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Allende Out, Reported Suicide; Marxist Regime In Chile Falls In Armed Forces' Violent Coup

Junta In Charge
State of Siege Decreed by Military Chiefs--Curfew Imposed
Chilean Armed Forces Depose Allende

The New York Times, 12 September 1973


Santiago, Chile, Wednesday, Sept.12 -- President Salvador Allende Gossens was deposed yesterday in a violent military coup, and the Santiago police said that he had committed suicide rather than surrender to the attackers.

Dr. Allende, a Marxist who was elected President in 1970, was reportedly found slumped over a blood-stained sofa in the presidential palace, a bullet through his mouth. The palace had been captured after a 20-minute assault in which the military used bombers and heavy artillery.

Proclaiming a mission of liberating Chile "from the Marxist yoke," a four-man military junta took control of the Government and declared a state of siege. Censorship and a curfew were imposed.

Noon Deadline Set

The coup followed weeks of nationwide strikes and economic chaos, with growing groups of workers and professionals joining in demands that Dr. Allende halt his attempts to bring socialism to Chile and resign. Yesterday morning, the chiefs of the army, navy, air force and national police sided with the anti-Marxist opposition and issued an ultimatum for the President to resign by noon.

But the President refused. In his last public statement, made by radio as two air force jets were making runs on the palace, he declared:

"I will not resign. I will not do it. I am ready to resist with whatever means, even at the cost of my life in that this serves as a lesson in the ignominious history of those who have strength but not reason."

Bombs Fell on Palace

Attacking only moments after the deadline set by the military had passed, the air force jets dropped bombs and fired rockets, severely damaging the fortress-like presidential palace. The President's official residence, about a mile away, was also bombed, the junta said, after guards there "resisted the armed forces and police."

A statement that the President had committed suicide was issued after the attack by Rene Carrasco, a police prefect. He said Augusto Olivares, a close Presidential adviser, had also killed himself.

Newsmen for the Santiago daily El Mercurio were allowed inside the palace, and the newspaper's chief photographer, Juan Enrique Lira, said he saw the President lying dead on a blood-soaked sofa in the anteroom of the palace's dining hall. He said the President had apparently shot himself once in the mouth.

A series of orders was issued immediately after the coup by the junta, composed of Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, commander of the army; Gen. Delaire Gustavo Leigh Guzman, commander of the air force; Adm. José Toribio Merino Castro, acting commander of the navy, and Gen. Cesar Mendoza Frank, chief of the national police.

A list of 68 prominent Socialist and Communist leaders was broadcast, and they were ordered to appear at the Defense Ministry or face arrest. More than 100 Communist and Socialist party members were reported arrested in Santiago and Valparaiso, a port city where naval units began the coup early yesterday.

Foreigners were ordered to report to the nearest police station to identify themselves.

The junta also broadcast an order freezing all bank accounts.

In a radio broadcast monitored after the coup, the junta said that it would soon name new ministers, including some civilians, but that Congress would remain in recess "until further order."

The new Government said it would maintain diplomatic relations with all nations except for Cuba and a few others.

In several monitored broadcasts the military junta made no mention of Dr. Allende. It said its aim was to "avoid violence and lead the Chilean people along the road to peace."

While the military attacks were under way yesterday, long-distance telephone and telegraph services in this city of three million people were shut down.

They were resumed late in the day, but communications were cut off again after a few hours.

What other casualties there might have been besides those at the presidential palace was not immediately clear.

A spokesman at the United States Embassy said no United States citizens were known to have been wounded.

The coup marked the first time in more than 40 years that the traditionally nonpolitical Chilean military had overturned a civilian Government. In 1931, a dictatorial President, Carlos Ibanez del Campo, was forced out during a general strike and other economic troubles.

Dr. Allende, a physician turned politician, took office nearly three years ago insisting that he would lead Chile to Socialism within a democratic framework, but growing opposition from Chile's large middle class made that impossible.

His leftist coalition, which succeeded the Christian Democratic Government of President Eduardo Frei, encountered political and labor turmoil, economic crises and strong opposition in Congress, which is controlled by anti-Marxist parties.

In October, 1970, Gen. René Schneider, then the army commander, was killed by rightwing extremists in an unsuccessful plot against the Allende Government. Last June, about 100 soldiers attacked the palace in a coup attempt that was crushed by loyal army units.

Warned of Coup

The 65-year-old President warned repeatedly in recent speeches that "fascists" were planning a coup against him. With unrest against him growing, he named military leaders to his Government in an attempt to keep them with him. The army and air force commanders now in the military junta that deposed him were appointed by Dr. Allende to his Government only two weeks ago.

Last week the military leaders left the Allende coalition, and he appointed lower ranking officers to succeed them.

The junta moved against him yesterday morning as a general strike by merchants went into the fourth day and 50,000 private truckers remained off the job for the 47th day.

In their first communiqué, the junta members said they were demanding Dr. Allende's resignation in the face of "the extremely grave economic, social and moral crisis that is destroying the country." The communiqué added that the armed forces and national police were united in "fighting for the liberation of the country from the Marxist yoke."

The communiqué, described as a "proclamation of the military Government junta," declared that, because the Government was unable to "stop the growth of chaos," the President "must proceed immediately to hand over his high office to the Chilean armed forces and national police."

"The workers of Chile may be certain," the declaration went on, "that the economic and social benefits they have achieved to the present will not suffer fundamental change."

The communiqué also warned that the Government's newspapers and radio and television stations must suspend their activities at once or "they will be assaulted by land and air."

First word of the revolt came from the port city of Valparaiso and Dr. Allende rushed from his residence to the palace. Shortly after 8 A.M. yesterday he made a brief statement over his Socialist party's radio station, saying "a sector of the navy" had rebelled and "I am awaiting now a decision from the army to defend the Government."

Bombs Strike Palace

Ten minutes later he went on the air again, saying "irresponsible elements" were demanding that he quit.

The heavy action centered at noon on the presidential palace, a fortress-like building that once was a mint and covers a block in the heart of the city.

Bombs and rockets smashed into the graceful interior patios and Dr. Allende's office was reported badly damaged. Several tanks opened fire at the front of the building when President Allende's guards refused to surrender.

Fires broke out and a column of black smoke rose from the building. Spectators gathered at intersections but then darted for cover as bullets struck near them.

Guests in the luxurious Carera Sheraton Hotel fell to the floor as their windows were shot out. They were led to a relatively secure area at the rear of the second story.

The revolt left only four South American countries in the hands of civilians: Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Guyana. The other countries are directly ruled by the military, as in Brazil and Peru, or under heavy influence of military men, such as in Uruguay, which came under armed forces domination last May.

Copyright © 1973 New York Times
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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