Date: Thu, 7 Jan 1999 16:12:15 -0600 (CST)
From: Ralph McGehee <email@example.com>
Subject: CIA in Chile 1963 - 1973
Organization: Institute for Global Communications
A model operation - Covert action in Chile: 1963-1973
From Ralph McGehee
8 January 1999
United States ran covert actions in Chile between 1963 and 1973 leading
to the ascension of General Pinochet. The U.S. Government's official report
of this covert action said this operation epitomizes CIA covert actions
The operation to destroy democracy and install the dictator, Pinochet,
is relevant not only to the current potential punishment of Pinochet, but
more importantly demonstrates CIA's operations in the past and the present.
As such it begs careful study.
One curiosity to me is that the killings associated with CIA operations
raise no domestic condemnation, only condemnation of those who expose them.
I often wonder how my neighbors -- if they saw men, women and children being
abused, tortured, and murdered -- would react -- presumably with shocked anger.
How then do these same people ignore the murderous consequences of CIA
operations? Out of mind and out of cognizant sight, we champion the
destruction of peoples and societies? What governmental and mental processes
are employed to justify or deny such? How are those terrible actions
justified to win public support? Possibly some of these questions are
answered in the Church Committee's study of CIA operations in Chile.
The Congressional Investigations of the Mid-1970s
After the revelations of illegal CIA domestic operations in 1974-1975,
both the Senate and the House established committees to examine the
activities of the CIA and some other elements of the national security
state. The Senate Committee was popularly known as the Church Committee,
with the House's called the Pike Committee.
The Church Committee studied the activities of our intelligence services
and published 14 books and volumes of testimony and its conclusions (one
publication served as both a volume and a book). The Church Committee also
published separately a study on CIA assassination operations and one on
the CIA covert operation in Chile. This study was "allowed" by the CIA as a
sop to the Church Committee -- to serve to represent general CIA operations.
So this study, even though censored by the CIA, is the most authoritative and
It is important to note that the Church Committee report cites the impact
of CIA's covert operation on its intelligence. Since this operation
epitomizes worldwide CIA covert actions, what can be deduced from it about
the CIA's overall intelligence?
The report states that as all of the CIA's numerous anti-democratic
operations progressed, the Intelligence Directorate (DI) of the CIA was not
informed. The DI wrote intelligence based on false assumptions and information.
COVERT ACTION IN CHILE 1963-1973 -- STAFF REPORT of the SELECT COMMITTEE
TO STUDY GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS with respect to INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES:
UNITED STATES SENATE; was published by the U.S. Government Printing Office,
Covert activity was a factor in almost every major election between
1963 and 1973 and United States intervention was massive. "The scale of CIA
involvement in Chile was unusual but by no means unprecedented."
From 1953 through 1970, the CIA subsidized wire services, magazines
and a right-wing weekly newspaper. In the 1964 election, CIA supported the
Christian Democratic (CD) candidate. (CIA support to CD candidates around
the globe followed and preceded this operation). CIA funded an array of
pro-Christian Democratic student, women's, professional and peasant groups
and helped the CD party with polling, voter registration and get-out-the-vote
In the 1964 Election -- the U.S. massively intervened in the election --
via fifteen covert action projects ranging from organizing slum dwellers,
to passing funds to political parties. Specifically the Christian Democratic
Party, the Democratic Front (a coalition of rightist parties), and a variety
of propaganda and organizing activities. It also employed projects conducted
since the 1950's among peasants, slum dwellers, organized labor, students
and the media.
The CIA also conducted a massive anti-Communist propaganda campaign using
the press, radio, films, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, direct mailings, paper
streamers, and wall paintings. The Agency directed a scare campaign at women
using images of Soviet tanks and Cuban firing squads. Christian Democratic
organizations distributed hundreds of thousands of copies of a pastoral
letter from Pope Pious XI. The CIA also concocted disinformation and black
propaganda -- material attributed falsely to the Chilean Communist Party.
The propaganda campaign was enormous -- one group produced twenty radio
spots a day in Santiago and on 44 provincial stations; twelve-minute news
broadcasts five times daily on three Santiago stations and 24 provincial
outlets, 26 weekly "commentary" programs, and distributed 300 posters daily.
