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“[W]e’re going to give Allende the hook”

The Nixon Administration’s Response to Salvador Allende and Chilean Expropriation[i]

Almost forty years after the military coup d’état that ousted the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, historians are still striving for a thorough and nuanced understanding of U.S.–Chilean relations between 1970 and 1973.  Not surprisingly, many students of the period have focused on the more dramatic aspects of the story, namely, the role of the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of State in trying to prevent Allende’s election via the covert actions known as Track I and Track II and the complicity of the CIA and the Nixon administration in the military coup of September 11, 1973 that ushered in the Pinochet regime.  Unfortunately, this emphasis has come at the expense of a thorough examination of U.S. foreign policy during the three years of Allende’s presidency.

The often-overlooked Nixon Tapes, which were in operation for approximately 85 percent of Allende’s tenure in office, are one source that can help re-focus the debate on U.S. policy, particularly the Nixon Administration’s response to the Allende Government’s expropriation policy.  To that end, is pleased to bring you a selection of over 80 pages of excerpted transcripts on Chile and Allende.

For the first time, we are pleased to make the collection of annotated transcripts available as a downloadable briefing book. To download all of the transcripts, click here.

This briefing book should be considered only as a starting point for tapes research on Chile.  To facilitate future research, we have also prepared a comprehensive list of all declassified Nixon Tape conversations related to Chile and Allende here, with tape logs and the accompanying audio for complete conversations.

List of Conversations with Synopses of Transcribed Excerpts

For a key to participants’ names, click here (136k).

Conversation Date Participants Audio
460-027 2/26/71 P, HAK clip1 (1m, 1:04)

The earliest mention of Allende on the taping system concerned the possibility of having the U.S.S. Enterprise make a port of call at Valparaiso, Chile.[ii] In spite of the fact that Allende had been in office for less than four months, relations between the Chilean and U.S. government were already abysmal. Nixon curtly dismissed Allende’s offer to show U.S. sailors “authentic democracy” as being used for the “worst, damn propaganda purposes.”

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Over the course of a wide-ranging discussion of political affairs in Europe and Latin America, DCI Helms warned the President of the “wave” of radicalism throughout Latin America following, among other things, the election of Allende, and he advised the President against taking a softer line against Cuba. Nixon heartily concurred, lamenting the fact that the Catholic Church, both in Latin America and in the United States, was no longer serving as a bulwark of conservatism and stability in the region. Nixon also gave vent to his oft-expressed belief that “Latins” (be they European or American) required “strong leadership” in order to function effectively.

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245-006 4/6/71 P, HAK clip1 (2.2m, 2:16)
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Following the resounding victory of the Allende bloc in the Chilean municipal elections (49.5% of the total vote), Nixon and Kissinger surveyed the damage and ruminated on future developments.[iii] Although Allende had come to power legally, Kissinger opined that he would follow the “German strategy” of gradually eliminating dissent in order to create a “fascist” state. Kissinger then lamented the position of the State Department, which had doggedly supported the Christian Democrats at the expense of conservative candidate (former President Jorge Alessandri), even though the only thing that distinguished Allende from his predecessor, Eduardo Frei, was that the latter was a Catholic, i.e. a Christian Democrat. Nixon concurred and laid some of the blame for Allende’s election on the U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry, who, Nixon charged, had allowed his “liberal Democrat” biases to color his judgment in favor of Frei.[iv] Ironically, although Korry had played no role in the CIA operation to prevent Allende’s election, the Ambassador was fanatically opposed to Allende, cabling Washington after the election that, “There is a graveyard smell to Chile, the fumes of democracy in decomposition. They stank in my nostrils in Czechoslovakia in 1948, and they are no less sickening today.”[v] Rather than risk having Korry (a former journalist) speaking out, however, Nixon advised buying his silence by reappointing him to another ambassadorial post.

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Nixon’s concerns regarding Korry proved well founded, when Korry wrote a letter of complaint to Nixon once he learned of the President’s decision to replace him. Nixon emphasized to Kissinger that it was imperative that Korry be appointed, at least “until after the [1972 Presidential] election,” since the ambassador “has a hell of a lot of information of what we did down there.”

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517-004 6/11/71 P, HAK, HRH clip1 (1.6m, 1:41)
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Following a meeting regarding U.S. policy on expropriation on the Presidential yacht Sequoia on June 10, 1971 (details of which have yet to be declassified) the Administration’s hard-line position gradually began to take shape.

