Death of Salvador Allende

Death of Salvador Allende

Salvador Allende, President of Chile, reportedly committed suicide during the Chilean coup of 1973. Since that time, there has been great controversy between supporters and detractors of Allende on the circumstances of his death, since the military junta's version of his suicide was discounted by his supporters.

Questions continue to surround the events that led to his death. In late January 2011, a Chilean judge ordered an inquiry,[1] which included an to order the exhumation of his corpse,[2] which took place on May 23rd, 2011.[3] After examining the corpse, the country's Legal Medical Service confirmed the official ruling of suicide.[4]

On May 31, TVN, the state television station, reported the recent discovery of a secret 300-page military account of Allende's death. The document had been kept in the home of a former military justice official, and was discovered when his house was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. After reviewing the report, two forensic experts told TVN "that they are inclined to conclude that Allende was assassinated."[5]

The autopsy team reported on 19 July 2011 that Allende committed suicide by shooting himself with an AK-47 rifle.[6]


Historical event

On September 11, 1973, just prior to the capture by the military of the Palacio de La Moneda (the presidential palace), while gunfire and explosions were clearly audible in the background, President Salvador Allende made what would become a famous farewell speech to Chileans on live radio (Radio Magallanes), speaking of his love for Chile and of his deep faith in its future. He stated that his commitment to Chile did not allow him to take an easy way out and be used as a propaganda tool by those he called "traitors" (accepting an offer of safe passage, like Carlos Altamirano), clearly implying he intended to fight to the end.

Shortly afterwards, Allende reportedly committed suicide. An official announcement declared that he had committed suicide with an assault rifle,[7] and an autopsy labeled his death as suicide.[8] The weapon purportedly used by Allende to commit suicide was an AK-47 assault rifle given to him as a gift by Fidel Castro[9] and which bore a golden plate engraved To my good friend Salvador from Fidel, who by different means tries to achieve the same goals.

This (now) general acceptance is based on statements given by two doctors from the Moneda Palace infirmary who witnessed the suicide: Dr. Patricio Guijón, who made a statement at the time, and Dr. José Quiroga[10] who only confirmed it many years later.[8]

Official version of the death

At approximately 1:50 PM local time, President Allende ordered the defenders of the La Moneda Palace to surrender. The defenders then formed a queue from the second floor, down the stairs and onto the Morande street door. The president went along this queue, from the ground floor up the stairs, shaking hands and thanking everyone personally for their support in that difficult moment. After he finished, he directed himself toward the Independence salon, located in the north-east side of the Palace's second floor.

At the same time, Dr. Patricio Guijón (a member of La Moneda's infirmary staff) decided to return upstairs to recover his gas-mask as a souvenir. He heard a noise, and opened the door of the Independence salon in time to see the president shoot himself with his AK-47 assault rifle.[11] From the other side of the salon and through an open door Dr. José Quiroga,[12] Arsenio Poupin, a member of the cabinet, Enrique Huerta, a palace functionary, two detectives from the Presidential security detail, and some GAPs (Presidential Security) were able to see the moment of death, or arrive a few seconds afterwards, attracted by the noise.

"Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Keep in mind that, much sooner than later, the great avenues will again be opened through which will pass free men to construct a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!"
President Salvador Allende's farewell speech,
September 11, 1973.


All sources seem to agree that at least the following witnesses were present:

  • Dr. Patricio Guijón – member of the Presidential Medical Staff – Survived
  • Dr. José Quiroga – member of the Presidential Medical Staff – Survived
  • Arsenio Poupin Oissel – Presidential Assessor and member of the cabinet – Executed a few days later
  • Enrique Huerta Corvalán – Palace Intendant – Executed a few days later
  • David Garrido – Detective (Presidential Security Detail) – Survived
  • Ricardo Pincheira – Detective (Presidential Security Detail) – Survived
  • Pablo Manuel Zepeda Camillieri – GAP (Presidential Security) – Survived

Of these witnesses, only Dr. Guijón spoke about the events immediately after they happened, and was roundly vilified for doing so. Some sources misattribute Guijón's declarations to "Allende's personal doctor": Dr. Enrique Paris Roa, who was at La Moneda not on his professional role but as a member of Allende's cabinet. He does not appear to have made any such statement as he was executed shortly afterwards.[14] The other witnesses kept silent until after the restoration of democracy in Chile, as they believed (according to their own statements) that to corroborate the version of a suicide would in some measure downgrade Allende's sacrifice and lend support to the military regime.


