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Salvador Allende

(1908—1973) Chilean statesman, President 1970–3.

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(b. 26 July 1908, d. 11 Sept. 1973).

President of Chile 1970–3 The son of wealthy parents, he qualified as a doctor in 1932. In 1933 he helped found the Socialist Party of Chile, and he was its general secretary (1943–70). After three unsuccessful attempts, Allende won the 1970 presidential elections as leader of an alliance of Socialists and Communists, which made him the first avowed Marxist to win a Latin American presidency in a free election. Yet, his narrow ‘relative’ majority (winning 36.3 per cent of the popular vote) gave him a dubious mandate for the decisive reforms he embarked on. He nationalized the copper mines and a host of other, mostly foreign-owned, businesses without compensation. This incurred the wrath of foreign governments, and brought foreign investment almost to a standstill. Allende promoted consumption rather than investment, through the introduction of a pay rise and price freeze. These measures promoted a thriving economic black market, and the economy got increasingly out of control. In addition, an ill-prepared but nevertheless aggressive land reform resulted in the breakup of the hacienda estates, aggravating social and economic chaos in the countryside. Mindful of their private property, the elites and the middle classes supported his overthrow by General Pinochet (backed by the CIA), in which Allende died in the burning presidential palace.

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