillos, for example. Fifteen thousand workers could come to downtown Santiago to sweep away 300, let's say 600, insolent fascists, provocateurs, and I have told them no. No, that is what they want, a confrontation, that's what they want. The government has the public order force that allows it to guarantee order. Outside of that there is the Emergency Zone if matters get out of hand, or the state of siege, and so on. I say no more...

Question: In that context, one notices the importance of a phrase you used in the National Stadium: "To overthrow this government is to make this country explode; to try to overthrow it — because you are not going to overthrow it — is to destroy this country." Consequently, behind that affirmation, one notices that President Allende governing this country is the best guarantee of peace today in Chile. So it is, and why?

Allende: I think it is this way because, in essence, there exists the broadest democracy that we are all living. Here there are not only by-elections, municipal elections, there are elections every day. Moreover, citizens' rights have not only been preserved, they have been broadened by us. So far as freedom goes, do you believe, for example, that in other countries a president would submit himself to this conversation? You ask whatever you want, whatever occurs to you.

I believe freedom of information here is the broadest anywhere; press liberty at times has the characteristics of libertinism, not liberty. I have seen opinions about these relations, from other countries, that have admiringly stated: "Mr. President, how can press freedom arrive at such an extreme in Chile that ethical lines are crossed every day when the press misinforms, when obvious and clear facts are denied?" For example, a few dailies said that everyone was amazed by the Santiago march, right? That speech that you are commenting on, Fernando Reyes, in it you have read a sentence; very well, I have seen it twisted beyond recognition in the majority of the opposition dailies. No one, for example, no one notes that I welcomed the statements issued by Cardinal Raul Silva Henríquez with fervor, respect and affection.

I said with a clear conscience that I welcomed this appeal because as you can see there has been no difficulty, no friction, no incident between the government and the various churches. I am speaking of the Catholic, Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist, Protestant and Evangelical churches. There are the ecumenical congresses. In what countries have these congresses taken place as they do here?

I have stated — in fact I have made the accusation and demonstrated how — for example that when 700,000 persons mobilized in Santiago not a single window pane was broken, not a single car was scratched, no one was hurt. Yet when 600 or 700 persons mobilized, unfortunately a group of young students and hoodlums who were directed by others took the lead and burned tires, bales of paper, broke windows and store windows and even fired stones with slingshots. These are strictly fascist actions that are of a rather secondary character, but still efficient in this sort of urban confrontation. This has never before occurred in Chile, and this also applies to the banging of empty pots.

We have all seen the front page headlines: "Accumulate Rage." As I was saying, in certain speeches, what if the people were to accumulate rage? And what if that rage were to explode some day? Could anyone morally criticize the people, when it is they [presumably the rightists] — who have been telling Chileans to accumulate rage? We ourselves have been telling the people: "No, we do not want that path which leads to violence. We reject it." When I hear certain people speak of civil war, for example — I will not say that people blame me personally but it does worry me deeply.

There is such maturity in this country, the workers have such force, manage such a high percentage in the economy — they have political influence, not only in the industrial unions but also in the agricultural unions. Imagine what would happen if passion exploded here. What would happen to our economy?

Apart from that about which we do not wish to speak, which would mean a true genocide. So, comrade, I tell you, I have listened to the cardinal, I have looked with great satisfaction at what is being suggested by certain PDC members — Tomic's statement, what I have heard regarding Leighton, even the president of the Senate's suggestion. I think that 90 percent of the Chileans do not want a confrontation. I am well aware that we have hotheads amongst the leftist sectors but no one can deny that the government has been rough on them. In Curimón we arrested and brought before the military courts the so-called national liberation army, another myth. In jail — the lamentable Las Ventanas affair, in jail. An absurd thing has just happened in the central post office — in jail.

We have never covered up for nor will we ever cover up for a leftist, because if he is a leftist and if he is a member of the Socialist Party, he is doubly guilty, because we have committed ourselves to using certain tactics in keeping with our own conscience and the country's wishes.

