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My name is Cole McLaughlin and I’m a sophomore at St. Lawrence University in northern New York State. You are listening to the “Chile and the Cold War” podcast series. In this episode, I’ll be going over a brief history of the Chilean military coup against President Salvador Allende, covering the nature of Pinochet’s secret police force - known as DINA, and discussing the roundup and forced disappearances of thousands of Chilean civilians in the National Stadium of Chile shortly after Pinochet assumed power. I’ll finish by drawing attention to the overall impact the Pinochet regime had on civilians in Chile.

On September 11, 1973, the democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was overthrown by the Chilean military.[1] Through funding provided by the US and its allies, the coup had been in the works since Allende was elected. Secretary of State under President Nixon, Henry Kissinger pushed for the overthrow of Allende from the moment he was elected, and funded Allende’s opposition while simultaneously blocking any and all financial support to Chile, in Nixon’s words, making the Chilean economy scream. largely from ideological and economic differences. Headed by General Augusto Pinochet, the military bombed the Presidential Palace and Allende took his own life inside. Pinochet quickly took control of Chile. The Pinochet regime was a violent one, and made sure that anyone they viewed as being opposed to Pinochet was eliminated, or forced into submission. The training Pinochet and his military received conditioned them not to distinguish civilians from armed rebels, as the nature of the threat was an ideological one - not a military one. The result was an era of mass human rights violations in Chile, where average civilians were abducted, tortured, and murdered.

Shortly after Pinochet assumed power, reports of missing loved ones became increasingly common. Known as Desaparecidos, or the disappeared, many were forcibly disappeared by the National Intelligence Directorate, whose Spanish initials are DINA. and were never seen again. An estimated 250 thousand people were arrested as a result of Pinochet’s repressive measures. Estimates place the number of tortured individuals at around 40,000; and as many as 3,200 were killed or disappeared during Pinochet's lasting dictatorship.[2] Pinochet used the National Stadium as a detention center, where his forces rounded up those who he believed were opposed to his rule. Pinochet’s secret military force arrested left wing party members, demonstrators, and would also target family members of his opposition.

The stadium was built in 1938 and cost $18 million to construct. It has the capacity to hold over 40,000 individuals. Before it was used as a detention center, it was historically used to house sporting events. The stadium has been recently renovated and modernized; however, a portion of the stadium remains the original wooden benches to honor those that lost their lives in the Stadium.

Among the many examples of those killed in the National Stadium include Victor Jara - a prominent Chilean Folk singer, University professor, and left-wing activist who vocally supported the Allende government [correction: Victor Jara was killed in the Stadium of Chile, not the National Stadium].[3] Jara, like thousands of other Chilean civilians, was tortured and murdered for his ideology, as he was openly communist.[4] Jara’s death was vicious and personal, as the guards in the stadium smashed and broke his hands and later asked him to play the guitar for his freedom. Jara’s body was discovered with over 40 bullets along with cigarettes burns, and was ultimately dumped along with many others in the streets outside the stadium. The dumping of bodies was common in an attempt to further repress any dissent among the public.[5] [6] It served as a warning of what happens to those who don’t comply with the military government.[7]

Along with the national stadium, 1,131 other secret detention centers were stationed around Chile, with over 80 in the Capital city of Santiago alone.[8] These were disguised as everyday buildings - such as houses, police stations, and dance clubs. Inside, torture and beatings were common practice. According to reports from the time, several facilities were used specifically to inflict sexual abuse on the victims - in an effort to break and dehumanize them as much as possible. There are countless first-hand accounts of the treatment endured by those in the detention centers that outline the cruelty and vicious nature of the Pinochet regime.

The state department’s declassified string of conversations between Secretary Kissinger and Pinochet reveals the US Government’s knowledge of the horrific human rights abuses, as well as a deep partnership between the two governments. Despite long-standing knowledge of human rights abuses, little to nothing was actually done to prevent further abuses. A typist recorded a conversation between Kissinger and Pinochet in a meeting in Santiago in 1976. Here, Kissinger said he “wished the Pinochet Government well" and that he was “sympathetic to what [Pinochet] was trying to do here.”[9]

This speaks volumes about the intentions of the Nixon administration, as well as the role it played in the human rights abuses in Chile.

To this day, many Chileans still don’t know what happened to their children, spouses, friends, and loved ones. Though most are feared dead, many survivors of Pinochet’s dictatorship are left still searching for and wondering what happened to those who disappeared under Pinochet.

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Thank you for listening. 



[1] Laura McHale, "The Case Against General Augusto Pinochet," Litigation 27, no. 3 (2001): pp 50.

[2] McHale, 50.

[3] J. Patrice McSherry, "The Víctor Jara Case and the Long Struggle Against Impunity in Chile," Social Justice 41, no. 3 (137) (2015): pp 55.

[4] McSherry, 56. 

[5] McSherry, 56. 

[6] Cathy Lisa Schneider, "Repression and the Consolidation of Authoritarian Rule," in Shantytown Protest in Pinochet's Chile, pp 75. Temple University Press, 1995.

[7] Victor Jara was not taken to the National Stadium but rather the Stadium of Chile. While both stadiums were sports stadiums that were used as detention centers by the Pinochet regime, The Stadium of Chile was a basketball stadium.

[8] Katia Chornik, "Music and Torture in Chilean Detention Centers: Conversations with an Ex-Agent of Pinochet's Secret Police," The World of Music, New Series, 2, no. 1 (2013): 51.

[9] National Security Archive: George Washington University, "Kissinger and Chile: The Declassified Record."


Works Cited:

Chornik, Katia. "Music and Torture in Chilean Detention Centers: Conversations with an Ex-Agent of Pinochet's Secret Police." The World of Music, New Series, 2, no. 1 (2013): 51.

McHale, Laura. "The Case Against General Augusto Pinochet." Litigation 27, no. 3 (2001): pp 50.

McSherry, J. Patrice. "The Víctor Jara Case and the Long Struggle Against Impunity in Chile." Social Justice 41, no. 3 (137) (2015): pp 55.

National Security Archive : George Washington University. "Kissinger and Chile: The Declassified Record."

Schneider, Cathy Lisa. "Repression and the Consolidation of Authoritarian Rule." In Shantytown Protest in Pinochet's Chile, pp 75. Temple University Press, 1995.,

Silvia Tomas Trio, "Necessito." Free Music Archive. January 10th, 2017.…