MISSING (1982)

Historical Context:  Print -- Video/Audio -- Online

Political Turmoil in Chile

[1]     On November 3, 1970, Chile inaugurated its first Marxist President.  The son of a prominent lawyer, Salvador Allende had all that a privileged upbringing could provide a young boy.  Allende was able to attend medical school and earned his medical degree in 1932.  His first job after graduation was as an assistant coroner.  Performing autopsies allowed Allende to make the distinction between the few that lived healthy lives and the many that were undernourished.  It is said that his experiences during this time would shape his unique political views and make him more sympathetic of the people’s needs.

[2]     Before ascending to the presidency of his country, Salvador Allende was gaining valuable political experience, first as a founder of Chile’s Socialist Party and later as a member of Congress.  Allende served two years in the Chamber of Deputies before he was named to the Cabinet of then President Aguirre Cerda, as the Minister of Health.  His service during this time would earn him a national reputation for being a humanitarian.  In 1945, he was elected to the Senate where he sponsored many bills in the areas of health care and women’s rights.  Twenty-three years later in 1968, Allende was elected President of the Senate.

[3]     Salvador Allende had political ambitions that were not limited to congressional positions.  He is known not only for his vast political involvement but also for his many attempts at obtaining the office of President.  He ran under the Socialist banner in 1952 and came in last of the four candidates.  He ran again in 1958, and though he would lose yet again, his standing as second of five candidates indicated that his group of supporters had increased tremendously.  The 1964 election handed Allende his third defeat, this time by the moderate-conservative Eduardo Frei.  Allende was quickly earning the reputation of losing the most Presidential races.

[4]     Allende’s determination and genuine concern for the Chilean people made it possible for a fourth attempt at the Presidency.  In 1970, he would triumph and be elected by a similar margin in which he lost the previous election—approximately thirty-nine thousand votes.  The policies he went on to enact made him popular with the struggling people he had pledged to help but at the same time alienated others, including the United States.  He took possession of many U.S.- owned copper companies and moved to purchase other privately owned businesses, in a plan to give more opportunities to the peasants.  Allende felt that the great disparity of wealth in the nation came from inadequate wages, and he subsequently increased wages for workers, while simultaneously maintaining the prices of products.  Allende authorized the printing of more money in order to eliminate the national deficit that was created by his own policies.  Two years into his Presidency, Chile was arguably in worst shape economically, with production at a stand still, rising rates of inflation, and food shortages among some of the main concerns.  Allende had earned the support of many of the workers and lower class that benefited most from his governing.  However, he would alienate his closest supporters, making possible his subsequent overthrow in 1973.

[5]     Augusto Pinochet, leader of the military junta responsible for the end of Allende’s rule was appointed to the position of army commander in chief by Allende just weeks before the coup.  Pinochet was responsible for coordinating and leading the military action that would result in the death of President Allende.  He was strongly opposed to the leftist politics that had pervaded Chilean society and wanted to restore some order to the country.  Pinochet is known for the arrest, execution, and disappearance of hundreds of thousands of men and women during his time in power, as well as his success in maintaining a low rate of inflation and bringing back the economic strength of the nation.  Pinochet’s legitimacy came in the form of a plebiscite that supposedly claimed a 75 percent endorsement of his rule.  The junta drafted a new constitution, a document which defined the terms of his service.  The guidelines dictated that Pinochet would serve until 1989, at which time a national referendum would decide the fate of his career.  In October 1988, 55 percent of the people voted against Pinochet, who remained in office until his successor was installed.

[6]     The military coup seized power in 1973 and did so at the expense of many lives.  Charles Horman, young American journalist, was one of the men targeted by the new Chilean government.  Horman had ventured to Chile with his wife Joyce in search of new surroundings.  With a new circle of friends and a pleasant new life, the Hormans called Chile their new home.  The danger came not too much later when Charles found himself in possession of some confidential information.  Uncovering the involvement of the United States in the coup, Charles was considered a threat and consequently paid for this information with his life.  Charles was condemned and subsequently executed, as the new men in power believed the writing he did for the leftist paper FIN to be indicative of his political viewpoints.  Though knowledge of his whereabouts were unknown and denied, his body was eventually located and returned to the United States.  A tireless search conducted by his family raised questions of U.S. complicity in the military coup, accusations which the government fervently denied.

[7]     Joyce’s lack of success in securing any information of Charles’ whereabouts forced Ed Horman, his father, to get further involved.  A New York businessman, Ed was forced to travel to Chile, as his efforts back in the United States yielded very little.  Frustrated, Charles’ father believed he would have more luck if he could speak with the U.S. officials in person.  Much to his dismay, they were unable or unwilling to give him answers to his questions.  He felt they were doing nothing to locate Charles.  Disgusted and angry by the treatment he received in Santiago, Ed returned to the United States and filed a multi-million dollar suit against the government for failing to protect his son.  The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed, as the evidence gathered by the Horman’s would severely compromise national security if publicly presented.

Print Resources

Arriagada, Genaro.  Pinochet: The Politics of Power.  Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988.