Question: What you are saying is highly positive, because if we call it as it is, there are persons [who worry about] certain kinds of action which do not seem to be sufficiently clear. Things are said, much thinking is done, speeches are made, and there are problems which rebound indirectly here in the government. So, speaking frankly, there are people who think that there is a bit of authority lacking, Mr. President. I have said, and I am going to repeat it to you here, that you are somewhat like a conductor leading an orchestra which is off-key because certain musicians do not pay attention to the baton or because they all play the music their own way. Therefore I think that what you have said is really positive because it is an answer to the people who are uncertain, who have doubts. This idea seems fine to me.

Allende: Not only have I said it but I am asking you: When has this government supported or left an incident of this kind in the shadows? We have turned the guilty persons over to the courts, most of them for violating the state's internal security law. All right, we have gotten that far. I know, for example, that certain people criticized me when I went to the Lo Hermida Campamento [shantytown]. All right, I myself have said before the country that I have a different concept of how to exercise authority, and I do not think I have degraded authority. I think it's my duty, in the first place out of conviction and secondly because I am a man elected by the people, by the workers, by the shantytown dwellers. If there was a shantytown dweller dead in an incident which I consider unfortunate and which should never have occurred, my obligation was to go confront things.

They say: "But the president loses authority because a document that was disrespectful to him was read there." No one has been disrespectful to me. Besides, I went there and I told them: "This morning you sent a document demanding that I publicly and in writing accepted your points, and that if do not I should not come to the camp." I have not accepted your points and I am here and I am here alone, with the military aide-de-camp and also with the acting director of investigations. In this way I was defending the military and showing that I respect the armed forces. Since the Investigations Department was questioned, I went with only two persons, but one of them was the acting director of investigations. And I can tell you that I spoke very clearly to the shantytown dwellers.

I said in language they could understand that I was the highest authority, because in a country the president of the republic is the person responsible for the administrative and economic march of the nation, and that I, of course, was going to take measures with regard to the case, to investigate. At the same time I told them that I am not a man who can put anyone in jail or take anyone out of jail and that there are national powers here, that there are norms to be respected, that an institution cannot be judged here as to whether its action is fair or unfair by the attitude of one or two people. This is what I told the shantytown dwellers, just as I have told them that they cannot demand of me more than I can do. That is my concept of authority, what the government is going to do....

Question: Regarding what the inhabitants of Lo Hermida have said. They said they were never again going to attend a rally called by the government, and yet they all went, they carried placards, they attended in an organized manner.

Allende: I have again been invited to Lo Hermida. I am going to go talk with them. There I was interrupted by a man who is not a shantytown dweller — a man named Moore. This same man has now occupied the university, and since we respect the university's autonomy, we can do nothing. But, in my opinion, that is... well, out of respect for the people and for you I am not going to say anything. But Mr. Moore's attitude is not that of a normal political leader, and he already exhibited this attitude blatantly and the shantytown dwellers themselves taught him a good lesson. Now it is said that the vice rector of the university at Osorno is heading the takeover of the local campus of the university. Well, we respect university autonomy. I hope the student organizations will react and highlight the attitude of this group, which I think is staging a provocation, because it is not going to solve any problems, it is not going to mark out any path of just claims, it is not going to be supported. This gentlemen was a candidate for secretary general of the university and obtained an incredibly small, super-small, number of votes. Nevertheless he dares to do these things. Well, too, like Juan Gana was saying — that it is lack of authority — no, if these things happen, and the people have bad memories. Remember when Caldera was President of Venezuela and Bernardo Leighton was interior minister — a disgraceful incident occurred which I profoundly regretted.

Remember, too, the takeovers of different university campuses during the governments of Alessandri and Frei, such as occupations, etcetera. In this connection, remember the strikes, how long did the teachers' strikes last? They lasted three months or so — the copper strikes, the health workers strikes, the coal strikes and all those things which many people have already forgotten about because they purposely want to forget. They magnify certain incidents which should not occur, and especially should not be caused by the left. Yes indeed, I have been very hard, precisely on the members of the UP, and I have been still harder on the members of my party. But we have never covered up for anyone, and we will never do so. Much less for people who are playing with gunpowder. No, never.

Question: You just spoke of provocation. I think that at present there is in Santiago an atmosphere of provocation, especially in popular sectors because organized groups of ultra-rightists are making seizures, are harassing the shantytown dwellers — obviously in Las Condes, in La Granja, around Maipu — and certain conflict situations have been arising. Now, you also spoke of the state of emergency...

