To the Editor,
Sept. 11, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup and murder of democratically elected Salvador Allende in Chile. September 15, 2013, also marks the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where four young girls—Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Roberston and Cynthia Wesley—ages 11 to 14 were murdered.
These events, though 10 years apart, showed the brutal, racist and criminal dimension of this country’s history—that many still are not educated about—as well as why violence in this country is so pervasive.
Salvadore Allende was a physician like Che Gueverra and his election as president in 1970 attempted to turn the tide of U.S. and western exploitation of Chilean resources, copper in particular, and to address the widespread poverty that relationship engendered. The human rights movement in this country was gaining momentum, addressing the evil, Apartheid-like conditions that blacks faced, north and south. The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on that Sunday was a response to that movement, and a continuation of how blacks have been murdered, raped, mutilated and killed with impunity in America during its history of lawlessness. From 1942 to that time, there were more than 50 bombings in what came to be called “Bombingham, Alabama.” This case was particularly savage because one of the little girls was decapitated.
This tragedy shows that domestic terrorism has always existed in this country’s history, especially when there has been a movement to have African-Americans treated as human beings.
Likewise, Salvadore Allende attempted, through a free health care system, free milk for children in schools as well as providing hundreds of thousands of residential units and pension plans and benefits for workers, to bring about a more human existence for the Chilean people. However he nationalized the banking and copper industries. As a consequence, ITT, along with the C.I.A, financed and supported the violent coup that resulted in the installation of General Pinochet and the murder and torture of more than 5,000 Chileans. These crimes will always be a permanent part of the American landscape.