Nixon-era intelligence reports on 1973 Chile coup declassified

The U.S. State Department released portions of two formerly classified Nixon-era intelligence reports that offer insight into the information former President Nixon received amid Chile’s 1973 coup. 

The two documents from September of 1973 include portions of the Central Intelligence Agency’s daily briefs with Nixon on the events occurring in Chile. The documents suggest Nixon may have had intel on the extent of a possible coup. 

The documents come shortly ahead of the 50th anniversary of the coup against President Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973.

The document from Sept. 8, 1973 indicates Nixon was informed on a number of reports about the “possibility of an early military coup attempt,” involving Chile’s Navy, Air Force and Army, though the document noted there was not yet such evidence of a coordinated coup plan.  

The Sept. 8 document said former Socialist President Salvador Allende believed the armed forces would ask for his resignation and “raised the prospect of an ‘armed confrontation’ between his followers and the military.” 

According to the briefing, Nixon was told Allende believed his supporters lacked enough weapons to succeed in such an event and it was too late to distribute more since the armed forces would stop it. The document detailed Allende’s belief that the situation was “serious” and required “some tactical retreats.” 

“He is worried about the sustained opposition pressures against him and, especially, about the intentions of the military,” the briefing wrote. 

In a second document dated the day of the coup, Sept. 11, 1973, the briefing discussed “plans by navy officers to trigger military action against the Allende government.” 

“Although military officers are increasingly determined to restore political and economic order, they may still lack an effectively coordinated plan that would capitalize on the widespread civilian opposition,” the briefing wrote. 

The military, led by General Augusto Pinochet, would go on later that day to launch a coup against the Allende government. Allende died during the events in the coup on Sept. 11, and his death is now widely regarded as a suicide. On Sept. 13, Pinochet was named the president of Chile. 

Three years earlier, Nixon gave direct orders to CIA director Richard Helms to “save Chile” by initiating a military coup to block the inauguration of Allende, the National Security Archive said last year.

This discovery fueled speculation over the Nixon administration’s involvement with the coup, and prompted further calls from the Government of Chile to declassify further documents related to the coup. 

“Along with the thousands of documents previously declassified, the release of these PDBs today demonstrates our enduring commitment to the U.S.-Chile partnership and is consistent with our joint efforts to promote democracy and human rights in our own countries and around the world,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

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