At the time and for many years after, his supporters nearly uniformly presumed that he was killed by the forces staging the coup, and many theories have been put forward to imply he was ruthlessly assassinated. This view was first expressed in a speech given in Havana's Plaza de la Revolución on 28 September 1973 (only two weeks after Allende's death.) On that day Fidel Castro told a crowd of about 1 million Cubans that Allende had died in La Moneda wrapped in a Chilean flag, firing at the army with Fidel's rifle. Another version stated that Allende was killed in combat on the steps outside the Presidential Palace.

The "murder-in-battle" theory that states that Allende was killed by Pinochet's military forces while defending the palace was officially set forth in 1975 by Robinson Rojas in his book The murder of Allende and the end of the Chilean way to socialism.[15]

For years after Allende's death, Fidel Castro in public addresses continued to express the view that Allende had died while exchanging gunfire with Chilean troops. In 2002, however, he spoke of Allende's death as a suicide, changing his earlier opinion.[16]

In recent years, the view that Allende committed suicide has become more accepted, particularly as different testimonies are confirming the details of the suicide in news and documentary interviews.[8] Also, members of Allende's immediate family including his wife and his daughter,[17] always outspoken, never disputed that it was a suicide.

However, some supporters still dispute the idea that it was suicide.[citation needed] In 2008 the Chilean doctor Luis Ravanal published an article in the magazine El Periodista stating that Allende's wounds were "not compatible" with suicide. Asked to comment on Dr. Ravanal's hypothesis, the Chilean congresswoman Isabel Allende, the President's daughter, said that the suicide version is the correct one.[18]

Autopsy report

Allende's body was exhumed in May 2011. A scientific autopsy was performed and the autopsy team delivered a unanimous finding on 19 July 2011 that Allende committed suicide using an AK-47 rifle given to him by Fidel Castro. The gun was set to fire automatically and the shots tore off the top of Allende's head, killing him instantly.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Bonnefoy, Pascale (27 January 2011). "Chilean Judge Orders Investigation Into Allende’s Death". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  2. ^ "Chile to exhume former President Salvador Allende". BBC News. 15 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  3. ^ "Cuerpo de Salvador Allende será exhumado el 23 de mayo". La Nación (Chile). Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  4. ^ "Former Chilean President Allende's death confirmed as suicide". CNN. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  5. ^ "Chile TV: Secret military report on Allende’s death raises doubts about suicide". Washington Post. 31 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-31-29. 
  6. ^ a b Chilean president Salvador Allende committed suicide, autopsy confirms The Guardian, 2011-07-20.
  7. ^ "Salvador Allende Gossens". Presidencia de la República de Chile. Retrieved 2006-04-08. 
  8. ^ a b c Gonzalez Camus, Ignacio, El dia en que murio Allende ("The day that Allende Died"), 1988, pp. 282 and following.
  9. ^ Whelan, James, Out of the Ashes: The Life, Death and Transfiguration of Democracy in Chile, 1989, pp. 511-512 and 519-520.
  10. ^ Pape, Eric, Five Degrees of Exile, Los Angeles Times Magazine, 11 July 1999. Reproduced online as part of an archive of Pape's articles, accessed 22 September 2006.
  11. ^ CHILE ENDS EXILE OF ALLENDE FAMILY, The New York Times, 2 September 1988. Accessed online 30 June 2008.
  12. ^ Patricio Zamorano, Muerte de Allende: los testigos que quedaron fuera de la historia (Spanish), La Opinión Digital, 11 September 2003. Accessed online 22 September 2006.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Anne-Marie O'Connor, Out of the Ashes, Los Angeles Times 22 October 2000. Reproduced online on the site of Oberlin College professor Steven S. Volk, accessed 22 September 2006.
  15. ^ Rojas, Robinson. The murder of Allende and the end of the Chilean way to socialism. 1985.
  16. ^ In "Fidel Castro: o: biografía a dos voces (a two-voiced biography), pub. Debate Publishing House ISBN 0307376532, the Cuban president told Ignacio Ramonet that he told Hugo Chávez: "Don't kill yourself, Hugo. Don't do (sic) like Allende, who was a man alone. You have most of the Army on your side. Don't quit, don't resign." [1]
  17. ^ EUA tentaram impedir posse de Allende, diz documento. Washington: Associated Press-Agência Estado, in O Estado de S. Paulo, september 10, 2008, 15:56
  18. ^ "Admite hija de Allende suicidio de su padre" (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: El Universal. August 17, 2003. 

External links

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