Election Day Interview with Canada's CBC Radio
September 4, 1970
In live election day coverage of the presidential contest by Canada's CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) on Toronto's "Radio Free Friday," spontaneous street celebrations can be heard as word spreads of Allende's impending triumph — 30 percent of the vote is in and Allende is ahead. People in the background are singing and cheering "Venceremos! Venceremos!" ("We shall win!"). It is history in the making as the CBC voice-over announces: "Very shortly the world will learn whether or not the South American country of Chile is about to get the first freely elected communist government in Latin America. If Dr. Salvador Allende, the Communist-supported Socialist Party candidate for the presidency of Chile, wins... it promises to transform radically the face of that troubled South American continent." Allende grants a hastily arranged mid-afternoon interview at his modest home in a Santiago suburb for CBC's "Radio Free Friday." How the interview was arranged reveals much about Allende the man. Earlier that day at the crowded National Headquarters ̊f the Socialist Party of Chile in downtown Santiago, freelance journalist Patrick Barnard, working for the CBC, was introduced to Allende and asked for a 3:00 p.m. interview. Allende informed Barnard he would be lunching with his family at home at that time. "Come to my house," Barnard later recalled Allende telling him, as the president-to-be opened his wallet to show "a small piece of cardboard inside with his private Santiago telephone number scrawled "i handwritten letters." After getting past the lone Chilean Army guard at the front door (Allende's life had been frequently threatened), Barnard was "ushered "ito Allende's small, book-lined library where I was to wait while the Allende family had lunch in an adjoining room." Soon Allende "came into the library with his nephew who could speak French. Toronto called. The Canadian host of Radio Free Friday, Peter Gzowski, asked questions in English which were translated into French in Toronto, then translated into Spanish for Allende by his nephew. Allende's Spanish answers were instantly translated into French by the nephew, and subsequently converted into an English voice-over in Toronto." In a letter dated July 29,1999, to the editor of this volume, Barnard went on to recall: "On arguably the most important day of his life, Salvador Allende took a good half hour to talk to people in Canada, to reach out and explain to North Americans his hopes for reviving his country. During that short portion of an afternoon, Dr. Allende's grace and vivacity illuminated his sense of a fuller politics for all of the Americas." Speaking to the Canadian audience, Allende expressed the hopes which the impending victory had aroused for Chile and the other countries of Latin America. He answered questions about the U.S. reaction, the effect of the election outcome on other revolutionary movements, the role of the armed forces, and the foreign policy stance of a Popular Unity government. Finally, Allende offered an ironic and ultimately prophetic forecast of what would happen should any subversion of the election results occur.
Question: Given the fact that a large part of this capital [to be nationalized] is foreign, and particularly American, what do you expect the reaction of American private interests to be toward your program of nationalization?
Salvador Allende: The United States needs to understand that countries have an obligation through their governments to provide for the needs of their people: food, shelter, jobs, education, recreation, culture and health. It needs to understand that the people of Latin America can not live indefinitely in their current state of misery and poverty while at the same time financing the richest and most powerful country in the world. The United States needs to realize that there is a clear direct causal relationship between underdevelopment and imperialism. There is underdevelopment because of imperialism and imperialism because of underdevelopment. As far as the reaction of the United States is concerned, it seems to us that the U.S. government is becoming aware of a growing moral attitude around the world, one that seeks social justice and the rights of people who have traditionally been exploited. The interventions of the United States and the reactions to the war in Vietnam have had a great effect on this growing spirit of international solidarity.
Question: What effect will the victory of the Popular Unity have on other revolutionary movements in Latin America?
Allende: I believe that the victory of the Chilean people in the election will certainly open a road for many countries in the same situation as ours. However, there are also countries which have very different conditions and where present guerrilla activity is the only path available for the forces of change. The Chilean situation is unique. For the first time in history, a revolutionary party can take political control by means of the electoral process. At least, we feel that the electoral process provides the best way for the people to achieve the type of government control that will lead ultimately to the building of a socialist society.
Question: Will the Chilean armed forces remain loyal to a revolutionary government?
Allende: As far as the armed forces are concerned, they are complete professionals. They have always been respectful of our citizens and the Chilean Constitution. In this case, I am sure that they will continue this great tradition.
Question: In the event of victory [in today's elections], what are the outlines of your government's foreign policy?
Allende: We want to have political, economic and cultural relations with every country. We only ask that the rights of the Chilean people and those of Chile itself be respected with regard to our liberty and our right to choose our form of government. We are firmly committed to the rights of all countries to control their own destinies. We are also committed to the principal of nonintervention in the affairs of other nations. We understand that each country will choose the form of government it prefers, although corruption and foreign interests can undermine the ability to choose. All that we ask is that we in Chile be allowed to decide our own future and that our independence be respected.
Question: If you lose... [VOICE-OVER of radio announcer: "Well, we'll put this on anyway."] ...lose tonight, what will this mean for Chile, for Latin America, and for the ballot box as an effective weapon for left-wing parties throughout Latin America?
Allende: There is the possibility of an eventual defeat for Chile and Latin America and for electoral tactics as a whole. It seems incontestable that a defeat in the election would cause a loss of confidence by the people. It is very significant for any revolutionary movement to win power through free elections. But if threats and corruption forestall this victory by a powerful and popular political movement in Chile, we can very well foresee an acceleration of armed struggle everywhere in Latin America. The corollary of our defeat is a triumph by the oligarchy and 'he suppression of the real desires of the people.
[VOICE-OVER of radio announcer: "It may be too soon to call the results of the election, but certainly, at this moment as we heard direct from Santiago, Salvador Allende may become the first elected radical socialist communist left-wing leader in Latin America."]