Allende: Those are isolated incidents. From where did the 700,000 demonstrators come? From the shantytowns. There is where our strength lies. Why then? Because they are mercenaries. You have the statement from a boy who says they paid him, as they say, "10 bucks," to come provoke incidents here, downtown — and his mother confirmed it.

Question: I am speaking, Mr. President, of organized ultra-rightist groups — which are not popular, which park their cars in front of the camps, which threaten their inhabitants, which are hostile to them, which turn their lights on the camp dwellers when they threaten to burn their dwellings down, and which shoot at the shantytown dwellers.

Allende: Of course, that is the clearest image of fascism. Those are incidents which are absolutely alien to the norm in our country. That is something thought out, organized. I would say there are advisers with considerable international experience in this kind of incident. Whoever reads the iTT documents finds, esteemed comrades of "The Great Inquiry," that the entire plan for provocation is laid out there. They either do not study it or do not read it or do not wish to recall it. But here there are obvious facts which demonstrate corruption. There is a foreign mentality here. The Chilean's idiosyncrasies, his attitude, his way of acting is very alien to what has taken place — very alien to what has taken place.

When, for example, have the houses of ministers ever been surrounded? During what government? Not even during Gonzalez Videla's government, when there was a concentration camp in Pizagua, did the opposition people act this way. When did that ever happen in the case of Alessandri? When were there any dead in Jose Maria Caro's time? When did such things occur during Mr. Frei's government — despite what happened in Pampa Irigoyen? When was a mother with three children ever beseiged, as in the case of the wife and the children of Minister Matus? Then the leftist political leaders, then the leftists themselves — employees, professionals, who live in the Providencia sector, in the Las Condes sector. When has the country ever seen a more delicate incident than the attack on Mireya Baltra, basically because she is a woman, besides being a minister of state? They almost destroyed her car. I am not going to speak to you of family things because I know I, too, have daughters. The youngest of my daughters lives in what has always been my home and which is the home to which I am going to return when I leave Tomas Moro, which is not a private residence but rather is the residence of the president of Chile, in Guardia Vieja.

Night after night hearing pans being beaten in the street—and it is not the neighbors doing this. They know us too well. Why, we have been living there for 20 years. Many people do not share our ideas, but I never saw a poster of any of the candidates who opposed me — neither during Alessandri's campaign nor during Frei's, nor now — in the two-and-a-half blocks of Guardia Vieja.

During Alessandri's other campaign, in the two-and-a-half blocks from Providencia to my house, 80 to 90 percent of the people were not on my side, but why did they not put up posters? Out of respect for the neighbor, for the family head who led a normal life, with his wife and children — people who walked through the neighborhood like everybody else and who never bothered or provoked the neighbors, either.

Now two, three, five consecutive nights — not just banging on pans, but firing in the air and yelling all sort of things.

So, these are things to contrast with the mobilization of thousands and thousands of people without a single piece of broken glass. There is fascism — there it is — that should be a warning. Those people are capable of using as their argument clubs, iron bars, Hondas, revolvers — to sum it up, violence. Those people stop at nothing, and fascism is the negation of life, freedom and democracy.

Question: Mr. President, may I invite you to take a look at the other side of the coin?

Allende: But of course, this is a conversation.

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. You highlight, and justifiably so — fully justifiably so — the popular support which has been shown concretely during the latest rally. I would like to tell you something— something modest, if you like, or if you like, domestic. The radio gets many letters from all over the country — from Futalefu, from Lonquimay, from Marchigue, from all over. And I am telling you that the majority of the letters carry messages for Comrade [Denson] — messages which, I am going to say here, are messages having to do with domestic life, Mr. President—messages of concern, of anguish, over economic problems. They are not criticisms, and they say: Please tell the Comrade President.

So I am telling you: You cannot be everywhere, but someone must contain those who commit abuses. For example, a kilogram of onions is officially priced at four escudos and some pence, and the market sells it at 15 to 20 escudos a kilogram. Therefore, those people who support you honestly and faithfully are at the same time encountering this kind of problem — and it must be pretty difficult, Mr. President.

Allende: You are perfectly right, Juan Gana, but we have to go to the root of the problem, and those comrades who write — those modest, humble lady comrades who miraculously still say tell Comrade Allende that prices have risen, that there is speculation here — they cannot find an explanation. But you and I can give them one.

