by Carlos Torchia and Carlos Ulloa.
Introduction. On September 11, the Salvador Allende Festival opened a two-week-long commemoration of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the military coup in Chile.
The activities were opened by a carnival parade that stepped off from St. Clair and Oakwood in Toronto at 7:30 pm., with dancers, drummers, masked figures, and Latin American banners, and made its way to Artscape Wychwood Barns on Christie St.
The march began with a statement from the festival organizing committee linking the military coup against Salvador Allende with the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on June 28. The statement was drawn up by Toronto’s Latin American Solidarity Network.
About 350 participants arrived at the Barns, where an artistic-cultural celebration took place. Information tables offered materials from the various participating organizations, as well as Latin American foods.
The event concluded with the reading of a second statement, also drawn up by the Latin American Solidarity Network, which reviewed the achievements of the democratic government led by Salvador Allende, the benefits provided to the Chilean people, and this government’s anti-imperialist and internationalist character.
The two-week festival includes the painting of a mural, musical activities for children, and lessons on constructing masks. The festival will wind up with a popular fiesta on September 26 at 783 College St., 10 p.m.
With Salvador Allende in our Memory, We Stand with the Honduran People
By Carlos Torchia
Compañeras y compañeros; dear friends:
Our parade this evening, planned by the Festival Salvador Allende Organizing Committee, inaugurates our commemoration of the 36th anniversary of the terrorist military coup that overthrew President Allende’s government on September 11, 1973. Our commemoration this year links with the military coup in Honduras, which on June 28 put an end to the democratic government of President Manuel Zelaya. On June 28, the same forces that plotted against Allende – the Empire and the oligarchy – now wearing different clothes, canceled the democratic process that had been developing in Honduras. We must whether this coup signals the return of dictatorships to Latin America, at a time when deep democratic changes are occurring in the region.
As progressive Chilean women and men, and like many Latin American sisters and brothers in Toronto, we know what dictatorships have meant for our people: human rights violations, torture, “desparecidos” (abduction and secret killing), concentration camps, exile, and in many cases the need to put down roots in new lands. And because we have lived through all this, we raise our voices to denounce the coup in Honduras with the same strength that we commemorate another anniversary of the coup in Chile.
Tonight we express our solidarity with the Honduran people and their organizations, which are resisting the coup in spite of ferocious repression. On average, 300 people are arrested every day. There are many dead, tortured and disappeared as happened in Chile 36 years ago, as happened in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, and previously in Honduras itself. There are systematic attacks against the alternative media opposing the coup. The military brutality has been denounced by Amnesty International and Rights Action. It has been documented by the Toronto Latin American Solidarity Network’s delegation, which recently visited Honduras.
Why did the Honduras military kidnap President Zelaya and send him into exile? He wanted to introduce reforms to enrich people’s lives. Zelaya increased the minimum wage by 60% – bad news for the Chiquita Brand fruit company and Gildan of Montreal, the world’s largest t-shirt producer. President Zelaya wanted to put the telecommunications business under public control. Such measures did not go down well among the ten wealthiest Honduran families, who control economic and political life.
Zelaya planned that the people should have an opportunity to approve a constitutional reform, introducing a Constituent Assembly to democratize the country’s political life. Perhaps even more sensitive was President Zelaya’s intention to reform the constitution in regard to mining and natural resources. These measures obviously could have affected foreign mining companies, among them companies like Canadian Goldcorps, Breakwater Resources and Yamana Gold. Zelaya’s decision to join PetroCaribe meant that Esso and Shell lost US$200 million a year in revenue.
The Empire did not like Zelaya’s decision to joint ALBA, proposed by Venezuela to promote Latin America integration free of the North’s tutelage. History shows that Washington has never tolerated Latin American people showing autonomy and designing their own development projects.
Manuel Zelaya spoke of negotiations to close the infamous military base Soto Cano, from which the Empire intervened in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. The fact is that Honduras constitutes a key enclave for the Empire to abort any democratic reform process in the region. The intervention of the American ambassador in organizing the coup in Honduras has been proved. The Honduran military who deposed and kidnapped Zelaya were trained in the USA’s military schools.
The Canadian government reacted ambiguously and slowly to the coup, in spite of almost unanimous condemnation by the international community. From the beginning the Minister for the Americas, Peter Kent, was reluctant to demand the unconditional restitution of Manuel Zelaya to his post. On the contrary, Kent has insinuated that President Zelaya is co-responsible for the coup and that his presence in Honduras might be conflictive.
Having in mind all these factors, the Festival Salvador Allende Organizing Committee asks the Canadian government to implement the following:
- To clearly denounce the coup in Honduras.
- To deny recognition to Roberto Michelletti’s de facto government
- To demand the immediate and unconditional restitution of Manuel Zelaya as the legitimate president of Honduras.
- To suspend all aid programs to the illegal Honduran government, especially military aid.
- To clearly demand an end to the military, paramilitary and police repression of the Honduran people.
- To demand reparations for the Honduran victims of human rights violations.
- To demand the application of the international law to those responsible for human right violations.