CIA rated this anti-Communist scare campaign as the deciding factor in the
election of 1964 that enabled Eduardo Frei to win over Salvador Allende --
a liberal opposed by the CIA.
The Agency also ran an international propaganda campaign. It replayed
contrived articles in and from abroad. These included endorsement of Frei by
the sister of a Latin American leader, a "message from the women of
Venezuela," and dire warnings about an Allende victory from various military
governments in Latin America.
The CIA used some of the propaganda and polling mechanisms of 1964
repeatedly thereafter, in local, congressional and presidential campaigns.
COVERT ACTION 1964-1969
After its candidate Eduardo Frei was elected the CIA employed a number of
covert operations with different sectors of society and ran twenty covert
projects. It supported 22 candidates in the March 1965 election defeating 13
In the March 1969 congressional election ten of twelve supported candidates
won. CIA also supported a splinter Socialist Party to attract votes away from
In this period the CIA ran covert operations to develop various sectors of
Chilean society. One earlier project to strengthen Christian Democratic
support among peasants and slum dwellers continued to help train and organize
"anti-Communists" and other sectors until public exposure of CIA funding
forced its termination. In the mid-1960's, the CIA supported an
anti-Communist women's group active in Chilean political and intellectual
Two projects worked within organized labor. One combated the
communist-dominated labor organization and another supported labor
Various CIA projects supported media groups. One, begun in the 1950's,
operated wire services. Another distributed wall posters attributed to
fictitious groups, others conducted leaflet campaigns and public heckling.
COVERT ACTION AND MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS
In the period 1963-1973 CIA maintained a relationship with International
Telephone and Telegraph (ITT). During the 1964 elections ITT offered to
use CIA as an intermediary for passing money to the Christian Democratic Party.
In Chile between 1970 and 1973, CIA and American military attache contacts
with the Chilean military enabled the United States to sustain "communication"
with the group most likely to wrest power from President Salvador Allende.
CIA financed a broad spectrum of activity, from simple propaganda
manipulation of the press to large-scale support for political parties,
from public opinion polls to direct attempts to foment a military coup.
The CIA station in Santiago placed Station-dictated material through
propaganda assets, directed support of publications and opposed student,
peasant and labor organizations.
(The Station literally purchased the number one newspaper for Latin
America, El Mercurio, and turned this respected "New York Times"
into a screaming scandal sheet. Using El Mercurio's radio stations it
attacked Allende daily.)
In 1970, the CIA under Nixon's injunction did not tell other elements of
the U.S. government as it attempted to foment a military coup and passed
weapons to coup plotters who attempted to kidnap the very
constitutionally-minded General Rene Schneider. General Schneider was killed
in the "kidnap" attempt.
After Allende won the election -- the CIA spent massive funds between
1970 and 1973 until Allende was murdered in September 1973. The Agency
sponsored media organizations, political parties and private sector
organizations. The CIA also funded at least one right-wing terrorist
CIA's most extensive operation was propaganda. With recruited media assets
CIA provided direct editorial guidance. One CIA project supported five media
assets between 1965-1971. Most assets worked for [El Mercurio]. They wrote
articles criticizing the Soviet Union; suppressed news harmful to the United
States about Vietnam, and others.
Covert propaganda included "black propaganda" -- material falsely
attributed to innocent individuals or groups. The Station financed wall
posters, passed out leaflets and conducted other street activities. Of
thirty plus covert operations, approximately half were propaganda. Each
press placement had a multiplier effect -- picked up and relayed around
Chile and (in some cases - the world).
The largest propaganda operation was El Mercurio. In 1971 the Station said
El Mercurio and other media assets supported by CIA set the stage for the
September 11, 1973, military coup.
Projects wrested control of university student organizations; supported
a women's group (who conducted the CIA universal "Pots and Pans" marches to
protest high prices), fought in the labor unions, and exploited a civic
action front group.