I can bring you loads and loads of statements from ministers of all the governments in which they speak of the prohibition of meat sales. Besides, you went through it. You went through it with Frei, with Alessandri and with Ibáñez, right? We are even going to surpass some of the months of highest inflation during the Ibáñez government — but there are other setbacks — the readjustments. We have just launched a readjustments bill. It is still not out of the Senate. We have just sent another one, because we realized that we fell short, that we must intensify our efforts. So we have anticipated the people's just demand. We have defended, basically, who? Those who live off salaries or wages.

But what has happened in this country? What happened is that this country was not prepared for the consumption by those who have to consume. In the first place, there was a 25 percent idle status in the industries. We put it to work. Internal purchasing power is greater. And besides, as you well know, there is organized contraband.

This country has one of the lowest costs of living in the world — food. Frei, Alessandri, González Videla, all the presidents used to buy $160, $180, $200 billion worth of meat, wheat, fat, butter and oil. I wonder in how many Chilean homes butter was eaten or in how many butter is eaten?

So, what has happened? We redistributed the income. We gave buying power to thousands of Chileans who did not have it before. We have run up against an industrial production which, despite the fact that work is being performed and despite the fact that the businesses are making it produce to full capacity, does not satisfy the demand. There is greater demand than there is supply. Furthermore there is the fact that contraband is not negligible and in the case of foodstuffs, even importing, I say to you that when 42 percent of his food was imported the Chilean still ate badly. If we have given work to 220,000 Chileans, this means that 600,000 or 700,000 people had nothing to buy, nor anything to buy anything with. Now they have been able to buy.

So, logically, we have to import more foodstuffs, and we have done so, but we found that the prices of foodstuffs and spare parts on the international market have risen a lot. Why? Because of the devaluation of the dollar. For example, many people — and I have said this, many people say: oh imagine, Mr. Allende might (with a certain derogatory tone) lead us to rationing. And I tell you honestly, for example, if I could, or if there were a way to ration certain things here — certain articles, for example meat — I would do it. Is it not much fairer for you, Juan Gana, or you, Hernan Reyes — who are heads of household and who have three or four people in your home — to receive enough meat per week for four persons? On the other hand, people who are two, sometimes five at home, buy not for two or for five but for 15 or 20 persons and for several months. And for several months. Why are such measures taken during wartime? Because the danger is there, right? Because you can hear the cannon roaring, but are we not at war against hunger, against the unemployment which some people feel in this country? However, we are not yet living a revolution, a revolutionary conscience. I have said it before, we cannot suppress the purchase of beef overnight because we do not have enough fish, because we have still not been able to develop a good policy as regards the poultry industry or pork production. The storms, for example, ruined most of the chances of radically increasing poultry production. We find that we lack materials. We lack roofing for many — let us say it simply — chicken coops — places to raise poultry. We lack roofing. Why? Because we do not produce enough perlite and other materials used for roofing, just as we do not produce enough cement to build. Chile should double its production of cement. We are setting up a cement factory, a factory to produce good cement. The credit, the feasibility, the water, the site where it will be installed, the machines, where they will be purchased— all this will take two years. But we will begin producing cement in Antofagasta around the end of next year.

Then all of this is correct and these things must take place and have always taken place. John Kennedy said: "In this country two million persons go to bed each night hungry." Where did he make this statement? In the powerful capitalist country. The U.S. secretary of agriculture said three years ago: The decade of the 1970s will be called the decade of superhunger in Latin America.

These things have been repeated, but, naturally, they are now blown up, increased, magnified. Is this our fault? How is it possible that in 35 years a cattle industry has not been developed? It is not our fault, a herd of cattle cannot be created in one or two years, and the same could be said about any two things in our country.

Look, 35 percent of the railroad cars need repairs. There are steel plates in Huachipato to repair these railroad cars, but we do not have the means to transport them. Then this is a vicious circle. For example, what has happened with the beets for the processing plants, what about the conflicts with the truckers? The people will ask for health care and we cannot provide it because we lack doctors, midwives, nurses.