A number of important meetings took place the day after the Sequoia meeting. During this first meeting, Nixon and Kissinger discussed Chilean attempts to secure new loans and renegotiate their existing obligations. Nixon fumed over the unwillingness of the Congress to do more for Brazil, which, in contrast to Chile, was led by “friends” of the United States. Nixon and Kissinger also discussed the assassination of the former Chilean Cabinet Minister, Edmundo Pérez Zujovic, on June 8, 1971 by a Chilean anarchist group, Vanguard of the People. Nixon and Kissinger chuckled at the Allende’s accusation that the CIA had orchestrated the assassination, noting that Zujovic was a conservative opponent of Allende, and probably the last person the U.S. Government would want to assassinate. Besides, as Kissinger noted, the CIA was too “incompetent” to pull off such an operation, recalling that the last person whom the CIA assassinated had lingered for three weeks before expiring.[vi]

Rather, both Nixon and Kissinger feared that Allende was behind the assassination and would use the event as a fraudulent casus belli to declare martial law and establish a “one-party government.” Kissinger brought up the example of Hitler again, asserting that Allende was gradually taking control of the media and eliminating the military as an independent actor by “building them up while neutralizing them.” Although Nixon shared Kissinger’s fears, oddly enough, he opposed establishing closer ties with the Chilean military, since he believed U.S. efforts to cultivate it had heretofore been an abject failure. Finally, the President instructed Kissinger to bring in Secretary of the Treasury John Connally for meeting in the Oval Office, since Nixon was sympathetic to Connally’s position of taking a hard line on expropriation.

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517-020 6/11/71 P, HAK, JBC clip1 (2.6m, 2:39)
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Connally soon joined Nixon and Kissinger in the Oval Office, where he propounded at great length upon the threat posed by Allende’s nationalization policy to American interests elsewhere in the region.[vii] Nixon shared with Connally his frustration with the IMF and World Bank, which he believed were not doing enough to use their financial leverage against Third World nations that had or were pursuing nationalization without adequate compensation.

Neither Connally nor Nixon realistically expected that the U.S. Government could use force to coerce other nations into abandoning nationalization. In that sense, their positions were not dissimilar from those expressed by State Department. The difference lay in the fact that Connally urged the President not to passively accept nationalization without compensation. Only energetic action could set an example for other nations considering following Allende’s lead: “And the only thing, the only pry we have on ’em, the only lever we have on ’em, it seems to me, is at least if we could shut off their credit, or shut off the markets for the commodities they produce, or something. But we have to be in a position to impose some economic sanctions on ’em. Now, you can’t impose military sanctions, but we can impose financial or economic sanctions.” In light of the opposition of the State Department and its Latin American Division (which Nixon described as a “disaster area”), Connally suggested the possibility of the President “issuing a statement, a statement of policy—a White Paper, so to speak—in which he instructs all the government that as a matter of policy, this government will not vote for, nor favor, any loan to any country that has expropriated American interests, unless until that country is furnishing good and sufficient evidence that satisfactory payment has been made.”

Nixon heartily concurred, adding that a failure to take tough action was “going to encourage others to go and do likewise.” Consequently, it made sense to establishing a precedent and “find a place to kick somebody in the ass.” Rather than indulge Allende’s excesses, Nixon was happy to let the Soviets shoulder the burden: “Let it be a drain on the Russians. I just have a feeling here that I think we ought to treat Chile…like we treat this damn Castro.”

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517-022 6/11/71 P, HAK, HRH clip1 (1.2m, 1:12)

Following his conversations with Kissinger and Connally, Nixon was no mood to hear about the State Department’s objections. Upon being informed that Secretary of State Rogers opposed Connally’s suggestion, Nixon snapped: “We sure as hell can do something about expropriation. Don’t you agree, Henry? Should we just simply lie back and let them expropriate things around the world? Screw ‘em.” Kissinger concurred, noting that “unless we become too dangerous to tackle, there’s gonna be a constant erosion of our international position.” Kissinger then harkened back to the days of John Foster Dulles’ tenure at Foggy Bottom (i.e. the period of the coup d’états against Mossadeq and Arbenz), when “people were just too afraid to tackle us.”

