AT HIS Monday evening press conference, President Ford acknowledged reports that the United States had financed covert operations in Chile attempting to "destabilize" the government of former President Salvador Allende. Never before has an American president so off-handedly admitted that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has undertaken activities aimed at influencing the internal affairs of a democratically elected government. Ford also told the nation that he had every intention of continuing this course of action, which, he said, has been U.S. policy since the Truman administration.
President Ford thus gave his support to operations that helped destroy Latin America's oldest democracy. The junta that overthrew the popularly-elected Allende government almost exactly one year ago now rules Chile with an iron fist. Thousands were killed in the aftermath of the coup, and uncounted political prisoners languish in cramped cells, where they are tortured until they "confess." The extensive slums on the edges of Santiago are subject to brutal purges by government troops. The press and other media are rigorously censored, and military leader Gen. Augustus Pinochet says that it may be decades before Chile is "ready" for democracy.
Substantial responsibility for this state of affairs rests with the U.S., whose policies helped make it impossible for Allende to govern. When Allende was elected president of Chile in 1970 by a 36 per cent plurality, CIA agents paid out $350,000 to bribe opposition members of the National Assembly, which had to ratify his election. Following the election, the State Department authorized more than $5 million more to undermine Allende's Popular Unity government and to influence the outcome of the Congressional elections held in 1973, when Allende increased his plurality to 44 per cent. Additional funds were funneled to anti-Allende newspapers and radio stations. In all, over $8 million was spent to subvert the Chilean government, and only the military coup a year ago prevented the expenditure of further alloted funds.
The cause President Ford cited for these activities was "the effort being made by the Allende government to destroy opposition news media, both the writing press as well as the electronic press. And to destroy political parties." The Allende government never undertook this so-called effort to destroy the opposition in Chile, for such an effort would be inimical to both Allende's style and his ideology.
U.S. intervention in Chile was directed not against so-called repression but against Allende's substantive policies, which attempted to eradicate the social injustices prevalent in one of Latin America's wealthiest countries. In nationalizing industries owned by foreign companies, the Popular Unity government hoped to place profits from native resources in the hands of the Chilean people. Through its taxation policies the Allende government sought to redistribute wealth more evenly between rich and poor. By legalizing workers' factory takeovers, Allende moved to give laborers a greater say in the operation of their places of work. Through its land reform policy the Chilean government attempted to lift from the shoulders of the country's peasants the burden of a subsistence existence.
The U.S. intervention to disrupt these activities, President Ford said, was "in the best interest of the people in Chile, and certainly in our best interest." And current U.S. foreign policy reveals that such a definition of U.S. interests is not an isolated case. Thirty-eight thousand American troops in South Korea are a key prop in the repressive regime of President Chung Hee Park in South Korea. An unending flow of economic aid to the Philippines enables President Ferdinand Marcos to throw any political dissenter into jail. Military and economic assistance to President Nguyen Van Thieu helps to keep the war-weary South Vietnamese people subject to a government that has subverted all democratic institutions.
PRESIDENT FORD'S stated determination to continue the activities of the 40 Committee, which authorized the CIA's activities in Chile, is a declaration of support for an ongoing policy that equates the interests of the American people with not only the demise of the Allende government but also with oppressive regimes throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia. The revelation of the activities of the 40 Committee is so disturbing because the events in Chile are almost certainly but a single performance of a drama being played out on many stages throughout the world.
A foreign policy that so thoroughly embraces as friends corrupt and reactionary political figures cannot be easily cleansed. Too many people are soiled. The elimination of a secretive body such as the 40 Committee is hardly a safeguard against the continuation of activities similar to the once-covert ones in Chile. The real place to begin is with the members of that committee, particularly its chairman, Henry A. Kissinger '50, who directly authorized the expenditures by the CIA in Chile. His activity in this affair was but one move toward making the world safe not for peace but for the protection of American corporations' interests abroad. According to The New York Times account, Kissinger headed the State Department faction which, not content with peaceful subversion of Chile's government, wanted to hasten a military coup. The removal from office of Kissinger would be the first shift toward a wholesale shift in foreign policy away from support of repressive governments and toward the nurturing of close ties with popular leaders such as Salvador Allende in Chile.
Only an outcry of indignation by the American people at these recently revealed events can effect such a fundamental change in American government. For so long critics of CIA intervention in the internal affairs of other countries have had to base their position on unsubstantiated claims. Now that those claims have been verified by none other than the president of the United States, the voices of every American should join in a general chorus of protest.