On the fortieth anniversary of revolution and rebellion in Chile, a searching history of the rise and fall of the world's first and only democratically elected Marxist president.
On September 11, 1973, President Salvador Allende of Chile was deposed in a violent coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. The coup had been in the works for months, even years. Shortly after giving a farewell speech to his people, Allende died of gunshot wounds-whether inflicted by his own hand or an assassin's remains uncertain. Pinochet ruled Chile for a quarter century, but the short rise and bloody fall of Allende is still the subject of fierce historical debate.
In a world in the throes of the Cold War, the seeming backwater of Chile became the host of a very hot conflict-with Henry Kissinger and the Western establishment aligned with Pinochet's insurgents against a socialist coalition of students, workers, Pablo Neruda, and folk singers, led by the brilliant ideologue Allende. Revolution and counterrevolution played out in graphic detail, moving the small South American nation to the center of the world stage in the dramatic autumn of 1973. Now the rising young scholar Oscar Guardiola-Rivera gives us a tour de force account of a historical crossroads, tracing the destiny of democracy, and the paths of power, money, and violence that still shadow Latin America and its relations with the United States.
In this densely packed history, Latin American expert Guardiola-Rivera (What If Latin America Ruled the World?) provides an exhaustive study of the career of Salvador Allende, one-time president of Chile and the world's first and only democratically elected Marxist. In placing Allende's tenure as president and his eventual deposing by military coup into context, Guardiola-Rivera casts a wide net, exploring a myriad of factors that led to his election, including the revolutionary spirit personified by Che Guevara, and the inevitable involvement of the U.S. through the CIA and Henry Kissinger, among others. But this is more than a story about Allende; it is a far-ranging, passionate look at a suddenly-important part of the world during a period of political turbulence, another battlefield in the Cold War and a front in an ideological clash between democracy and socialism. The author argues that, for all of Allende's flaws and mistakes, his brief but vital reign as president was far superior to what replaced it. Guardiola-Rivera writes with authority, but his convoluted, circuitous style scholarly with a hint of poetic might appeal more to academics than general readers. Nonetheless, Guardiola-Rivera has produced one of the most comprehensive books on 20th-century Latin American politics.