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Charles (Charlie) Bluhdorn was Richard Nixon’s kind of businessman: Self-made, confident, well-connected, dynamic, fiercely anti-Communist, and at least rhetorically committed to improving the quality of life for the people who worked for him. Bluhdorn met with Nixon, Ehrlichman, and Secretary Peterson on June 16, 1971 to deliver a personal appeal to Nixon from the president of the Dominican Republic, Joaquín Balaguer. Through Bluhdorn, Balaguer wished to draw Nixon’s attention to the fact that the U.S. Congress had cut the Dominican Republic’s sugar quota, while other nations that had nationalized American firms (such as Peru) had escaped a quota reduction.[viii]

Bluhdorn poured scorn on the position of State Department officials, who claimed that “we [the United States] cannot retaliate against people who mistreat Americans, because the experience of the past has been that when we retaliate against them, then they only escalate against us,” caustically suggesting that, if this was to be the position of the U.S. Government, “perhaps one of the companies we should also start in the Dominican Republic is a company making umbrellas, because perhaps we can supply some of the umbrellas that Mr. Chamberlain used.” Bluhdorn then warned his audience, “if it’s going to become…a free-hunting session, where everybody can feel that they can take anything American away, then we’re really in trouble.”

Nixon expressed complete agreement, telling Bluhdorn: “I have no patience for the attitude… that, with regard to Peru, Bolivia, or Chile, gives them treatment that is the same as the Dominican Republic.” According to Nixon, the State Department was “against Brazil and the Dominican Republic for the wrong reasons. They’re against them because they think they’re both dictatorships. I like them…not because they’re dictatorships, but because they’re friends of the United States.” Nixon then promised that, “Friends of the United States will be rewarded! Enemies of the United States will be punished! And that includes Peru to the extent we can. It includes Bolivia to the extent we can. And it includes, by all means, Chile, to the extent we can. That’s the way the game has to be played.”

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262-005 7/19/71 P, JBC clip1 (1.7m, 1:44)

In order to facilitate Nixon’s policy of handling “friends” in Latin America differently than recreants such as Chile and Bolivia, Connally suggested that Nixon eventually consider a policy of divide-and-rule, whereby the United States would withdraw from the Organization of American States [OAS] in favor of establishing stronger bilateral ties with individual republics. That way, the United States could “put the screws” on expropriating nations such as Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, without “offending” other nations.

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584-003 10/5/71 P, HAK, JBC clip1 (1.7m, 1:45)
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In the wake of the Chilean Government’s decision to effectively reject paying compensation to either Kennecott or Anaconda by retroactively applying $774 million in excess profits taxes, Nixon and Connally decided to take the gloves off.[ix] Connally derided Allende’s actions as a “farce” and advised Nixon that the Chilean President had “thrown down the gauntlet to us. Now, it’s our move.” “I have decided,” Nixon replied, “You give us a plan, we’ll carry it out.” Nixon then vowed that “we’re going to play it very tough with him [Allende],” and that he had “decided we’re going to give Allende the hook.” Connally egged the President on, admonishing him to take tough action against the “enemy” Allende: “The only thing you can ever hope is to have him overthrown, and, in the meantime, you will make your point to prove, by your actions against him, what you want, that you are looking after American interests.” When Nixon promised to make an example of Allende, Haldeman observed that, “It would earn a bit with the rightwing in this country.” After Connally left, Nixon provided a recap for Kissinger’s benefit: “I said, ‘All right, you give us a plan. I’m goin’ to kick ‘em. And I want to make something out of it.’ That’s my view.” When asked for Kissinger’s opinion, Kissinger replied, “I would go to a confrontation with him; the quicker the better…Maybe not in a brutal way, but in a clear way.” He also agreed to work with Connally in order “to figure out the confrontation.”

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587-007 10/8/71 P, JDE, RMH clip1 (2.3m, 2:24)

President Nixon’s hostility toward DCI Richard Helms is well known. As such, the DCI was rarely granted the privilege of a personal meeting with the President. One exception came on October 8, 1971, when, in the presence of Ehrlichman (who was there in the capacity of the President’s lawyer and therefore bound by attorney-client privilege), Nixon and Helms had a wide-ranging conversation covering past and future CIA operations. Nixon had called in his DCI to find out about previous agreements that had been negotiated with the Soviet Union, such as the one that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Nixon had initially tried to delegate the task to Ehrlichman, who apparently served as Nixon’s intermediary with the Intelligence Community. Ehrlichman had, however, been rebuffed by the Helms, who did not want to release the relevant “dirty linen” unless he had assurances about to whom they would be distributed. Over the course of their wide-ranging conversation, Nixon reaffirmed his both commitment to protect the agency, and his support for “dirty tricks”: “We have got to be in a position where if the Russians or the Chinese are in a particular little country trying to screw it up, we can screw it up, too.” Nixon also conceded that more should have been done to prevent Allende’s election in 1970. 

