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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Chilean model of foreign intervention

During the waning years of Musharraf’s military rule, the US had decided to replace him with a pliant civilian ruler who would then be coerced to part with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in return for clearing Pakistan’s foreign debts. This was how Zardari- Nawaz combine was brought to power.

I have written about the Monroe Doctrine and how, even in the 21st Century, the U.S does not tolerate regimes in the Western Hemisphere that try to follow independent foreign policies. Chile was one example where the US punished non-pliant Chilean politicians for daring to exert their independence in their domestic and foreign policies.

Chile is a Latin American country rich in copper deposits. It is the top copper producer in the world with 28 percent of global copper production and the world’s second-largest producer of lithium with a 22 percent share of world production. In 2020, the mineral sector produced 5.73 million tons of copper and 70 thousand tons of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE).

A physician by profession, and a socialist by political conviction, Salvador Allende Gossens was elected as the 28th president of Chile in November 1970 as the candidate of the Popular Unity coalition. He remained president till his death on 11 September 1973. He was the first Marxist to be elected president in a country with liberal democratic traditions in Latin America.

Read more: Behind the façade in Pakistan’s politics

Understanding the matter better

Even before he was elected president of Chile, Allendeclashed with Chile’s right-wing political parties that controlled the Congress, and the judiciary. But the major threat to his short rule was from the US multinationals that dominated Chile’s economy – the Anaconda and Kennecott copper companies, and the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT).

At the end of 1968, according to the US Department of Commerce, the US corporate holdings in Chile amounted to $964 million. Anaconda and Kennecott accounted for 28% of United States holdings. ITT – the telecommunications giant, had by far the largest holding of any single corporation, with an investment of $200 million in Chile. In 1970, before Allende was elected, ITT owned 70% of Chitelco, the Chilean Telephone Company, and funded El Mercurio, a Chilean right-wing newspaper.

Documents released in 2000 by the CIA confirmed that before the elections of 1970, ITT gave $700,000 to Allende’s conservative opponent, Jorge Alessandri, with help from the CIA on how to channel the money safely. ITT president Harold Geneen also offered $1 million to the CIA to help defeat Allende in the elections.

After assuming power, as Allende sought to nationalize major industries, expand education, and improve the living standards of the working class, the friction between him and his political rivals, supported by the US multinationals, increased. On 11 September 1973, the military moved to oust Allende in a military coup supported by the CIA. As troops under General Pinochet, the army chief, surrounded La Moneda Palace, Allende gave his last speech, vowing not to resign. Later that day, Allende committed suicide though there has been some controversy about the cause of his death with some believing it to be an assassination.

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After Allende’s death

Following Allende’s death, General Augusto Pinochet refused to return authority to a civilian government, and Chile was later ruled by a military junta until 1990. The military junta that took over dissolved the Congress of Chile (the parliament), suspended the constitution and began a program of persecuting alleged dissidents, in which at least 3,095 civilians disappeared or were killed.

After General Pinochet assumed power, Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of State told President Richard Nixon that the US “didn’t do it” (referring to the coup), but “we helped them… created the conditions as great as possible”. Recent documents declassified under the Clinton administration’s Chile Declassification Project show that the United States government and the CIA sought to overthrow Allende in 1970 immediately before he took office (“Project FUBELT”) “). Many documents regarding the US intervention in Chile remain classified.

Relevance to Pakistan

The similarities between Allende’s Marxist and Imran Khan’s populist regimes can be described as:

1) Though the socio-economic and political conditions were different, both the leaders challenged the status quo in their respective societies.

2) Both the regimes were vehemently opposed to the old order supported by the US. To be precise, US involvement can be cited as the common denominator in both cases. Starting in 1958, all the military rulers in Pakistan entered the corridors of power with the US blessings. On the other hand, an authoritarian military dictatorship ruled Chile for seventeen years, between 11 September 1973 and 11 March 1990.

3) The political opponents of Allende and Imran Khan found a common cause with the judiciary, bureaucracy, and army in bringing about the regime changes in Chile and Pakistan.

Read more: From Geopolitics to Geo-economics: A policy shift from the policy makers of Pakistan

The Irrelevance

Whereas the US squarely supported Pinochet’s military take over and seventeen-year military rule in Chile, in Pakistan’s case it had, over the period, developed a sense of distrust against the Pakistan Army. This distrust was compounded by the nuclear factor where, after Bhutto’s ouster, the army took control of Pakistan’s nuclear program.

If not for the Pakistan Army, the US would waste no time defang Pakistan of its nuclear assets. Perish the thought that the Americans want to nurture democratic traditions by emphasizing civilian supremacy. They supported Pinochet’s military rule despite his poor human rights record. Similarly, they played a decisive role in toppling Muhammad Mursi’s civilian government in Egypt and replacing it with Field Marshall el Sisi’s military rule.

During the waning years of Musharraf’s military rule, the US had decided to replace him with a pliant civilian ruler who would then be coerced to part with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in return for clearing Pakistan’s foreign debts. This was how Zardari- Nawaz combine was brought to power. Under the present circumstances, the US strategic objectives remain the same. The nuclear disarmament of Pakistan’s nuclear assets will take place gradually.

Read more: Pakistan’s dishonorable conduct in politics

Before this happens:

1) An understanding on the provision of military bases and use of airspace will be reached.

2) Restoration of trade relations with India will be a high priority issue

3) Some sort of concessions from India regarding J&K will be on the cards, like restoration of Article 270 and Article 35A of the Indian constitution in return for Pakistan’s recognition of the LoC as the International border in J&K.

4) Once these actions are complete, KSA, UAE, and Qatar will open their coffers for investment in J&K and pull Pakistan out of its debt trap;

4) Finally, CPEC will be there but limited in its scope to accommodate the US strategic anxieties.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.