The Pinochet Affair: The origins of a dictatorship

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The Independent Online
EXACTLY how Chile's Marxist president Salvador Allende died during General Augusto Pinochet's 1973 coup was never clear. Most people believe that he killed himself rather than surrender. But would Pinochet have let him live?

A recently published book,Secret Interference, by a journalist, Patricia Verdugo, suggests that Pinochet may have wanted Allende killed.

The book is based on transcripts of radio conversations between the general and his senior officers on the day of the coup. One recording was made while military jets were attacking the presidential palace. Allende remained inside, and was last seen in a photograph, wearing a combat helmet and carrying a rifle.

On the tape, issued as a CD along with Ms Verdugo's book, Pinochet can be heard speaking to Vice-Admiral Patricio Carvajal, who tells the general that Allende wants to negotiate.

On the tape, Pinochet replies: "Unconditional surrender! No negotiation! Unconditional surrender!"

Carvajal: "Good. Understood. Unconditional surrender and he's taken prisoner. The offer is nothing more than to respect his life, shall we say?"

Pinochet: "His life and . . . his physical integrity, and he'll be immediately dispatched to another place."

Carvajal: "Understood. Now . . . in other words, the offer to take him out of the country is still maintained?"

Pinochet: "The offer to take him out of the country is still maintained. If the plane falls, old boy, when it's in flight. . ."

Carvajal: (laughter)

Some opponents of Pinochet were later reportedly thrown from aircraft into the ocean.

A few hours after the bombardment, Carvajal reports to Pinochet that Allende has been found dead in his palace office. Pinochet at first talks of "sticking [the body] in a coffin and putting it on a plane with the family and sending it to Cuba". Later, he talks of "burying [it] secretly," which military officers eventually did.

Once he has decided what to do with the body, Pinochet tells Carvajal: "Boy, even dying, this guy caused problems!"