CIA also funded local elections giving support to candidates selected
by the American ambassador and the Station. Most funding of political
parties occurred on a massive scale during the Allende years 1970-1973.
CIA funded an anti-Allende businessmen's organization.
Direct Efforts to foment a military Coup -- On September 15, 1970 --
after Allende finished first in the election of 1970 but before chosen by
the Congress -- Nixon met with DCI Helms, Henry Kissinger, and Attorney
General Mitchell. Neither the State Department nor the Ambassador were made
CIA worked toward fomenting a military coup -- CIA knew that plans
began with the abduction of the constitutionalist Chief of Staff of the
Chilean Army, General Rene Schneider. On October 22, plotters attempted to
kidnap Schneider who was shot and killed. Coup plotting collapsed and
Allende was inaugurated.
In 1970, the U.S. and several multi-national corporations opposed Allende
in a linked operation. In 1964 John McCone, former DCI of CIA and a member
of ITT's board, offered assistance by American companies. In 1970,
multinational corporations contacted the CIA but their offer of millions of
dollars was "rejected." But CIA advised ITT on reliable funding channels
utilizing two CIA assets in Chile.
After Allende was elected in 1970 the U.S. enlisted the multinational
corporations to apply economic pressure.
1970 ELECION COVERT OPERATIONS
Covert action in the 1970 elections focused on a spoiling campaign
against the Popular Unity coalition supporting Allende. Allende's platform
included nationalization of the copper mines, accelerated agrarian reform,
socialization of major sectors of the economy, wage increases, and improved
relations with socialist and communist countries.
CIA officials met with officials from ITT and advised how to pass
money to Allende's opponent, Alessandri. ITT and other U.S. businesses
gave money to Alessandri and the National Party.
Spoiling Operations. These had two objectives (1) undermining (Allende);
and, (2) strengthening opposition forces.
To do this the CIA used six covert action projects -- an intensive
propaganda campaign which made use of virtually all media within Chile
and which placed and replayed items in the international press. The CIA
placed propaganda through subsidized right-wing women's and "civic action"
groups. A scare campaign, equated Allende's victory with violence and
Stalinist repression. The Agency also ran black propaganda to sow dissent
between political parties and labor organizations.
One propaganda group produced hundreds of thousands of high-quality
printed pieces, posters, leaflets, and picture books while conducting
propaganda through radio and press outlets. One used an editorial support
group that provided political features, editorials and news articles
for radio and press placement; and three different news services.
Others were a newsletter mailed to two thousand journalists, academicians,
politicians and others; a booklet showing what life would be like under an
Allende presidency; distribution of chronicles of opposition to the Soviet
regime; posters and sign-painting teams. The latter painted "su paredon"
(your wall) evoking an image of communist firing squads. It used the violence
of Czechoslovakia with large photos of Prague and of tanks in downtown
Santiago. Other posters showed Cuban prisoners before the firing squad,
and warned that an Allende victory would mean the end of religion and
family life in Chile.
One project funded press assets -- who made regular nationwide radio
commentary. Others, all employees of El Mercurio, produced more than one
editorial a day. These had a multiplier effect, its editorial read throughout
the country via radio networks. El Mecurio was one of the most influential
Latin American newspapers, particularly in business circles abroad and
reached well over five million people.
One September 4, 1970, Allende won a plurality -- but no candidate
received a majority. The constitution required a joint session to decide
between the first- and second-placed finishers. On 15 September, Nixon
told DCI Helms that an Allende regime was not acceptable and instructed
the CIA to play a direct role in organizing a military coup.
After the spoiling operation to defeat Allende at the polls failed, the
CIA tried to prevent him from being inaugurated. First, it used a scare
campaign causing political polarization and financial panic to goad
President Frei or the military into action.
U.S. efforts took two tracks. Track I comprised all approved efforts --
political, economic and propaganda to prevent Allende's ascension to power.
Track II actively promoted a military coup.
Track I aimed at the "Frei Gambit" wherein the CIA tried to get
President Frei to consent with this approach or better yet to help.
In Europe and Latin America, influential members of the Christian Democratic
movement and the Catholic Church visited or contacted Frei. Frei refused
and the gambit died.
