Chile’s September 11th

BY: Emile Schepers| May 1, 2016
Chile’s September 11th

The date was September 11. The airplanes came in at rooftop level. In seconds the great building was ablaze, and many lay dead. In the aftermath, cold-hearted reaction took over power in the country, repressing left, the working class and the minorities. Many years passed before the country emerged from this nightmare.

The Twin Towers? The Bush-Cheney regime?

Actually I did not mean Sept. 11, 2001, but Sept. 11, 1973, and the country was not the United States, but Chile.

While people in the United States commemorated the dead of the Al Qaeda attacks on New York, the Pentagon and Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pa., people in Chile were commemorating the thousands who died as a result of the bloody 1973 military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Dr. Salvador Allende Gossens, plunging the Chilean people into the long night of dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.
The connection between our 9/11 and Chile’s goes far beyond the coincidence of having occurred on the same date, though 28 years apart.

Both were products of the efforts of the most reactionary sectors of international monopoly capital to suppress the aspirations of ordinary workers and farmers around the world by unleashing on them the most backward and violent elements.
In the case of Chile, it was the armed forces that were the breeding ground of the most anti-democratic elements. When push came to shove, international monopoly capital, the Chilean ruling class and the Nixon administration did not give a damn about constitutions and elections. They were angry that Allende was nationalizing foreign monopoly enterprises. They were furious that Allende had expanded the rights of workers and unions. They were incandescent that Allende had begun to reverse the injustices of centuries to which the Mapuche people, Chile’s largest indigenous group, had been subjected. So Pinochet struck, Allende died in the blazing La Moneda presidential palace, and workers, artists, intellectuals, Mapuches and the left all found themselves under the hammer of brutal repression.

In the case of the United States, 9/11 was a semi-direct result of the efforts by the United States and its allies to use the most retrograde form of politicized Islamic fundamentalism to gain control over Afghanistan. Working with the Saudi Arabian monarchy and the reactionary military dictatorship of Pakistan, our government did not care if this meant allying itself with people who threw acid in the faces of women university students, or who advocated the stoning to death of women accused of adultery, or all those other things the right wing tries to scare us with now.

And even though Sept. 11, 2001, was one result of our interference in Afghanistan, the Bush administration was absolutely shameless in its willingness to use the attack as the pretext for invading not only Afghanistan, but also Iraq, in the latter case based on the lie that Iraq had been somehow involved and held weapons of mass destruction. Riding the fear, anger and sorrow that arose from our 9/11 was how Bush and his crowd stayed in power, and how they plan to return to power.

On Saturday in Chile, thousands marched in commemoration of that other 9/11. Unfortunately, a Pinochet associate, right-wing businessman Sebastian Piñera, now occupies the Chilean presidency. His socialist predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, was wildly popular but could not succeed herself, according to the Chilean Constitution, and the coalition by which she ruled was not strong enough to prevent the Piñera election earlier this year.

On Saturday, according to the left-wing Mexican daily La Jornada (, Piñera said the 1973 coup was the “natural development” of a “sick democracy.” Thus he tried to give the impression that both the Allende government and his own associates on the right were equally to blame for the event which left at least 3,000 people dead, or missing and assumed dead.

Pinochet died in 2006 without ever having to render accounts for his crimes. Post-Pinochet governments have managed, however, to prosecute several hundred of his most violent associates. And the Chilean people, including workers, farmers and especially the Mapuche people who are currently engaged in a sharp struggle for their land and cultural rights, have not given up.

The Communist Party of Chile, many of whose members were killed, imprisoned or exiled under Pinochet, has taken up the cause of the Mapuches, demanding that the government negotiate in good faith with Mapuche representatives, some of whom have been engaged in a long, life endangering hunger strike (



    Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.


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