Cuba Honors Chilean President Salvador Allende 40 Years After Coup

News from Cuba | Wednesday, 11 September 2013

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of a military coup that toppled Chilean leftist ex-President Salvador Allende, Cuba honoured on Tuesday (September 10) the life and legacy of their socialist ally.

Allende, hailed as the West's first democratically-elected Marxist President, was overthrown in 1973 after Chilean Air Force jets began bombing La Moneda Palace in a U.S.-supported military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet, ushering in a dark period of right-wing dictatorships across the region.

Only a week earlier Allende had celebrated with supporters the third anniversary of his election, vowing to improve education and income inequality in Chile.

With posters from Allende's government on display in a Havana plaza, locals in the Cuban capital reflected on the life of the fallen Chilean president.

"(Cuba) always remembers how the president was, the project that we had had seen, on posters, in the advertising at the time for a better education, the nationalisation of copper, land reform, all of these issues. We remember him as a family man, as a husband, a human being with virtues which for us is a symbol," said Rosa Maria Lopez, Director for the House in Memory of Salvador Allende.

Allende, who ruled Chile from 1970 to 1973, represented an era of hope for many in Latin America. However, his rule came to an abrupt end by Chile's right and the United States who were concerned at the creeping socialisation of Chile.

Locals in Havana pondered what could have been if Allende had stayed on in power.

"We continue to feel, as we felt at that moment, that a great leader was lost. It was believed that he could start a revolution without an armed fight. He achieved this, but imperialism did not forgive him," said Professor Oton Torres.

In honour of Allende, streets, schools and hospitals have been dedicated to the Chilean leader in Havana. For Cuba's Communist Party, Allende has become a symbol of Latin America's socialist movement.

In 1971, former Cuban President Fidel Castro made a month-long visit to Chile where he praised his socialist counterpart and the South American's country's democratically-powered socialist revolution.

"Something extraordinary is happening in Chile, a unique process, something more unique, incredible, incredible, in the process of change. It's a revolutionary process, where the revolutionaries try to carry out changes peacefully, a unique process," said Castro.

Allende also made a state visit to Cuba in 1972, cementing the close ties between the Latin American leftists.

According to an official statement following Allende's death, Chile's fallen president had committed suicide and was reportedly found dead with a gun he received as a gift from Fidel Castro.

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