Letters to the Editor: Salvador Allende’s failed Chilean presidency is nothing to celebrate

Salvador Allende
The body of President Salvador Allende, wrapped in a poncho, is carried out of the presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, after the Sept. 11, 1973, coup led by Augusto Pinochet.
(Associated Press)

To the editor: Ariel Dorfman may be excused for celebrating Salvador Allende’s election as president of Chile in 1970. Fifty years ago Dorfman was, no doubt, an idealistic young person and had no way of predicting Chile’s future under Allende.

It is more difficult to make excuses for him now that he still considers that event a good thing.

Allende, who was elected after receiving a plurality of votes (36.6% against his conservative opponent’s 35.3%) started his reign by forced redistribution of land and property and by nationalizing the copper mining industry, most large manufacturing companies, banks and large estates.

Predictably, during Allende’s presidency, demand outstripped supply, the economy shrank, deficit spending snowballed, new investments and foreign exchange became scarce, shortages appeared, and inflation reached an annual rate of more than 600%. By mid-1973, the economy and the government were paralyzed.

Augusto Pinochet, who deposed Allende in the 1973 coup, was indeed a tyrant who tortured and murdered his opponents. His coup was a backlash, an opposite swing of the pendulum, to the election and reign of Allende. Had Allende not come to power, neither would have Pinochet.


I see no good reason to dance in a crowd to celebrate that dismal chapter in Chilean history.

Barry DuRon, Oxnard


To the editor: Dorfman’s deep-rose-colored glasses don’t allow him to see that Allende was not elected by a majority of the voters but was appointed by the Chilean Congress after none of the three candidates in the 1970 election achieved a majority.

It is difficult to qualify this as democratically elected.

Budd La Rue, Lompoc