Comrades, I am going to tell you something that I am sure you do not know. The Chilean laboratory, in order to meet the nation's need for medicines has increased its production by 596 percent — 596 percent — and today many more persons are demanding their right to health care. As I have told the country, there are in some maternity hospitals two or three persons in a single bed.

True, it could be said it is not possible to solve problems faced by the developing countries. Has there, perhaps, not been a great national effort, a great awareness of the masses which support us? On the other hand, for example, the same understanding has not existed among labor sectors so far as the cost of living goes. If the cost of living has increased by 40 percent, by 80 percent, what good will it do to have more currency? Then you have the problem of the private social service employees fund arising from an error made by the Carabineros fund vice-president.

Question: I would like to return to a subject which has been mentioned several times: the people's unity, the unity of the rank and file. Specifically, what do you think of the Price and Supply Boards, the unity committees, the self-defense committees proposed by the CUT in a Santiago CUT plenary meeting chaired by a Christian Democrat during which a decision was made regarding the creation of the unity committees?

Allende: If we demand the unity of the UP we must be perfectly clear, then we are fighting for the unity of the workers. The needs of the Christian Democratic worker are the same as the needs of the socialist or communist workers. The needs of a worker — when I say worker I mean the laborer, the peasant, the employees, the small and middle level businessman and professional people — are the same. We are not implementing a policy for Popular Unity, for the members of Popular Unity. We ask them to understand, to be ready to make sacrifices so that the policy of the workers' unity may advance. This is the problem. Any more questions? It is becoming late.

Question: Regarding unity, there are certain phrases — excuse me for referring to your last speech — which parenthetically, I believe, marks a second stage in your government. There was a phrase which said that outside the confines of Popular Unity — you were then speaking about rejecting confrontations — they [presumably the opposition] have a political sense which indicates to them that they must seek a political solution.

You also said that the people, who are the majority, must indicate the path toward these solutions, and the people must clearly understand how this path can be reached.

It appears to me that at this point you somewhat opened the path which runs beyond the boundaries of Popular Unity and that you have set the basis for something which is not clearly discernible yet but which represents a political opening.

Allende: Logically, but first what is the solution? I believe the question interests you, Fernando Reyes, who have asked it. I want to answer the question, but if you want to interrupt, go ahead.

Question: What Reyes says somewhat coincides with statements made yesterday by Bernardo Leighton and with statements made by Tomic in his letter of explanation to the dailies.

Allende: This is a hard, difficult moment when fascists are in the streets, when the fascists are acting insolently in the streets, when provocations are taking place in the shantytowns. We are living through an abnormal stage. What is the proper thing to do during this stage? Confrontation? This I reject overwhelmingly and categorically. You understand — I have said this before — referring to what happened when hoodlums and some obstinate fascists — approximately 600 persons — mobilized and when 10,000 or 20,000 workers marched in the center of Santiago in support of their government. Well, this is not the problem. This then is not a question of repression or of deploying the public forces. Neither must there be an attitude of violent repression which could lead to the use of weapons, because quite frequently the instigators and those responsible for disorders run away and innocent people die. Then, what political solution is available? Regarding a political solution which interests all the Chilean people, we have, for example, a goal: March. You understand that if in March the electorate — the will expressed in the ballot box — is drastically against the government, then I will understand and will become aware of the serious problems we have caused. When the people do not vote for us, I will have to ask myself seriously: Well, what is happening in this country? And, lastly, I will say: I am the one who has been wrong. Otherwise, if a high percentage of the people vote for us — or, a strong possibility, if the forces almost balance — we will have to reach the conclusion that the great majority stands for changes. If we analyze what Tomic has stated during his campaign, what the Christian Democrats are saying, this means that not 50 percent, but 70 percent of the Chilean people desire the changes. Well, let us seek a way to implement these changes in such a way that peoples' will and desires are not violated. Then we have the case of Congress, for example. I have always maintained that it is possible to open the path of socialism with pluralism, democracy and freedom, so long as the Chilean constitutional system is flexible. I was referring to the Congress where we lack a majority. But it is a Congress which has rejected the Sea Ministry, a Congress which has delayed for two years and has not yet approved the organization of the Family Ministry. Why? When one of the best moves they could make is to create the Family Ministry so that we may provide services to the children, the youth, adults and the aged.