At this time the CIA ran propaganda operations with several components.
Predictions of economic collapse under Allende were replayed in CIA-generated
articles in European and Latin American newspapers. In response to Allende's
criticism of El Mercurio, the CIA orchestrated cables of support and protest
from newspapers and an international press association, and world press
coverage of the association's protest. (In a process repeated often around
the world) journalists -- agents and otherwise -- traveled to Chile for
on-the-scene reporting. By September 28, the CIA had agents/journalists from
ten countries in or enroute to Chile. This group supplemented eight more
journalists under the direction of high-level agents who were media managers.
The CIA itself generated anti-Allende propaganda: support for an
underground press; placement of news items through agents; financing a
small newspaper; a subsidy to Patria y Libertad a right-wing group
fervently anti-Allende, and its radio program, political ads, and
political rallies; and the direct mailing of foreign news articles
to Frei, his wife, selected leaders, and the Chilean domestic press.
The CIA gave special intelligence and "inside" briefings to United
States journalists. One "Time" cover story was radically changed from
pro-Allende to anti-Allende.
The CIA's six-weeks media blitz in the Latin American and European media
produced 726 articles, broadcasts, editorials, and similar items. There was
no way to measure the multiplier effect of all this material.
Concurrently the CIA ran an economic offensive. Cutting off of all
credits, pressuring firms to curtail investment in Chile and approaching
other nations to cooperate. The operations caused a major financial panic.
Yet Allende was named President and no coup was implemented.
Under Track II urgings, the military did not conduct a coup even through
CIA made 21 contacts with key military and police officials to whom the Agency
gave assurances of strong support at the highest levels of the U.S.
Government. The Ambassador advised Chileans that if Allende was seated, the
military would not receive further military assistance (MAP) and that all MAP
and military sales were being held in abeyance pending the congressional
election on 24 October.
A rather disorganized coup attempt aborted following the shooting of
General Schneider -- a shooting that succeeded probably as part of CIA plan
to "kidnap" this strict constitutionalist military leader.
Covert Action During the Allende Years, 1970-1973
After Allende ascended to the presidency, U.S. policy sought to maximize
pressures on the government. Besides funding political parties, the CIA
supported El Mercurio, the country's largest newspaper and the most
important channel for anti-Allende propaganda. Per the CIA, these efforts
played a significant role in setting the stage for the military coup
of September 11, 1973.
While all of these operations progressed, testimony before the Senate by
an administration spokesman denied any efforts against Allende. Kissinger in
September 9, 1970 said that Allende would probably establish (a Communist
Alarmist "intelligence" railed about (ill-founded) threats: of Soviet
military presence; the "export" of Allende's revolution and others. Those
exaggerated intelligence fears activated government policy.
Two-thirds of the actions of this period were covert, the third was
economic pressure to hurt Chile's economy. The U.S cut off economic aid,
denied credits and enlisted the cooperation of international financial
institutions and private firms. This squeeze was exacerbated by crippling
The U.S. maintained contacts with the military to "assess" the possibility
of a coup. By September 1971, the Station had built a new network of agents
in the Chilean military and received almost daily reports of coup plotting.
The Station provided information, some fabricated by the CIA -- to convince
senior Army officers that the one group, with the approval of Allende was
acting with Cuban intelligence (DGI) in a plot to kill those officers. In
December 1971 the CIA gave a packet of material, including a fabricated
letter, to a Chilean military officer.
During late 1971 and early 1972, the CIA became more active and subsidized
an anti-government news pamphlet, compiled arrest lists and ran its deception
The Techniques of Covert Action:
The CIA funded the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), the National Party
(PN), and several splinter groups. The PDC and PN used some of those funds
to purchase their own newspapers and radio stations. All of these groups
urged citizens to demonstrate their opposition to Allende.
CIA field reporting in 1971 and 1972 claimed the government was
trying to close the El Mercurio chain. In fact the press remained free.
The alarming field reports were at odds with intelligence analyses. Yet
the freedom of press issue was the single most important theme in the
international propaganda campaign against Allende. A major opposition
research organization produced books and pamphlets. One of these appeared
in October 1972 at the Inter-American Press Association meeting -- it listed
the Chilean Government as a threat to the freedom of the press.
