Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and several other U.S. lawmakers introduced a resolution on Thursday that formally commemorates the 50th anniversary of the deadly 1973 military coup in Chile and apologizes for the role the United States played in the toppling of the Latin American nation’s democratically elected government.
The resolution also calls for the declassification of all remaining U.S. documents related to the coup and the events preceding and following it.
“Let me be clear: we must stand up for democracy here in the United States and beyond,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. “And that means we must also acknowledge that the United States has not always defended democracy abroad, and in fact, has sometimes done the opposite.”
“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the horrific coup in Chile, we must make clear that we regret our involvement and commit to supporting Chilean democracy,” he added. “To build the lasting partnerships we need in this hemisphere, we will need to establish a basis of trust and respect. Part of that process includes full accountability for the coup and its aftermath.”
The new resolution comes after Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined a group of U.S. lawmakers on a Latin America trip that included a stop in Chile, where the New York Democrat stressed the importance of declassifying the coup-related documents to shed more light on the Nixon administration’s role in the violent ouster of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.
That day, Gen. Augusto Pinochet led the Chilean military in seizing control of the nation’s government and ushering in a decadeslong reign of brutal repression and terror. Tens of thousands of Chileans were tortured, killed, or disappeared by the Pinochet regime.
In the lead-up to the coup, then-President Richard Nixon ordered the CIA to make Chile’s economy “scream” as part of an effort to prevent Allende, a democratic socialist, from taking office.
Decades after the coup — during which Allende took his own life after refusing to step aside — the CIA acknowledged that it “actively supported” the Pinochet regime and that some of its agents were involved in human rights abuses.
“The U.S. cannot credibly show up as a trustworthy partner that can help advance democracy in the present if we don’t own up to our complicated past,” Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday.
Following the congressional delegation’s visit to Chile last month, the U.S. State Department declassified two briefs that Nixon received on the day of the 1973 coup and three days prior.
“While we appreciate President Biden listening to our call and declassifying two relevant documents, there are still many outstanding questions,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “The people of Chile and the victims of Pinochet’s violence deserve answers.”
The new resolution — also backed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in the Senate and Reps. Greg Casar (D-Texas) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) in the House — highlights the CIA’s support for the Pinochet regime and points specifically to the involvement of Henry Kissinger, who served as Nixon’s national security adviser and later as the U.S. Secretary of State.
“Then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told coup leader General Augusto Pinochet in a private meeting, ‘We want to help, not undermine you. You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende,'” the resolution states, citing a declassified transcript of a conversation between Kissinger and Pinochet in June 1976.
The resolution “expresses profound regret for the United States’ contribution to destabilizing Chile’s political institutions and constitutional processes” and praises “the Chilean people for rebuilding a strong and resilient democracy against the forces of authoritarianism.”
The measure adds that “full accountability requires a full accounting in the form of disclosure and declassification of remaining United States records relating to events leading up to, during, and after the military coup of 50 years ago.”
“Fifty years ago, the U.S. government supported a violent coup that toppled democracy in Chile and brought years of mass murder and authoritarianism to the country,” Casar said in a statement. “We should apologize and be transparent about the role that the U.S. government and major economic interests played in supporting the coup and the following years of authoritarian rule. Together, we can build a new relationship based on mutual respect and a commitment to peace.”
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