What we seek is to promulgate a family code. What we seek is that there be equality of rights among the children. What we seek is to fundamentally defend the woman. When I see, for example, that as a result of that initiative by this government, there are people who combat the service of women calling it compulsory.

But, how can there be no understanding that if there is no children's nursery, there is perhaps no service. Because 1.2 million children, one person per 10 children presupposes a service of 120,000 persons. How many millions and millions would have to be paid in salaries? On the other hand, there are thousands and thousands of young girls who do nothing and it would be good for them to understand that someday they will be mothers; it would be good for those bourgeois girls to go to the shantytowns in order to become aware of where our people live and how difficult it is for them to bathe a baby because they have no water. And how useful it is for the town girls to acquire knowledge, since otherwise later they will become mothers without having had the possibility of attending a school to learn. However, now they learn because of the initiative of this government.

Then, there is political passion which reaches such extremes that one asks, well, what to do. I favor dialogue on national problems with clarity. We have sought it. We invited Mr. Renán Fuentealba to my house. I told him we should seek a solution to a vote so that a confrontation between the executive branch and Congress is avoided in the interpretation of their insistence on a simple majority. This is true and I do not want to give details, but we were not reluctant on this. I can tell you that as a first fruit of this conversation, Justice Minister Jorge Tapia and Under-Secretary General of Government Sergio Inzunza brought to me the projects they had drafted as an agreement based on a letter that came from the Senate. The only thing I had to do was to sign, and when they returned to the Senate the voting had already taken place and the talks had ceased. And I signed, but I remained quiet. I could have told them that this is a snub of the president. They demand projects of agreement; they accept them; we study them for a week, and when the time comes for the justice minister and the under-secretary of government to physically walk four blocks — which takes 10 minutes — the panorama of talks maintained for a month-and-a-half changes completely.

Question: Mr. President, you have spoken of the moral decomposition of the adversaries to Popular Unity.

Allende: No. As a matter of fact, no. That would be unjust, that would be harsh. I do not want to go into detail about this aspect. There could have been many reasons. You should know that when I refer to moral decomposition, I am referring to other people who lie, to the people who use defamation and slander, to the people who know perfectly well that some problems connected with the serious ones — such as the copper case — should not be raised. To say that we are not going to produce copper to fulfill our contracts is to hurt Chile in the most savage way that can be done. It is to deceive Chile to say emphatically that gold has disappeared from the vaults of the Central Bank. And a magistrate of the judicial branch had to testify that the gold is there. This is hurting Chile. I believe it is very serious, extraordinarily serious. When a senator speaks about civil disobedience and when the National Party youth distribute leaflets saying: "Civil disobedience is on," we then look for the location of those who propose things that can undoubtedly bring serious or dramatic consequences for the country and I am determined to avoid it. For this reason I have publicly proposed a call, I have extended my hand. I have said that, if we are interested in avoiding this, I know that there is in certain sectors in this country — even in the sectors strongly opposed to the government — the understanding to prevent a social and economic incident that could create conditions for Chile we never imagined, and a civil war that, in the aftermath of animosities between families, groups and members of the same family, sometimes lasts two or three generations instead of days. And the economy of a country, that interests everyone... Imagine, here with a labor force leading the economy of the nation, it is not enough to say the words. One must think them, feel them, realize them. That call of mine is honest and that opening of mine is clear. To seek a political solution, but a political solution, let's say, that undeniably permits a consolidation of gains and a path toward what the majority of people in the country want.

The PDC [Christian Democratic Party] has said it in their program. They say it in their declarations; they say it in their speeches, people of the PDC who deserve the respect of many Chileans and fundamentally on my part, because I have known them for many years. It is good to be in a position like this. I am not going to speak with them, I am not disposed to speak, no one can prevent me, is that it? But I want to speak about a certain possibility: to reach agreements and hold to them, not spend a month-and-a-half discussing only to undo in five minutes everything that has cost so much to believe could be agreed upon.

The political solution is in March, so there is no time for a plebiscite. They have been talking about a plebiscite for a long time. We did not oppose it, but we said that we would call a plebiscite when the circumstances force us into it and on matters we consider proper, but that is a presidential prerogative. Now, there is no political confrontation other than the elections, because I tell you: I will drastically prevent every possibility of a confrontation. I will clip the wings of the pseudo-leftist or feverish leftist hotheads, just as I have demonstrated to the ultra-rightists. No one can tell me that a leftist man who has committed a crime, or has gone out of line, has not been sent to the courts by us. Well then we have the authority to do it.

