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Latin American Program in the News: Augusto Pinochet's Military Coup Observed In Chile 40 Years Later

Cindy Arnson

This article reflects on the impact that the Chilean military coup, led by Augusto Pinochet, continues to have on Chilean society and its' political system 40 years later. Cynthia Arnson discusses the role the U.S. played in the coup and the impact is has had on the intelligence community.


While Chile has recovered from the dictatorship to become one of Latin America’s leading political and economic powers, the United States — particularly the CIA — is still recuperating from its involvement in the 1973 coup.

From propaganda and covert action during Allende’s time in office to knowledge of the coup plot and the Operation Condor, the CIA was deeply involved in the overthrow of the government and the installation of Pinochet's dictatorship.

“[The] CIA sought to instigate a coup to prevent Allende from taking office after he won a plurality in the 4 September [1970] election,” the CIA general report on the coup stated.

The CIA turned down a Fox News Latino request to comment on the clandestine service’s involvement in the coup, but many analysts cite the Cold War mentality in the U.S. at the time — and Allende’s friendly relations with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union — as the prime reason for CIA's direct involvement in Chile.

“The Cold War provided the justification to do these things that were flagrant offenses to U.S. values and laws,” Cynthia J. Arnson, the director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told Fox News Latino.

“While the Chilean coup had a profound impact on the political system in terms of reforms in the intelligence community and ruling out assassinations, in many ways we have not learned any lessons from the past,” Arnson said.

Despite tensions over the U.S. role in the coup, relations between Washington and Santiago have remained stable and the two nations remain strong political and economic allies.


For the full article in Fox News Latino, please click here.

About the Author

Cindy Arnson

Cynthia J. Arnson

Director, Latin American Program
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Latin American Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more