HILE Chile’s aboriginal Inca and Arucano rulers were brutally deposed by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. Rebel leaders Bernardo O’Higgins and José de San Martín threw off the Spanish yoke in 1818. A series of wars with PERU and BOLIVIA (1836–39, 1879–83) expanded Chile’s territory while leaving Bolivia forever landlocked. Industrialization began prior to World War I and prompted creation of dissident communist groups. Chile’s president during World War II was initially pro-Nazi, but he shifted allegiance midstream to support the victorious Allies.

Marxist president Salvador Allende Gossens was elected to office in September 1970 and swiftly formed alliances with CUBA and CHINA. Prompted by U.S. investors (with IT&T chief among them), President RICHARD NIXON and aide HENRY KISSINGER ordered the CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY to destabilize Chile’s economy, with the goal of toppling Allende. The illicit campaign was successful, climaxed by a military coup in September 1973 that killed Allende and ended Chile’s 46-year record of constitutional government.

A four-man junta led by Army Chief of Staff Augusto Pinochet Ugarte instituted brutal military rule, during which thousands of Chileans were arrested, murdered, or “disappeared.” In 1977 Pinochet promised elections in 1985; losing that vote, he clung to power by force until January 1990 and then finally stepped down as dictator (though he remained as army chief of staff until March 1998).

In October 1998 Pinochet was arrested in England on orders from a Spanish judge for trial in the disappearance and presumed murder of Spanish citizens during his term as dictator. British authorities refused to extradite Pinochet, and he returned to Chile in March 2000. There, the nation’s supreme court stripped him of immunity from prosecution in June 2000, but a judge found Pinochet mentally unfit for trial in July 2001. No one has yet been punished for the crimes of Pinochet’s regime— nor for U.S. complicity in those atrocities.

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