Salvador Allende reader


19

Report to the Nation on the Military Uprising

of June 29, 1973

Allende reports from La Moneda palace on that morning's heroic response by several individuals and the armed forces and Carabineros (national police) to an attempted military coup d'etat by a dissident tank regiment. Some observers believed the coup attempt might be a "dress rehearsal" for a more thoroughgoing coup later, one that in fact did take place in less than 10 weeks. On June 29, however, General Pinochet sided with the constitutional government even though he later headed the September 11 coup d'etat that ended democracy in Chile and took Allende's life. The high degree of tension surrounding this speech of Allende's is suggested by the president's brief reference to an earlier "incident that occurred on Costanera [Avenue] with General Prats." An upper-class reactionary woman was sitting in a car that had pulled alongside Prats' car at a stop light. She recognized Prats and apparently insulted him verbally and gestured in a threatening manner. This caused a nervous Prats to pull a pistol form his holster (perhaps Prats recalled too well the murder of General Schneider. In fact, 15 months later Prats and his wife were assassinated in Buenos Aires on orders from General Pinochet). Allende provides details of the day's events that are both entrancing and chilling to read today.

One moment, one moment. [Interrupted by chanting] One moment, comrades. Please, one moment. People of Chile, dear comrades of Santiago, I have assumed the responsibility of calling the people to inform them. Therefore I ask you to listen to me, because it is fundamental for each one here and each one who is listening on the radio to be fully aware of what has happened and also to understand the task he has to fulfill from now on.

That is why I ask not to be interrupted, either by applause or by shouts of slogans. The moment is too difficult, and my responsibility requires me to ask, more than ever, that the people understand how much I expect their serenity and firmness.

I want to render homage to those who have fallen. I especially want to pay homage to the loyal forces of the Chilean Army, the national navy and the air force. Sgt Rafael [Villena] was murdered at the door of the Defense Ministry. He was attached to the Second Army Division at general headquarters under the command of General Sepúlveda. I render homage to five civilians who lost their lives as a result of the underhanded, antipatriotic action, contrary to the doctrine of the armed forces, by that rebel group: to Leonita Reyes, to Victoria Sánchez Carranzo, a reporter, to Leonardo [Erlinse], a foreign newsman, to Luciano [Caro] and to Carlos [Fuentes]. I wish to emphasize that there are five persons seriously wounded at the central hospital, one at the workers hospital, and another at the [word indistinct] hospital — a total of seven seriously wounded. There are 11 persons seriously wounded at the military hospital from the army ranks. Twelve civilians have been shot who are less seriously wounded.

In addition to informing you, I have called you so that with the revolutionary zeal and firmness characteristic of the people, you may render homage to the armed forces of Chile, the Carabineros, and the Investigations Corps, which through their stand crushed the seditious attempt.

Now I will give you details about the past events: At 08:55 this morning I was called by the under-secretary of the interior, Comrade Daniel Vergara. He uttered a single sentence which revealed all: "Comrade President, we have tanks in front of La Moneda on Constitution Square. They are firing. I am informed that there are tanks surrounding La Moneda. I want you to know, Mr. President, that we are all here. We will do our duty." Minutes later, a carabineros second sergeant who belongs to the Moneda guard raised, with the aid of another carabinero, the flag of the homeland in the midst of the bullets. Their names: Second Sgt. Mario Humberto Mequis and Luis Venegas Alba, a carabinero.

What had happened? A group from Armored Regiment Number Two, led by ex-commander Souper, who was to be removed today from his post and who is now under arrest and definitively removed. The military courts will determine the sanctions to be applied to him and his accomplices. [Shouts and applause]

I repeat: Silence comrades!

That regiment surrounded La Moneda. Yesterday morning General Sepúlveda, chief of the Second Zone, announced proven facts. He charged that a very small number of officers had attempted on Wednesday morning to mobilize this same regiment. His charges, made at a press conference, were scoffed at by the reactionary press and gave rise to statements to the contrary.

The government adversaries presumed and maintained that those statements were a maneuver by us to prevent continuation of the investigation concerning the incident on Costanera [Avenue], which involved General Prats, who was so unjustly and stupidly attacked by the opposition radios and newspapers for the action he took.