With Salvador Allende in our memory, we stand with President Zelaya and the Honduran people
We say NO to military coups in Latin America!
Long live the Latin American people!
Festival Salvador Allende Organizing Committee.
Toronto, September, Friday 11, 2009
Salvador Allende’s Legacy Opens Roads to a Free Society
By Carlos Ulloa
Dear friends, we are closing the first day of our commemoration – the 36th anniversary of the coup in Chile which put an end to the Popular Unity government and the life of President Salvador Allende. Today, when winds of change are again blowing through Latin America, it is necessary to remember Allende’s legacy and consider whether his government’s measures, taken to resolve major problems of Chile in the seventies, are valid today.
First, let us highlight the fact that Allende and the Popular Unity openly declared during the presidential campaign that their program proposed deep changes with a socialist orientation, and that these changes, given the specific characteristics of Chilean society, should be implemented by gaining the republic’s presidency through an electoral process. The implementation of the program was to be done with full respect of democratic rights and individual freedom for all citizens.
The thousand days of Allende’ government mirrored this commitment; there was an absolute respect of these constitutional guarantees. In Allende’s Chile the opposition enjoyed broad freedom, and there was no practice of torture whatsoever. There was absolute freedom of expression, association, public meetings, and – very importantly – freedom for all religious creeds. In sum, there were three years of democracy as participative as the country had ever seen.
Today we see the same democratic commitments in the Bolivarian revolution, in Evo’s Bolivia, in Funes’s government in El Salvador, in the Correa and Ortega administrations, and we also saw them in the short- lived government of Presidente Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.
A second element must be highlighted: Allende tried consistently realize the program that he had promised to his people:
- He nationalized natural resources, specifically the large copper mining industry which was, until 1971, in the hands of American companies. The copper revenue, the so-called “salary of Chile,” was to finance the national development for the benefit of all Chileans.
- In less than a year Allende implemented a radical agrarian reform, expropriating the latifundia from the landlord class and making a reality of Emiliano Zapata’s demand that “the land is for those who work on it.”
- The Popular Unity created a socialized sector of the economy made up of state enterprises and industrial monopolies expropriated by law, with the goal of creating a strong nucleus for the future socialist economy.
- Allende nationalized private banking to democratize the access to credit.
- His government undertook a drastic reform of foreign trade in order to encourage Chilean trade with all countries, breaking away from its dependency on U.S. markets.
- As proof that Chile at last had an independent foreign policy, on the first day of his government Allende reestablished diplomatic relations with socialist Cuba.
- Salvador Allende implemented a national rent redistribution program in favor of the working class; he created a vast program of social housing and guaranteed free access to health care and public education. Very importantly the workers, for the first time in the country’s history had access to university studies thanks to an agreement signed by the government and the Central Union of Workers.
- Allende’s government initiated the devolution to the Mapuches of their ancestral land, process that was interrupted by the dictatorship and today is still pending.
- We should mention a measure that perhaps here in the North may not have relevance: in Allende’s Chile every child had the right to a half-liter of milk daily, without cost.
- People’s participation in national affairs deepened. New instances of participation were the administration councils of the socialized enterprises, communal peasant councils, neighborhood committees and mothers’ centers. The unionization of peasant and urban workers drastically increased. The percentage of unionized workers reached 30% in 1973, the highest ever.
Salvador Allende led a democratic, anti-imperialist and internationalist government, which retook Bolivar’s project. For the second time in Latin America after Cuba, a government to openly tried to build a socialist society. This task finds its continuity today in the Venezuelan socialist project.
However, history has taught us that when a popular government challenges or intends to challenge the interests of trans-national corporations and oligarchies, as the in the Honduran case, it does not matter if this government was generated by a popular armed rebellion or by elections. An anti-democratic plot is immediately on the move to overturn it.
It didn’t matter that the Cuban revolution was a response to a corrupt tyranny. It didn’t matter that Nicaragua Sandinistas defeated a dictator who had transformed the country into his personal property. It doesn’t matter that Hugo Chavez has passed the test of 10 democratic elections and that his government drastically reduced Venezuelan people’s poverty. Nor does matter that Evo Morales has restored the indigenous people’s dignity. It doesn’t matter that Manuel Zelaya did not want to be reelected.
The Empire and the oligarchies don’t forgive, because the economic interests at play are immense. And if the people don’t grow stronger, do not learn, do not resist and defeat interventions and conspiracy, they pay for it dearly. Allende paid with his life and the Chilean people through brutal human rights violations; Manuel Zelaya has paid with his exile and the Honduran people with a bloody repression.
However, the need for change is alive in Latin America. Its people can no longer continue to live in poverty, witnessing how their natural resources are sucked dry by the voracity of the trans-national corporations. Sooner rather than later our people will find ways to put an end to poverty, oppression and inequality. When this happens the legacy and memory of Salvador Allende will be with there, opening the wide avenues through which free women and men will march on toward a just society.
Long live Salvador Allende!
Long live the Latin American people!
Long live President Zelaya and the Honduran people!
No more coups in Latin America!