Declassified Foreign Office files show that Britain conducted a covert propaganda offensive to stop Chilean leader Salvador Allende winning two democratic presidential elections – and helped prepare the ground for General Augusto Pinochet’s brutal military regime.
Almost 50 years after the September 1973 coup that overthrew the democratically-elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, declassified Foreign Office documents reveal Britain’s role in destabilising the country.
Under the Labour government of Harold Wilson (1964-1970), a secret Foreign Office unit initiated a propaganda offensive in Chile aiming to prevent Allende, Chile’s leading socialist figure, winning power in two presidential elections, in 1964 and 1970.
The unit – the Information Research Department (IRD) – gathered information designed to damage Allende and lend legitimacy to his political opponents, and distributed material to influential figures within Chilean society.
The IRD also shared intelligence about left-wing activity in the country with the US government. British officials in Santiago assisted a CIA-funded media organisation which was part of extensive US covert action to overthrow Allende, culminating in the 1973 coup.
Anyone but Allende
A Foreign Office planning document written in 1964 had noted that Latin America was “a vital area in the Cold War and checking a Communist takeover here is at least as important a British national interest as negotiating trading and stepping up exports”.
The report added that the US was “anxious for the United Kingdom to do as much as possible in the propaganda field” in Latin America.
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John McEvoy, chile, united kingdom, political interference, britain, cia, united states, central intelligence agency, uk foreign office