The Agency's main propaganda project funded several magazines and a large
number of books and special studies. It placed material in the El Mercurio
chain; opposition party newspapers; two weekly newspapers; all radio stations
controlled by opposition parties; and on several TV shows on three channels.
The CIA also funded an opposition research organization that wrote many of
the legislative bills of parliamentarians.
Support For Private Sector Organizations
The CIA supported a "powerful businessmen's organization," and associations
of large and small businessmen and other groups. Some of those funds went
for voter registration drives and a get-out-the-vote campaign.
Given the turbulent conditions in Chile, the interconnections among
CIA-supported political parties, and the various militant trade associations
and paramilitary groups prone to terrorism and violent disruption were many.
The most prominent of the right-wind paramilitary groups was Patria y
Libertad (Fatherland and Liberty). The CIA funded this PM group to create
tension and a pretext for intervention by the Chilean military. Patria y
Libertad marched at opposition rallies dressed in full riot gear. During the
national truckers strike, it strew "miguelitos" (three-pronged steel tacks)
on highways to bring transportation to a halt. On July 13, 1973 Patria y
Libertad openly claimed responsibility for an abortive coup. Its leader
announced that his group would unleash a total armed offensive to overthrow
Make the Economy Scream!
DCI Helms at a September 1970 meeting with Nixon recorded that
his instructions included "Make the economy scream." Later Ambassador
Korry told Frei that "not a nut or bolt would be allowed to reach Chile
The U.S. used its predominant position in international financial
institutions to dry up the flow of credit. The U.S. Export-Import Bank loans
dropped to zero in 1971. The bank dropped Chile's credit rating from
"B," to "D." Loans from the Inter-American Development Bank almost ceased.
The World Bank made no new loans to Chile between 1970 and 1973.
Following the September 11, 1973, coup the military Junta led by General
Augusto Pinochet, moved quickly to consolidate power. Pinochet banned
political parties, put Congress in indefinite recess, instituted press
censorship, jailed opponents and canceled elections as the CIA assisted the
Junta in gaining a more positive image at home and a broad. Its research
organization helped the government implement new policies. Two CIA
collaborators assisted the Junta in preparing a "White Book of the Change of
Government in Chile" -- to justify the overthrow of Allende. It was distributed
widely in Washington and foreign capitals.
Intelligence Estimates and Covert Action
Between 1969 and 1973, the CIA wrote five National Intelligence
Estimates (NIEs) on Chile, plus several Intelligence Memoranda and (joint)
Intelligence Notes. None mentioned CIA operations in Chile -- the determinant
The July 1970 NIE, prepared a little over a month before the September
election, raised the question of what an Allende victory would mean. The
NIE stated, in strong terms, that an Allende administration would be a
Marxist-Socialist State. A Chilean version of a Soviet-style East European
Communist State. This NIE stated that if Allende was elected, he would
take harsh measures against U.S. business interests and challenge U.S. policies
in the hemisphere. The NIE expressed concern about the expansion of Soviet
military presence in Chile.
The next NIE of August 1971, was less shrill. As was the NIE of June 1972
and September 1973.
Estimates and Covert Action
The Chilean NIEs were either, at best selectively used or, at worst,
disregarded by policy makers re U.S. covert actions in Chile. As the
Chilean NIEs became less shrill, policy makers authorized greater covert
Policy Versus Intelligence
Analysts on Chilean NIEs were not privy to information concerning covert
operations of the CIA. Analysts and operators exist in two separate worlds.
Information in the Operations Directorate is not available to the
Intelligence Directorate. Those preparing estimates on Chile did not have
access to information which would have altered their estimates. That flaw
was telling. It meant, for example, that the 1972 assessment of the
durability of opposition sectors was written without knowledge of CIA
funding of precisely those sectors.
The Committee report concludes: "Given the costs of covert action,
it should be resorted to only to counter severe threats to the national
security of the United States. It is far from clear that this was the
case in Chile."