Now the events prove that the government does not deceive or lie. Yesterday afternoon the defense minister went to the Senate and delivered the background information we had available, and in that session he was told that no credit was given to what the ministers had to say when what the senior military officers stated could not be believed. In the face of such an attitude, the defense minister left the Senate, making it clear once more that this government tells and will always tell the truth. [Applause, extensive chanting from the crowd]

Continuing with the information, I must point out that the seditious group fired repeatedly at the presidential palace. Moreover, they also fired at the Defense Ministry. The defense minister's offices were partially destroyed, as were several offices occupied by generals of the republic. They knew that Air Force Commander-in-Chief General Ruiz was inside that ministry, as well as Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Raul Montero and the navy chiefs and officers. General Prats had left his home and gone first to the military school, then to the Tacna Regiment.

I want to stress the extraordinary damage to the Defense Ministry. A tank crushed the door and fired its gun inside the ministry. Shots were fired at the building. In the same manner, there were more than 500 shots fired at La Moneda. Sixteen offices in the Foreign Ministry have been almost destroyed, and more than 100 windows broken. When all this was happening I had already contacted the Defense Minister, Commanders-in-Chief Montero and Ruiz, and the interim Carabineros director general, General Viveros.

At that time Daniel Vergara called me again and told me: "Mr. President, we have received an order to surrender from the mutineers. Our decision — and here is the Carabineros officer in charge of the palace guard — is not to do it."

I told him: "There is a historic phrase that Lieutenant Pérez is going to repeat as a reply to the insolence of the rebels. Tell them what history said: "The guard may die, but it will not surrender'." [Applause, shouts]

I pay tribute to the palace guard composed of Carabineros [applause] and to the young guard lieutenant, Mr. Pérez. I pay tribute to the investigations detectives who were here at La Moneda and who rapidly took their places to fight. I pay tribute to the personnel serving in La Moneda. Not one of them tried to leave. On the contrary, they said they would stay. And the majority of them are noncommissioned officers in the Chilean Navy. [Applause]

I pay tribute to the few government officials, men and women, who were at the presidential palace as well as at offices of the Interior Ministry, the Presidency and the Foreign Relations Ministry.

I pay tribute to the young newspaperwoman Verónica Ahumada, to whom I spoke four times and whom I urged to leave. She said: "I am here to keep the president informed." [Applause]

While the events were taking place at the Defense Ministry and the Carabineros directorate general, which was also fired upon while the interim director and the general of the Carabineros were there — I repeat, while these events were taking place, the army commander-in-chief together with Generals Pinochet, Pickering, Urbina and Sepulveda prepared the plan to suppress the subversives. He ordered mobilization of the Buin and Tacna Regiments, the Noncommissioned Officers School, the Infantry School, the Telecommunications School and the Parachutists School. [Applause]

And General Prats took charge of the Noncommissioned Officers School. In the same manner, the Carabineros director general had mobilized the special group and the tanks. He had seen to it that two battalions and six tanks were deployed around the presidential house where I was in continuous control. And from there I spoke to the people twice by radio, first to tell them to trust the armed forces, Carabineros and Investigations Police; and second to tell them to occupy the enterprises and industries that were in their work centers, the pro-government leaders and political militants in their centers. I also told the people to regroup in four or five sectors, to be ready in case we needed them to fight along with the Chilean soldiers. [Applause]

Soldiers were in downtown Santiago, from the Noncommissioned Officers School, Infantry School, Telecommunications School and Parachutists School. They were in the Alameda sector. They were advancing on Mapocho station to make a geographic indication to the Buin Regiment headed by its commander and led by General Pinochet. At that time General Pickering, chief of military institutes, was advancing with another column near the Defense Ministry.

An event that history will record occurred when General Prats arrived at the Alameda. Alone, with two officers whose weapons were pointing downward, he spoke with four of those who were occupying the rebel tanks. They surrendered their arms to him and deferred to his high military rank. When he arrived at the fifth tank, the officer there said: "I will not surrender, General," and he tried to use his weapon. General Prats' aide, Major Zabala, saved his life by pointing his gun at the rebel officer and taking away his gun. [Applause]

What a grand lesson for those who hours earlier had insulted and wronged the army commander-in-chief, and through him, the institution he heads, for the attitude he assumed yesterday on Costanera.

General Prats himself obtained the surrender of most of the tanks. The tank crews panicked and were surrounded by troops led by General Sepúlveda, who had been joined by Carabineros forces. The crews surrendered to the regiment from which they had rebelled under General Bonilla and the new commander Mr. Ramírez, who headed the regiment. [Applause]

I arrived there with three aides and a group of Carabineros and of course with tanks, just in case. I arrived when there were still snipers, or should I say, hypocrites firing from the Finance Ministry. I was met at the entrance to the presidential palace by General Prats, the Carabinero commander-in-chief, and General Pinochet. I want to stress that when General Prats had already obtained the surrender of five tanks, the commander-in-chief of the air force, General César Ruiz, and navy commander-in-chief Raúl Montero, bravely and in solidarity, came from the Defense Ministry to join General Prats. [Applause]

While I was greeting general Prats several shots rang out, and about 20 hit the palace. Moments later Santiago was an apparently peaceful city. However, fascists bombed the Radio Portales radio station.

