COUP!: The Last Day of Allende by Jose & Florencia Varas Vergara

COUP!: The Last Day of Allende

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You might think that Allende's fall would make one of the most dramatic political tales of the century, possibly with damaging repercussions threatening the pedestal of Henry Kissinger himself. But no; this is insignificant, hack melodrama. From Varas' memory of ""a strange atmosphere of uncertainty"" at a press conference the day before the coup, to the probably apocryphal story of the president's mother avowing, during the campaign, ""There's no one in Chile smarter than him,"" to the fictional dialogue among the ""Gonzaleses"" purporting to explore the family disputes engendered by Allende's policies -- it rarely rises above superficial reporting. An exception is a brief but lucid account by a former Allende aide of the wrangling between the executive and congress over the Popular Unity's program. The authors seem to regard the issue of Allende's suicide as settled by the comments of his former political opponents: it was the logical outcome of a ""frivolous and self-aggrandizing course"" from ""a man always looking for ways to satisfy his tremendous ego."" (It is true that Allende's former Interior Minister speculated that he was ""realizing a suppressed guerrilla vocation"" -- but he also insisted that at the end, Allende was only holding out for some compromise with the military -- not seeking martyrdom.) Considerable space is alloted to the military's allegation that Allende was a liar who always negotiated in bad faith. Two reports (one American, the other from a Chilean church group), both highly critical of the junta, are included. But ITT is not even mentioned, and little is said of the CIA. This book will undoubtedly be banned in Chile, but one wonders why strongman Pinochet would waste the effort.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Stein & Day