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287-007 10/11/71 P, HAK clip1 (1.3m, 1:18)

Following the Chilean Government’s decision to levy a retroactive excess profit tax on the American companies, Kissinger informed the Chilean Ambassador that “certain consequences” would follow if the Chileans refused to be “reasonable.”

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303-009 10/26/71 P, JBC clip1 (6.7m, 6:59)
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Nixon’s anger at nations that expropriated U.S. businesses often boiled over. “I think we have got to start putting the screws on those damn things,” he exclaimed to John Connally during a meeting at his hideaway office in the Executive Office Building. Nixon was tired of working with multinational organizations such as United Nations (“a total pain in the ass for us”). Despite the fact that the United States effectively bankrolled the U.N., Nixon contended, it never received any credit from nations that received international aid. Rather, these nations expressed their gratitude by, for example, defying the United States and expelling Taiwan from the United Nations.[x]

By then, Nixon had clearly warmed to Connally’s advice to restructure U.S. relations on a bilateral basis: “The United States has got to look after its own interests on a country-by-country basis. The time of a great United States multilateral interest…we aid without conditions and all that; that’s gone. That is utterly gone.” Nixon also expressed his support for an amendment proposed by Senator Russell Long (D-LA), which mandated that all U.S. aid to nations that expropriated American assets be cancelled (at the time, the Hickenlooper Amendment gave offending nations a six-month grace period to take “appropriate steps… to discharge its obligations under international law”).[xi]

Summarizing the foreign policy situation, Nixon emphasized the need to continue the policy of triangular diplomacy, and “to stand up in various parts of the world, and stand up very vigorously for its interests. And, whether it’s with Chile on their expropriation, or whether it’s a vote like this [on Taiwan’s expulsion from the United Nations], where we ask a lot of these goddamn stinkin’ Africans…to come with us, we’ve got to find ways where the United States can, frankly, throw its weight around in an effective way.” Nixon calculated that such a message would resonate with the American public, which wanted the government to “follow policies that keep us from getting kicked around, policies that will look after our selfish interests as against other countries.” Connally shared Nixon’s instincts regarding the political utility of a punitive program: “In a time of frustration and uncertainty and division within the country, you frequently, and more often than not, drive home a position and a feeling and a support—you arouse a support out of a negative position much quickly than you can out of an affirmative position.”

Ironically, Connally then advised Nixon to run on a platform of “change”: “No point in you trying to defend what all is happening. No point in trying to run on your record, so to speak. You got to run in terms of how you’re going to change things. You’re going to kick the hell out of the Chileans, or you’re going to, you’re going to denounce the U.N….” Connally advised that the President to find “some real enemies,” since, in the wake of détente and the opening to the People’s Republic of China¸ “Communism ought not to be your battle.”

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313-021 1/10/72 P, HRH clip1 (1.4m; 1:29)
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A brief discussion of Korry’s future with the Nixon Administration offers a tantalizing, but ultimately inconclusive, hint that Kissinger may have been trying to downplay the extent of his relationship with Korry to the President.[xii] Having been informed by Chief of Staff Haldeman that the National Security Advisor was trying to have Korry appointed to a position with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), Nixon denied that Kissinger was “representing” the President’s wishes, “unless Kissinger’s got some goddamn thing that he pulled with him that he’s trying to cover up.”

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649-001 1/17/72 P, JBC, HRH clip1 (1.6m; 1:40)
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Nixon drew some satisfaction from the election reverse suffered by Allende’s bloc in January 1972, but his fury was once again roused when he learned from Connally that the State Department had defied the President’s instructions by informally notifying the Chilean Government that it could expect successful renegotiation of its foreign debt during the upcoming “Paris Club” meeting.

“I told Henry,” Nixon fumed to Connally and Haldeman, “at the time Allende came in, we were not to do a damned thing to help him. Absolutely nothing!” Connally conceded that there was little the President could do about Chile at the moment, since, in an election year, “you’re operating with your hands tied behind your back now.” That said, while the President could not “do anything about it this year…with another four years you can.”

