Documenting U.S. Role in Democracy’s Fall and Dictator’s Rise in Chile

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A phone in the exhibition “Secrets of State: The Declassified History of the Chilean Dictatorship” at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile. Visitors can pick up the receiver to hear a recreation of a conversation between former President Richard M. Nixon and his national security Adviser, Henry Kissinger.Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

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SANTIAGO, Chile — An old rotary phone rings insistently.

Visitors at a new exhibition at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights here in Santiago who pick up the receiver hear two men complain bitterly about the liberal news media “bleating” over the military coup that had toppled Salvador Allende, the Socialist president of Chile, five days earlier.

“Our hand doesn’t show on this one, though,” one says.

“We didn’t do it,” the other responds. “I mean, we helped them.”

The conversation took place on a Sunday morning in September 1973 between former President Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger. The two men were discussing football — and the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government 5,000 miles away with their assistance.

For the exhibition, two Spanish-speaking actors re-enacted the taped phone call based on a declassified transcript.

The chance to listen in on the call is part of “Secrets of State: The Declassified History of the Chilean Dictatorship,” an exhibition that offers visitors an immersive experience of Washington’s intervention in Chile and its 17-year relationship with the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

An enlarged and dramatically lit document sets the tone at the entrance. It is a presidential daily brief dated Sept. 11, 1973, the day of the coup. Its paragraphs are entirely redacted, every word blacked out.

A dimly lit underground gallery guides visitors through a maze of documents — presidential briefings, intelligence reports, cables and memos — that describe secret operations and intelligence gathering carried out in Chile by the United States from the Nixon years through the Reagan presidency.

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Copies of the front pages of dozens of newspapers during the Pinochet era, on view in the exhibition.  Tomas Munita for The New York Times

~~~ CONTINUE READING  ~~~

 

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