A thrilling yet heartrending account of an American journalist’s experiences in Chile from the rise of Allende to the trial of Pinochet.
As a young American radical, recently expelled from the University of California for “anti-war activity,” Cooper (Roll Over Che Guevara, not reviewed) traveled to Chile in the early 1970s to support Allende’s “constitutional Socialist revolution.” Working as a translator for Allende enabled the author to obtain an “insider’s view” of the rise and fall of the Socialist chief executive. The collapse of his regime is detailed in this volume and attributed in large part to Allende’s unswerving allegiance to the principles of constitutional government (he was unwilling to arm his supporters even when it was clear that revolution was imminent). His faith that others in government would retain a similar allegiance (to the end, Allende relied on sworn oaths of fidelity by senior officers as his main means of retaining their loyalty) proved key to his eventual downfall. Also described is the Chilean Right’s receipt of massive US aid targeted to overthrow a man whose election Kissinger called “more threatening to US geopolitical interests than . . . armed revolution.” After an engrossing portrayal of the rise of the right-wing junta led by General Pinochet and Cooper’s dramatic escape thanks to the Mexican Embassy (the American Embassy refused to admit that foreign nationals were endangered by the new “friendly” regime), the author relates his later visits to Chile. These are cast against the backdrop of powerful socioeconomic conflicts of the Pinochet regime. He ends in the present, with the fate of now–Senator for Life Pinochet still unresolved and Chile slowly and painfully emerging as if from darkness to confront its past.
A powerful page-turner—its only flaw is its brevity.