History of Chile under Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity


After more than sixteen months of detention in Great Britain, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, now 85 years old, was allowed to return to Chile in March of this year.  He had been held at the request of Baltazar Garzón, a Spanish judge who wanted Pinochet's extradition to Spain, where he would have been placed on trial for kidnapping, torture, and other violations of the human rights of Spanish citizens, committed in Chile during his regime. As his iron-fisted rule from 1973 to 1990 was ending, General Pinochet designed for himself a position of legal immunity against criminal charges under Chilean law and had thus been serving in Chile's congress as an honored and non-elected "Senator for life" since 1998.

But now, after his ill-fated trip to Great Britain, the wall of immunity that Pinochet had built around himself and his collaborators in the Chilean military appears to be collapsing. In a 14 to 6 vote, the Chilean Supreme Court removed Pinochet's congressional immunity, making it likely he will stand trial for his alleged involvement in the torture and deaths of thousands who opposed his military regime. The way would then at last be cleared for those Chileans still seeking justice -and the full truth- on behalf of their tortured, killed, or vanished relatives and friends.

Moreover, as of August of 2000, over one hundred and sixty lawsuits have been brought against the former dictator in Chilean courts -which, for years, had dismissed such cases without investigation. Spearheaded by a daring magistrate, Juan Guzmán, the courts have recently tried more than fifty military officers for crimes committed in the Pinochet era. 

Finally, having undertaken this research as a graduate student of History at the City University of New York for the course The Historian and the Computer, the purpose of this website is to provide the visitor with a comprehensive description of several events that led to the downfall of Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity government.


The single best historical source for this period is Los mil dias de Allende (2 vols.) by Miguel González Pino, Arturo Fontaine Talavera, Claudia Cárdenas, and Carlos Kuncar. This massive compilation covers the period from September of 1970 to September 1973, including the actual news as it was reported by different newspapers in Chile on an almost daily basis.  In addition, this work includes other key primary sources such as documents and photos of the period in question.

Another important source is Chile: la memoria prohibida (3 vols.) by Eugenio Ahumada, Rodrigo Atria, Augusto Góngora, Carmen Quesney, Gustavo Saball, and Gustavo Villalobos. This is another large work by several authors who interviewed participants or had access to primary sources (both of which are quoted extensively). The period covered by this book begins with the Tanquetazo and ends in 1983.

Of the personal accounts consulted I found El último dia de Salvador Allende to be the most serious primary source.  Its author, Óscar Soto, is a physician.  As a member of the team of doctors who was in La Moneda on September 11th, he had a distinctive outlook on events occurring there.  Dr. Soto also includes several important documents, besides being generally insightful and informative. The memoir of Carlos Prats is another indispensable chronicle for anyone investigating this period.

From the point of view of the military junta, the work of Vice-Admiral Sergio Huibrodo Justiniano, Decisión Naval, is perhaps the most balanced source available. It provides insight into the events that moved the high command of the Navy to break with the professional discipline of the Armed Forces of Chile. Gustavo Leigh, el general disidente by Florencia Varas is an interesting extended interview with a former member of the Chilean Military Junta who was forced out in 1978.

Full citations for each one of the sources mentioned above is provided under the "Notes" section in the following pages. Many of these sources are hard to find or out of print. I did not seek authorization for the images utilized since the nature of this site is strictly academic.


I wish to express my appreciation to several professors and friends who provided considerable assistance during the preparation of this website.

Mr. John McNees, formerly an instructor at Harvard and MIT, volunteered his editing skills to shape the structure of the essays. Without his valuable help, this website would not have been possible.

Mr. Dulyachot Cholaseuk,  Ph.D. candidate in Engineering from Columbia University, offered his expert technical knowledge of HTML language and layout design.

Professor William Rednour of the City University of New York also provided technical advice with HTML and layout design. He is the instructor for the course The Historian and the Computer.

My academic advisor, Professor Gerardo Renique of the City University of New York, encouraged me to research this particular period in the history of Chile.

In the end, however, I’m the only person responsible for the final form and contents of this site.

Ewin Martínez Torre

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 Allende wins the elections
 The Popular Unity government
 El Tanquetazo: June 29, 1973
 The definitive coup
  Resources and links

This page's last update: 10/18/2001
Map of Chile: Collection of the University of Texas, (1998). Database on-line available at