This book picks where the military coup of 1973 left off.  With Augusto Pinochet, a military General under Allende now in power, the future of Chile was uncertain and terrifying for many reasons.  The manner in which he seized control was bloody and ruthless, setting the stage for the years in which he would be in power.  Arriagada examines the dictator as a manipulative dictator and a politically astute man, in helping readers to understand the man responsible for one of the most infamous military takeovers in history.

De Vylder, Stefan.  Allende’s Chile: The Political Economy of the Rise and Fall of the Unidad Popular.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.

Much like other books bearing the same title, this particular book examines Salvador Allende’s vision for Chile and the power of the Popular Unity, the party to which he belonged.  It gives the economic conditions of Chile prior to his accession to the Presidency.  Focusing on the desperate situation facing the Chilean people in their daily struggle to maintain their low standards of living and survive in an economy with high unemployment, this book is primarily about the time period during which improvement of the quality of life was finally plausible to the people as Allende’s policies promised change.

Hauser, Thomas.  The Execution of Charles Horman.  New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978.

Attorney Hauser writes the historical account of the final days of an American writer kidnapped in Chile and later found dead.  Charles Horman had the misfortune of stumbling across some valuable information that led him to believe that the military coup that had overthrown Chile’s democratically elected government was aided by the United States.  Days later, he was seen being taken from a home by armed soldiers, never to be seen again.  This book describes the challenges faced by the Horman family, Charles’ father Ed, his mother Elizabeth, and his wife Joyce, in their attempt to locate Charles.  The United States government proved to be of little or no assistance.  Later, when Charles is discovered among the thousands of dead, the U.S. government is suspected of having withheld valuable knowledge from the family.  Their inability to obtain any explanation for his death also leads the family to believe that his murder was approved, if not ordered by his own country.  The film Missing, directed by Costa-Gavras, is based on this book, though many names were changed “to protect the innocent” as it states in the beginning.

Medhurst, Kenneth, ed.  Allende’s Chile.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1972.

Concentrating primarily on the political system of Chile and the turmoil within the country in the immediate years preceding the military coup of 1973, this book does well in teaching readers the ins and outs of the Chilean political system.  Information regarding elections and government spending trends are available in this book, as it is very fact-oriented.

O’Brien, Philip, ed.  Allende’s Chile.  New York:  Praeger Publishers, 1976.

The military coup of 1973 was not a random event.  It was well planned and executed in response to the state of affairs in Chile at that time.  To understand how such an enormous change was possible, it is important to understand all that was occurring in the country.  An analysis of the Chilean political and social structure is offered in this book, as well as a close examination of the economics, social policies, and leadership roles.  The details offered in this book are extensive and thorough and give readers a better understanding of the rise and fall of Allende and his vision of a Marxist country.

White, Judy, ed.  Chile's Days of Terror: Eyewitness Accounts of the Military Coup.  New York: Pathfinder Press, 1974.

The stories told in this book were the personal accounts of Chileans, Latin and North Americans who were personally affected by the military coup of 1973.  Told by the people who lived through the horrible ordeal the testimonies contained in this book offer readers a perspective they would otherwise not have exposure to.  The men and women fortunate enough to have escaped death during the turmoil, share with the world their agonizing memories.

See also:

Ambassadors in Foreign Policy: The Influence of Individuals on U.S.-Latin American Policy.  New York: Praeger, 1987.

A Critique of the United States Department of State Country reports on human rights practices for 1980: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay : a report of the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights.  New York: The Committee, 1981.

Davis, Nathaniel. The Last Two Years of Salvador Allende.  Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.

Franklin, Jonathan.  “Memos Tie U.S. to ’70 Coup Try in Chile.” Boston Globe  9 Oct. 1999: A12.

Gilchrist, James C.  The Role of Foreign Policy Doctrine in the Decision Making Process for U.S. Military Intervention in Latin America, 1960-1994.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee, 1998.

Review of U.S. Policy Toward Latin America: Response to the National Security Study Memorandum 173.  Washington, D.C.: National Security Council, 1973.

Schoultz, Lars. Beneath the United States : A History of U.S. Policy Toward Latin America.  Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1998.

Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Congress.  Committee Activities of the Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate.  Washington, D.C.: U.S.G.P.O, 19uu.

United States.  Cong.  House Committee on International Relations.  Protection of Americans Abroad.  95th Cong., 1st sess.  12, 14 July 1977.

United States.  Cong.  Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Shlaudeman Nomination.  94th Cong., 2nd sess.  25 May, 10, 11 June 1976.

United States.  Cong.  Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. International Telephone and Telegraph Company and Chile, 1970-71.  93rd Cong., 1st sess.  21 June 1973.

United States.  Cong.  Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.  Covert Action in Chile, 1963-73.  94th Cong., 1st sess. 18 Dec. 1975.

United States.  Cong.  Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.  Intelligence Activities.  Senate Resolution 21. Vol. 7: Covert Action.  94th Cong., 1st sess. 4, 5 Dec. 1975.