Although Nixon agreed with Connally, he could not be consoled since State’s end-run had robbed him of his one effective weapon against Chile: “Our major stroke in international affairs is our economics.” In the wake of Vietnam, Nixon realized that stronger action was simply not feasible. “We can’t send men, now, anymore. I mean, as we well know, I hate fighting these damned wars and things, and so…the major thing we can do is squeeze them economically. And, believe me, that can have one hell of an effect. One hell of an effect.” Nixon then reemphasized his determination to defend his prerogatives over matters such as Chile against the meddling of “unelected” bureaucrats at State, and, if necessary, to take the blame for the consequences.

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The day after his meeting with Connally, Nixon reiterated his determination to have the Texan or his deputy, Paul Volcker, lead the U.S. delegation to the “Paris Club” meeting, with the responsibility for ensuring “total reciprocity” from the Chilean Government. Nixon was also unimpressed with the arguments of “soft-headed bastards” who claimed that Allende was “just a reformer” (like Castro before him). “Now, that he [Allende] is elected,” Nixon declared, “and he is expropriating, and he is taking an anti-American attitude in foreign policy, to hell with him, at this point, on renegotiating loans!” A tough stance at the “Paris Club” was the “easy way to take him on,” Nixon judged, because “I’m not taking him on personally; not taking him on rhetoric; we just drag our feet at the negotiation.”

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Apart from continuing the vent his frustrations over State’s duplicity concerning the upcoming “Paris Club” meeting, Nixon reaffirmed his desire “to give Allende the hook.” He also noted that Bill Rogers’ position on expropriation seemed to have moved closer to Connally’s, which had not been the case seven months before, during the June 1971 meeting on the Sequoia (the records of which have yet to be declassified).

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652-013 1/20/72 P, MRL, WCW clip1 (3.9m; 4:06)

During a meeting with Defense Secretary Laird and Army Chief of Staff General Westmoreland, Nixon stressed the need for more “aggressive” action with regard to arms sales in Latin America, since “with the sales…goes the training, goes everything else, and goes the stroke.” Had the United States been more effective at “playing our military friends” in places like Chile, Nixon mused, “Allende might not be there.” Most importantly, the U.S. Government needed to abandon its blanket preference for civilian governments and understand that, under certain circumstances, a military government could better serve a nation’s well-being: “You see, the fiction is that if a government is based on any kind of military support, that it’s, by definition, thereby a bad government. And, of course, the truth is that sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it good. But, if a government is solely civilian…[it] can many times be worse, and also one in which we have no influence.” Nixon also wanted to military attachés and advisers to show greater initiative in cultivating relationships with foreign governments, and follow the example of “imaginative” and “ruthless” General Vernon Walters who, besides having “had a helluva lot to do, as you know, with what happened in Brazil,” was extraordinarily well connected in the region.

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The question of what do with Edward Korry vexed Richard Nixon. On the one hand, he would have been more than willing to reappoint him to another ambassadorial posting, had it not been for the vehement opposition of Secretary Rogers. On the other hand, the Administration could not afford to leave Korry feeling disgruntled, not only because he had intimate knowledge of “how we screwed up Chile,” but also because of Korry’s powerful right-wing media friends, such as William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol. According to Haldeman, Kissinger considered it vital that Korry be reassigned at least until after the 1972 Election, after which, “he [Kissinger] couldn’t care less.”

And yet, this transcript reveals that Nixon and others in the Administration had some regard for Korry’s abilities. Korry had proven himself a valuable asset after leaving Santiago, as a part-time consultant with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Rather than “waste” an ambassadorial posting on him (and risk Rogers’ opposition), Nixon suggested that Korry be detailed to assist Connally in the drafting on important study on “how do we get the raw materials of the world all lined up for the United States?” Nixon seemed genuinely eager to retain Korry on the payroll since, “You’ve got to admit that he’s smart as hell. Very imaginative…he’s articulate, and somewhat emotional, and so forth. But, he’s way above the average State Department [ambassador],” whom Nixon dismissed “as dumb as hell.” Flanigan then broached the idea bringing Korry onto his staff while leaving him on the OPIC payroll.

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320-028 2/8/72 P, JBC clip1 (2.0m; 2:05)

Nixon adamantly refused to relent on the economic pressure the United States was applying on Chile. As far as Nixon was concerned, “[The Chileans] brought this on themselves; they’re ruining the Chilean economy with their expropriation and everything else.” Nixon was deaf to the entreaties of Chilean Ambassador and Leteiler that a hard line on Chile would radicalize the regime.

