December 11, 2013
Salvador Allende, a true Socialist
SANTIAGO — Former Chilean president Salvador Allende, who died 40 years ago today, was a card-carrying member of the Socialist Party since his youth and was key in allowing it to reach La Moneda government house.
He was born in Valparaíso on June 26, 1908 in a middle-class family. He studied medicine at the University of Chile and, only one year after graduating as a surgeon, participated in the foundation of the Socialist Party, of which he eventually became secretary-general.
His first government job, though not elective, was as Health Minister under president Pedro Aguirre Cerda, between 1939 and 1942.
In 1952, he run for president for the first time representing a coalition of the Socialist and the Communist Party.
He had a long career as a lawmaker. As a senator, he visited the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, where he met Fidel Castro.
He was elected president on September 4, 1970, representing the Popular Unity Party, a broad front that included all of the left and the Radical Party. However, because he had won by an extremely narrow margin, Congress had to define the vote: it was eventually the Christian Democracy partywhich allowed him to take office.
For the Western world, it was the first time that a Socialist conquered the presidency at the polls. It inaugurated “the Chilean way to Socialism,” including the nationalization of copper mining and agrarian reform. He faced strong opposition from Chile’s right and the United States.
The September 11, 1973 military coup led by General Pinochet put an end to Allende’s life. Rather than to quit or be captured, he committed suicide at La Moneda.
Herald with Télam