United States.  Cong.  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Recent Political Violence in El Salvador.  98th Cong., 2nd sess.  5 Oct. 1984

Video/Audio Resources

Americas in Transition.  1982.

Focuses on American military intervention in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Chile, and El Salvador. Discusses the roots of dictatorship, its effects on citizens, movements toward majority rule, and communist influences.  (Unseen; information from www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/LatinAmVid.html)

The Battle of Chile: The Struggle of an Unarmed People (La Batalla de Chile: La Lucha de un Pueblo Sin Armas.  Dir. Patricio Guzman.  199?.

Part 1:  The Bourgeois Insurrection. The first film in a two-part documentary on the fate of Allende's Popular Unity government filmed throughout Chile from February to September 1973. Part one examines the escalation of rightist opposition following the left's victory in Congressional elections held in March, 1973. Finding that parliamentary democracy would not stop Allende's socialist policies, the right-wing shifted its tactics from the polls to the streets. The film follows months of activity as a variety of increasingly violent tactics are used by the right to weaken the government and provoke a crisis.

Part 2: The Coup.  The second film in a two-part documentary on the fate of Allende's Popular Unity government filmed throughout Chile from February to September 1973. Part two opens with the attempted military coup of June, 1973, which is put down by troops loyal to the government but everyone now realizes the final showdown is only a matter of time. The film shows a left divided over strategy, while the right methodically lays the groundwork for the military seizure of power. The film's dramatic concluding sequence documents the actual coup d'etat, including Allende's last radio messages to the people of Chile, footage of the military assault on the presidential palace, and that evening's televised presentation of the new military junta.

Part 3: The Struggle of an Unarmed People (La Fuerza del pueblo).  Completed two years after the first two parts of "The Battle of Chile" in 1978, this film deals with the creation of thousands of local groups of "popular power" by ordinary workers and peasants to distribute food; occupy, guard, and run factories and farms; oppose black-market profiteering; and link together neighborhood social service organizations, first as a defense against strikes and lockouts by factory owners, tradesmen, and professional bodies opposed to the Allende government, and then increasingly as soviet-type bodies demanding more resolute action by the government against the right.
(Unseen; information from www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/LatinAmVid.html)

Chile, State of Siege.  Gonzales, Francisco.  Audio.  Los Angeles, 1986.

Dirty Secrets: Jennifer Everardo & the CIA in Guatemala.  New Day Films, 1998.

Follows the efforts of Jennifer Harbury, a middle class American woman, to find the truth about her husband Everardo, a Guatemalan peasant revolutionary who "disappeared" after capture by Guatemalan government forces. Involvement by the CIA and other American governmental bodies in this and related events is revealed.

Kissinger, Henry.  Henry Kissinger denies categorically any U.S. involvement in the overthrow of Allende in Chile.  1975.  (Unheard; information from WorldCat)

Korry, Edward.  Edward Korry discusses C.I.A. operations in Chile aimed at keeping Allende from becoming and remaining president.  1975. (Unheard; information from WorldCat)

Online Resources

CAPRI-_Joyce Horman (Missing) to J. Straw

This site publishes a letter written by Joyce Horman, the wife of the deceased Charles Horman, to the Secretary of State for Home Affairs in British Parliament, voicing her desire to see Augusto Pinochet extradited to Spain to stand trial for human rights violations.


Home page for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Institute for Public Accuracy

A good place to go if one is looking for quotes from those directly involved with the disappearance of Charles Horman, for example, his wife, his family’s attorney, other victims of Pinochet’s regime.  Not very substantive, but offers links to other sites that may be of importance to those seeking information on the broader issue of prosecuting Pinochet for human rights violations.

Kin of Chile’s terror victims rejoice

An article by Tim Johnson of the Miami Herald describes the joy that families of victims of Augusto Pinochet feel upon hearing that he is arrested.  The article features Joyce Horman, Charles’ wife, as well as other people affected by Pinochet’s brutality during his rule.

Salvador Allende

A site dedicated to Salvador Allende, the Marxist president of Chile who was killed by the coup of 1973; it offers photographs of the fallen president and a list of resources.  This site offers books and web links related to the subject that might be of interest to those studying this event.  Some are in Spanish.

Serving the Few by Michael Parenti

Michael Parenti explores the role of the United States in the global political arena.  A rather interesting essay -- Parenti questions U.S. foreign policy and its need to utilize military forces as a means of reaffirming its strength, in the name of its citizens.

U.S.—Chile Documents

United States declassified government documents are available to the public.  The documents name names, quote officials and orders, and give people a better understanding of the depth of U.S. involvement in the military coup of 1973.

World Socialist Web Site

An article by Barry Grey brings to light the story of Charles Horman and his death at the hands of the Chilean army during a U.S. assisted coup.  Tracing his tale from before his disappearance to the libel suit his family brings against the U.S. government, this article concisely describes the event, touching upon all the controversial aspects of his murder.  The World Socialist Web Site also includes articles authored by other people on this subject.

Copyright (c) 1999 by Terry Su, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.

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