Backing off was not a viable option, Nixon privately informed Connally, because “it means that we are subsidizing, basically, the Communization of Chile.” Connally concurred, adding that he was happy having the Soviet Union to bail out Chile, since “Russia can’t [even] support themselves…” Both Nixon and Connally had few qualms about the Soviet Union playing a similar role in Chile as it did in Cuba since, as Nixon saw things, “Cuba sucks from Russia a million dollars a day, and that’s one of the reasons we are not going to change our attitude toward Cuba. Let ‘em talk; let ‘em pay a million dollars a day. Now the same with Chile…If they want more support from us, they must come a long way.”

Both men also drew comfort from the Allende Government’s defeat in two by-elections, which was evidence for Connally that Allende was not “doin’ so well down there with his Communization.” Therefore, it was imperative that the United States press its advantage and “just hold his feet to the fire…” Nixon agreed, which was why he fighting the State Department on the issue of Chilean debt renegotiation at the “Paris Club” meeting. Accepting the State Department position, Nixon concluded, “would pull him [Allende] right out of the trouble, or help to pull him out.”

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The Administration was forced into damage-control mode following revelations of collusion between the CIA and International Telephone & Telegraph (IT&T) Company to prevent the election of Allende in 1970.[xiii] Over the course of brief telephone conversation with Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler, Nixon confirmed that Ambassador Korry “had received instructions to do anything short of a Dominican-type [intervention].”[xiv] Korry’s great sin, in Nixon’s mind, was that, “he just failed, the son-of-a-bitch. That’s his main problem; he should have kept Allende from getting in.”

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Nixon was well aware of the economic importance the Soviets attached to détente, which meant that he solicited the views of American businessmen thinking of expanding into the Soviet Union. One prominent example was his old friend and CEO of PepsiCo, Donald Kendall, who had been present at the “Kitchen Debate” with Nikita Khrushchev in 1959.[xv] Kendall had visited the Soviet Union as a member of trade delegation in December 1971, and maintained contact with members of the Soviet Government, including the Deputy Minister for Trade, Vladimir Alkhimov.

Kendall shared his thoughts following such meetings with Nixon prior to the President’s departure for the Moscow Summit of May 1972. Besides the Soviets’ eagerness to rein in arms expenditures and, in Alkhimov’s words, “stop this military shit,” Kendall concluded that, although the Soviets “want to bring about economic relations just with us,” they remained committed to “the spread of Communism.” That said, the model the Soviets would follow in future was not that of Cuba and “confrontation” (i.e. armed insurrection). Rather, Nixon should expect “to see more of the things of the Chile-type takeover,” whereby the Soviets relied on “political suasions,” much like the United States did when “we go around trying to support people that are democracies.”

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An essential aspect of Nixon’s strategy in combating the ideological threat posed by left-wing radicals such Allende and Castro in Latin America was cultivating moderate figures such as Mexican President Luis Echeverria.[xvi]

Echeverria’s own views regarding the economic development of Latin America complemented those of Nixon. He contended that the lack of capital, technology, and research in Latin America could only be surmounted if Latin Americans “produce a system of balanced investments, with shared responsibilities, within a framework of increased and strengthened freedoms,” and rejected “a policy of nationalization of the basic resources of the country,” which Allende had adopted.

Throughout the conversation, Nixon referred to threat posed by Chile and Cuba using the analogy of a disease. He urged Echeverria “to emphasize…in his talk with the business leaders, that they cannot look at Latin America as simply a divisible entity…and if poison afflicts one part of the body, it eventually is gonna affect the other. And, if the poison of Communist dictatorship spreads through Latin America, or the poison of unrest and violent revolution spreads through Latin America, it inevitably will infect the United States.” Nixon returned the theme later in the conversation, specifically alluding to Allende, when he declared “it would be very detrimental to all of us to have the Chilean experiment spread through the rest of the continent,” and become “the wave of the future.”