Question: Mr. President, a problem arises. For example, there is the impression that last Monday's march, among other things, was a reply to all this street uproar. There are small children who say they are hungry, who live in the upper-class neighborhood and come downtown to cause disorders. Then, how is it that the people are spouting off, if you will pardon the expression?

Allende: My obligation is that they not spout off too much [laughter], because if they do they will do whatever they want and take justice into their own hands, and that is the definite beginning of chaos. The people must have confidence in the government and in the measures this government takes, and that is fundamental. The people — and by this I am referring to the entire country, the armed forces; the air force, navy, army, Carabineros, investigations police — must have the confidence that the government will not accept ultrarightist and ultraleftist armed groups. It is my obligation to eliminate them, wherever they are. I have been doing this. But it turns out that they are using new tactics. If sometimes I order raids on the offices of the morally unhealthy Fatherland and Liberty Movement, what will I find inside? Posters, paint cans. And, where do they keep the implements they use in marches? In their homes. That is the problem. That is why organization of the people is required — in other words, not only Popular Unity wants to defend democracy. Look here. For example, I have been the first to condemn the death of Corporal Aroca and a Carabineros legal adviser is investigating the death. But the exploitation made of that death shows moral laxness.

When has a Senate session been suspended for the other deaths? For the 10 or 15 carabineros killed in recent days. A week earlier a carabinero was slain by criminals. Did any right-wing congressman attend the funerals at which a minister was present? When previously has there been disrespect toward a minister and even toward a deceased member of the Carabineros? The Carabinero corps itself was forced to make a public statement protesting the political exploitation of the carabinero corporal's death. And the three peasants killed in Frutillar? Have you seen the government opposition press devoting articles to them protesting or implacably questioning their deaths? No, sir. And the dead peasant?

We undoubtedly have committed mistakes, many mistakes, above all in the economic area and we recognize it. I have concisely explained the mistakes in some aspects of supply, distribution and transportation. But, politically you are a newspaperman.

It is said that there is no democracy here, no freedom of the press, no freedom of assembly. But a short time ago some 300,000, 250,000 people — I do not know, cite whatever figure you wish — gathered. I never argue with figures. They are going to gather on Tuesday and we have given them authorization. I have told the Santiago intendant to call the Christian Democratic leaders and tell them: these are the government's plans; this is what we intend to do to avoid any confrontation. Furthermore, the Popular Unity parties and I will tell our people not to come out into the streets to provoke but to come out instead so the city may not be deserted, since this hurts the image of Chile abroad, which is the [opposition's] objective.

In the first place, if 700,000 persons march in a city, the city will not be deserted. But to close other streets and business establishments and to force the people from the upper-class neighborhoods to keep their Venetian blinds closed for eight hours would create a sort of psychosis. But the people do not do this if we leaders tell them not to. I will tell them through the intendant: Look, we are going to deploy so many uniformed Carabineros as well as so many plainclothes Carabineros, so many members of the Investigations Department, and you deploy people in such and such buildings in such places, contribute, help because a provocation could come from anywhere. It is true, there can be 100,000, 200,000, 300,000 people in one street. From how many buildings or roofs can a provocation come that is intended to create problems for us and to bring blame upon us?

Then, they must assume the responsibility; they know in what atmosphere they are acting. Logically, I set the concentration area in the Torres de Tajamar, instead of separately on Providencia with Pedro de Valdivia, because it was also possible that a provocation could come — I am not referring to people from the right — from provocateurs. And a provocateur is a mercenary. He can be at the service of a small group, an internal fascist group, at the service of alien and foreign interests — the ones which today have felt hurt by government measures, the ones which have been at the verge of creating a civil war, the ones accustomed to corruption, the ones accustomed to making threats, those who have always thought that the small countries are simply a source of unlimited wealth for them. This is the problem.

Question: In the face of this, what you are calling an atmosphere...

Allende: Listen, do not press me any more....

Question: No, but I believe that this last question will interest the people. Is it not true that there has been a tense climate full of difficulties, a series of elements concerning the economic problem that have been diagnosed, etcetera?