Now there are cowardly civilian instigators, accomplices knocking on the doors of the embassies to seek asylum and flee Chile. Let the people judge the attitude of these bullies, who have been trying to undermine the armed forces, and only after obtaining minimal support from them when the moment came, fled and are now trying to elude justice. I hope they will not be able to succeed. [Shouts of "No! No!"] As was to be expected, the immense majority belong to the ill-named "Fatherland and Liberty." [Shouts]

As of today, we will call them "Anti-Fatherland and Cowardice." The people should recall the great rally we held on Thursday the 21st — where I explained how this country was almost in rebellion and on the verge of civil war; how the bourgeoisie and fascist sectors who are now united and linked to foreign interests were trying to prevent the government's progress, and especially to halt the economic advances of the People's Government.

I pointed out how they wanted to paralyze the nation, to deprive it of the essential laws while we were facing those dark moments which we would have to experience in the future.

Our main concern was to obtain laws that would allow us to fight inflation and prevent us from falling into a holocaust. I condemned the passing of laws without proper financial backing and the refusal to pass the law on economic rights.

I recounted the terrorist activities unleashed to create panic, the destruction of party headquarters, attacks against leftists and Popular Unity members. I pointed out that we were experiencing the same dark days as those of September 4, 1970, and November 3, which were climaxed by the murder of General Rene Schneider. They tried to do the same now.

I well know and I have said that not all our opponents have the same dastardly attitude as the coupists. Some have refused to join the coup, and we must point this out. Others speak of democracy and constitution. They use the word democracy to shield and protect themselves, but they violate the constitution and are antidemocratic and pro-fascists.

The three commanders in chief, whom I invited, should be arriving now. But first, I want general Prats to know that I want the people to hail hfim. [Applause]

At this moment I have here beside me Army Commander-in-Chief General Carlos Prats. [Applause] I have here beside me Admiral Raul Montero. [Applause] I have here beside me Air Force Commander-in-Chief General Cesar Ruiz. [Applause] One moment, please, one moment.

I also want you to salute Comrade Alfredo Joignant, director of investigations, whose corps observed an attitude of great loyalty and firmness.

Comrades [Allende interrupted by shouts], comrades, comrades, comrades: The people know what I have repeatedly told them. The Chilean revolutionary process has to follow its own path in accordance with our history, our institutions, our characteristics. Therefore, the people must understand that I have to be faithful to what I say. We will make the revolutionary changes within democratic pluralism, democracy and freedom. This does not mean — hear me well — this does not mean that we will tolerate the antidemocrats, the subversives, and least of all the fascists, comrades. [Applause and shouts]

Comrades, I speak to you today in the same way that I have spoken to you before. Some of you may not like it, but you have to understand what this government's real position is. Hear me well and with respect. I am not going to close Congress, because it would be absurd to do so. I am not going to do it. If it is necessary, I will send a bill to convoke a plebiscite, so that the people may make a pronouncement. Now, I want the people to keep the commitment that they contracted on Thursday the 21st. Tomorrow back to the routine again, to greet the free homeland. Back to work again, to recover the lost hours caused by the stoppage on Thursday. Tomorrow every one of you — to work more, to produce more, to make more sacrifices for Chile and for the people. [Applause] And immediately to learn from the experience of the October strike and of the seditious attempt of today.

But before this, I want to point out that from afar fraternal voices came to say that they were with Chile. I spoke with the president of Argentina. He called me to say that his people, his government and General Perón were with Chile at this moment. The president of Mexico, Luis Echeverria, also called to tell me: "Mr. President, the people of Mexico and I are with your people and with you." And the cable and telephone brought the words of Cuba: [Applause] My friend Major Fidel Castro was there to tell me: "I know you are going to win. The people and the armed forces together will always win. We have full confidence in the Chilean people and in you, Comrade Allende." From afar, very far, voicing the feelings of millions of men, came the fraternal words, words which have the value of heroism. From North Vietnam, from way over there, came the fraternal spirit.

Comrade workers, we have to organize. We have to create people's power that is not antagonistic to or independent from the government, that is the fundamental force and the lever that the workers possess to advance in the revolutionary process.


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