Nixon also admonished Latin Americans to abandon policies that discouraged foreign investment, and to face up their “responsibility to provide stability in government and some guarantee for the protection of the right kind of private enterprise…just as is the case in his country.” Although Nixon claimed not to “judge” Allende or to “know what his plans for Chile may be in the future,” he noted that a major consequence of Allende’s policies had been the flight of foreign capital from the country. Nixon conceded that the Chileans were welcome to live with the consequences of their actions, but he warned that, “if the Chilean experiment is repeated in varying degrees in other Latin American countries,” major American business would be loath to invest in the region, since “this instability in government, the fear of revolution, of expropriation, now makes companies hold back.”

Nixon concluded his discussion by asking Echeverria put himself forward as a moderate alternative to the Communists and radicals: “Let the voice of Echeverria, rather than the voice of Castro, be the voice of Latin America.”[xvii]

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026-008 7/26/72 P, GPS clip1 (1m; 1:19)

George P. Shultz became the secretary of the treasury after John Connally stepped down in May 1972 to head the “Democrats for Nixon” campaign. In this phone conversation, Nixon brought his new treasury secretary, Shultz, up to speed that his agency should “oppose loans to any country that expropriates” and “any country that has kicked us around.” Shultz and Nixon lamented the State Department’s noncompliance or “claws” against Nixon’s preferred policy of dealing toughly with countries that did not fall into line with U.S. interests.

Transcript | Summary 


751-014 7/24/72 P, et al. clip1 (2.9m; 2:58)

Whatever else one might say about the 1972 presidential election, the choice could not have been starker in Nixon’s mind. In a private conversation with Republican aides and backers, Nixon accentuated the fundamental and irreconcilable ideological differences between himself and George McGovern in terms of foreign policy and the role of the United States in the international system.[xviii] According to Nixon, besides the fact that McGovern was “a man who very honestly and sincerely believes that American should withdraw from its world role,” McGovern, and the political Left more broadly, were guilty of maintaining double standards, which was obvious if one studied “what he [McGovern] said about Chile, and about Allende and Castro, as compared to what he said about Greece.”[xix]

Nixon argued that McGovern’s condemnation of the Greek junta “enormously appeals to his constituency, because they are against dictators if they’re on the Right, but not if they’re on the Left.” Besides being incredibly irresponsible, since it would deal a “body blow” NATO and “deny us the only base from which we have to have a viable policy in the Mediterranean, and in the Mideast” (especially its oil), there was the matter of  “consistency”: “He [McGovern] says that what we ought to do is to improve our relations with Allende, and improve our relations with Castro, despite the fact that they are engaged in activities that are very detrimental to us. So you see the double standard there.”

Transcript | Summary 


Other Resources:

The views presented here do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government. This briefing book utilizes only a portion of the tape materials on Chile. Although we have reviewed each conversation multiple times, readers are encouraged to consult the audio and come to their own conclusions. We would welcome transcript corrections or additions at


[i]As of the writing of this briefing book most of the tapes dating from February to July 1973 have yet to be declassified. Specifically, Allende was in office 1,042 days, from his inauguration on November 4, 1970 to his death on September 11, 1973. In Washington, Nixon’s taping system started in the Oval Office on February 16, 1971 and ended on July 18, 1973—883 days, all of which took place while Allende was in office. One recent study that has utilized some of the Nixon Tapes on Chile is Lubna Zakia Qureshi’s Nixon, Kissinger, and Allende: U.S. Involvement in the 1973 Coup (Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 2008). The authors wish to thank Dr. Qureshi for providing draft transcripts of several conversations used here.

[ii] Benjamin Wells, “U.S. Declines Chile’s Invitation for Visit by Warship,” New York Times (February 28, 1971), 3.

[iii] Juan de Onis, “Allende’s Coalition Victor in Local Elections in Chile,” New York Times (April 5, 1971), 1.

[iv] Eduardo Frei was allegedly assassinated during the regime of Augusto Pinochet, who took over after the 11 September 1973 coup d’état against Allende. Alexei Barrionuevo, “6 Accused in 1982 Poisoning Death of Chilean Leader,” New York Times (December 7, 2009), A6.

[v] David Stout, “Edward Korry, 81, is Dead; Falsely Tied to Chile Coup,” New York Times (January 30, 2003), B9.

[vi] It is impossible to positively identify the target referred to by Nixon and Kissinger based on the content of the conversation, although the person in question may have been the former Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean military, General René Schneider. Schneider died three days after a botched kidnapping attempt by right-wing elements of the Chilean military on October 22, 1970. The botched kidnapping was the third attempt by two different groups within the Chilean military, both of which had ties to the CIA. Still, this off-hand reference is circumstantial at best. For more information, please see: U.S. Department of State Freedom of Information website, “Hinchey Report: CIA Activities in Chile,” online: <accessed March 20, 2010>. See also: Peter Kornbluh, The Pinochet File: The Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability (New York: The New Press, 2004), 22–35.