Then, let us speak of the average man — to give an abstract image — and you ask yourself, well, is it worthwhile living through all this — since all the problems we face, the problems abroad, the imperialist compulsion over a country, are clear from explanations you have given? The people ask: Is it worthwhile to live through this and why is it worthwhile? What explanation would you give the people?

Allende: No! It is worthwhile.

Question: Who is the average man?

Allende: The average man is the employee, the technician, the professional, the soldier, the military man — it is the Chile that works. I ask you: Can a man feel satisfied, having become an architect and knowing that he will never be able to work in a country where 500,000 housing units are needed? Can a doctor feel satisfied knowing that he can apparently or really improve the health of thousands of children with summer diarrhea only to see them released from the hospital and again become ill? Can a regimental commander feel satisfied knowing that at the gates of his headquarters an extremely high percentage of the people are rejected because they do not meet the proper physical conditions? Can the commander-in-chief of any of our institutions feel satisfied knowing that in order to be efficient, not only good physical condition is needed; but also the necessary mental development? Can the doctor, the professor, the military man, the seaman, the pilot or the carabinero feel satisfied if he knows that in Chile there are 600,000 mentally retarded children because they have not received proteins? Can you newspaper reporters feel satisfied? No.

It is those sectors of the middle class that must understand that at a given time their situation could seem unimproved, but that the struggle to progress is, in the end, essentially for them, so that, for example, there will not be the separation between manual worker and intellectual worker, so that, for example, there will not be contempt for the domestic employee, and the people will understand that the world has another dimension.

Moreover, I believe that the income of middle class sectors has not been hurt. I can tell you that I believe that shopkeepers in this country have never earned more. They sell everything. Whatever you want to sell, you sell. What happens is that people are not apt to think generously about their neighbor, and sometimes they do not consider even their own family. This is the problem.

Therefore, I think that the middle class sectors — the small craftsmen, the shopkeeper, the industrialist and the farmer — must understand that in the capitalist system the concentration of economic power is slowly being produced in very few branches. Thus, there are the big monopolies which have strangled the middle level and small shopkeepers. We want security and guarantees for them, and we have proposed legislation to this effect. Regrettably, the bills have not been processed in Congress, but we want to impart confidence in them because we have nothing against them.

For example, it is said that retailers will be suppressed. There must be... How many 180,000, 240,000 in Chile? Can you imagine suppressing them? What work can we give those people? It is impossible to imagine. We need these people. The people must understand that retailers are indispensable.

We can locate people's warehouses nearby, we can create national distributors. But retailers serve; they are needed; they fulfill a function and they themselves can find backing in the consumers in their district, and they can be assured that the products they really need be delivered to them. If they proceed correctly, they will be helped by the consumers themselves. The problem is organization, people's awareness. And that is the struggle in which we are involved.

Now, it is very difficult to implement a revolution based on pluralism, democracy and freedom with such a dramatically violent opposition. It is difficult when they deny everything and are not willing to help in anything.

Question: Mr. President, we had planned on speaking for an hour and we have been at it for one-and-a-half hours. Undoubtedly there are many subjects in mind. I would like to ask you one last thing. In this entire conversation we have been speaking about what the country can be, of what it must be in the future. The children, that is, the youth of this country, are the ones who will construct what is envisaged — the entire world you imagine — which many of us in this country are trying to construct. What do you have to say to the young, to the youth in secondary schools and to the youth in primary schools?

Allende: I must tell them that they are the future and that it is fundamental to have a profound patriotic and national feeling to understand that man's basic obligation is to work for the future of this homeland and people. This is a country of young people and I tell the young people that they must understand that there is a need to work more, study more and produce more to be able to make a country progress. I am not impressed by vocal revolutionaries who are poor students, poor workers, poor leaders. I believe that the first lesson for a revolutionary is to show, by his example, the possibility for others to follow. For this reason I have many times repeated how fine was the phrase written by a student on the wall of a University in Paris: "The revolution is begun by people rather than by things." And that is very serious and profound.

Well, you have exploited me enough. I have been very pleased. I hope that not too many months pass before we talk again. I repeat my regards to the listeners of Radio Portales and "The Great Inquiry."

Edición digital del Centro Documental Blest el 07feb02
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