Before Augusto Pinochet could call himself president of Chile, he had to finish off Salvador Allende, the democratically elected left-wing president, who had named Pinochet just a month earlier head of the Chilean Army. The resistance the president and his loyal staff gave the armed forces, was something far from expected. They literally fought themselves to the death, as can be read in this report.
Whether armed forces killed him, or he committed suicide, the fact that Salvador Allende fought to the very last minute, show that he wasn’t willing to give up his electorate and country that easy, when on September 11, 1973 armed surrounded and attacked the presidential palace La Moneda with heavy artillery. A timeline:
6.30 am: president Allende receives a phone call in his residence about an uprising of the navy in Valparaíso. There are concerns about a coup d´état taking place, and the president along with his presidential guard moves quickly and heads to La Moneda, to deal with the situation.
7.30 am: The president arrives in La Moneda and learns about the magnitude of the coup. Not only the navy, all three branches of the armed forces plus the Carabineros seem to have united in an uprising against Allendes government.
8.20 am: The military junta contacts the president and urges him to surrender, something he refuses. He replies, saying “A Chilean president does not take an airplane to escape. You should know how to perform your military duty.”
8.50 am: Family of Salvador Allende arrives and preparations in La Moneda are being made to combat any form of attack. Among the group of around 40 loyalists to Allende are secret service people, journalists, ministers, doctors, nurses, administrative staff and of course the presidential guard.
9.15 am: Around 200 infantry troops have gathered outside La Moneda and open fire. As fire is being opened, president Allende gets offered several times ultimatums and a plane to leave the country with his family, but he refuses every time. He addresses the Chileans in a final radio speech, broadcasted on Radio Magallanes, in a historical and chilling speech, saying:
“These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason.”
10.30 am: Allende gathers all loyalists in the Toesca Room and orders all women and unarmed men to leave La Moneda, as he doesn´t want people to sacrifice themselves. Allende himself says he will fight until the death. Those with arms are urged to take back their combat positions, as the ultimatum given by the military is about to expire.
11.30 am: Beatriz Allende, the daughter of the president, along with other women leave the palace. While troops outside withdraw to prepare to launch an air attack, the women escape the palace.
12.00 am: the first air attack on La Moneda is being launched. The roof of the palace and the presidential courtyard get destroyed. As two more air attacks are being launched, tanks, infantry and other heavy artillery outside re-engage in battle to conquer the palace.
1.30 pm: As major parts of the palace have been destroyed and more than half of the few dozen defenders of Salvador Allende have been killed, the president withdraws to the second floor of the palace, one of the last places that has not been engulfed by flames and enemy fire. Augusto Olivares, well-known journalist and close friend to the president, is among those last standing. Both Olivares and Allende have already suffered injuries.
2.00 pm: The attackers are closing in on Allende, who takes his last refuge in the Red Room of the Palace. This is were he gets shot and later killed, although some official reports state that he commits suicide.
6.30 pm: The army declare victory and the surrender of the president, who already has been dead for hours. After a full day of fighting, 20 dropped bombs and 500 casualties, Chile is now being ruled by General Augusto Pinochet.
Sources: EFE, the Chilean government, Beatriz Allende´s testimony.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.