[vii] Connally had prepared a short memorandum for the President’s perusal prior to the meeting, but he apparently did not deliver it. Connally to Nixon, “Expropriations in Latin America,” June 11, 1971, FRUS: 1969-1976, iv: Document 154. The taped conversation covered far more ground than Connally’s memorandum.

[viii] Balaguer was the President of the Dominican Republic from 1960-1962, 1966-1978, and 1986-1996. Bluhdorn, as the head of the Gulf & Western Industries, had a substantial interest in the Dominican sugar industry through the South Puerto Rico Sugar Company.

[ix] Joseph Novitski, “Chile Nullifies Payments for Seized Copper Mines,” New York Times (September 29, 1971), 1.

[x] Max Frankel, “End of China’s Isolation,” New York Times (October 26, 1971), 1. 

[xi] 22 USC 2370.

[xii] Kissinger argued that the 40 Committee that he chaired as National Security Advisor (and which “authorized but did not supervise” U.S. covert actions) had abandoned any attempt to precipitate a coup d’état (Track Two) nine days prior to the run-off vote in the Chilean Congress on October 24, 1971 that would certify Allende’s victory once it became clear that neither the Christian Democratic Party nor the Chilean military had either the means or the inclination to block Allende. White House Years, 653-683.

[xiii] In a story published on March 21, 1972, columnist Jack Anderson referenced two confidential ITT memoranda, one of which stated that a CIA official had tried unsuccessfully to get members of the Chilean military to stage an “uprising,” while the other detailed a conspiracy between ITT executives to put economic pressure on Chile, presumably because they feared that Allende would nationalize ITT’s holdings in the Chilean Telephone and Telegraph Company. “Anderson Alleges Plot Against Allende By I.T.T. and C.I.A.,” The New York Times (March 21, 1972), 23. (ITT’s interests in the CTT were, indeed, nationalized in September 1971. Michael Jensen, “Chile Says it Will Nationalize I.T.T. Unit in Days,” New York Times (September 16, 1971), 13.) In a follow-up story published on March 22 (“ITT Pledged Funds in Chile”), Anderson claimed that ITT had approached both the CIA and the Nixon White House with an offer to spend as much as “seven figures” to prevent Allende’s election. Although the CIA had been receptive to ITT’s overtures, the response from the White House had been “polite but cool.” Finally, Anderson mentioned that, according to an ITT intelligence report, Ambassador Korry had “received a message from the State Department giving him the green light to move in the name of President Nixon.”  “I.T.T. Said to Seek Chile Coup in ’70,” New York Times (March 22, 1972), 25; “I.T.T. is Accused of Having Tried to Influence U.S. Policies in Latin America,” New York Times (March 23, 1972), 16.

[xiv] Following a coup d’état by “Constitutionalist” army officers in April 1965 supposedly aided and abetted by local and Cuban Communists against a right-wing dictatorship led by elements of the Trujillo regime (which had themselves come to power following a coup against Trujillo’s democratically elected, left-wing successor, Juan Bosch), President Lyndon Johnson ordered the occupation of Dominican Republic by a mixed force of U.S. and O.A.S. troops. Fighting lasted until the end of August, after which U.S. troops gradually withdrew.

[xv] President and CEO of PepsiCo, 1971-1986.

[xvi] President of Mexico, 1970-1976. Echeverria spoke with Nixon in the Oval Office in the midst of a state visit that included a speech before a Joint Session of Congress and speeches in New York, Chicago, San Antonio, and Los Angeles. Benjamin Welles, “Mexican Chief Asks for Change in Relations with U.S.,” New York Times (June 16, 1972), 1.

[xvii] The tenor of meeting was clearly in keeping with policy outlined in NSDM 93.

[xviii] Senator (D-SD), 1963-1981.

[xix] On April 21, 1967, a group of Greek military officers staged a coup d’état (the so-called “Colonels Revolt”) to prevent national elections that would have probably produced a center-left government (possibly including members of the Communist Party, which was banned at the time). The junta initially ruled Greece in concert with King Constantine II, until the King fled in December after leading an abortive counter-coup against the military.


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