Saturday, 1 November 2008

Chile: El Mercurio & the Coup

Left-wing Argentine daily Pagina/12 runs an article on documentary El diario de Agustín (dir. Ignacio Agüero), which deals with the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio and its relationship to the Pinochet regime.

One of the most shocking parts of the documentary is when it is mentioned that when Salvador Allende won [the election], Agustín Edwards, the newspaper owner, met Henry Kissinger and the director of the CIA, Richard Helms, with the aim of making it impossible for the socialist leader to take up his post. What interest did El Mercurio have, so that it involved itself in this operation? Agüero explains, "The interest has to have been the defense of their own newspaper because they thought that Allende's government was totalitarian, that it was going to expropriate the paper. In the end, Agustín Edwards was defending his own economic interests...."

Agüero concludes, "we are showing El Mercurio's criminal anticommunism. That is to say, El Mercurio has the right to be opposed to the Communist Party, but what the paper did during the last forty years is a direct action of repression which resulted in deaths among the opponents of the dictatorship".
(Translation mine)
Una historia escrita con sangre

More information on El Mercurio and the coup:
Daniel Brandt writes,
On the day that Helms received his instructions from Nixon, the owner of El Mercurio, wealthy Chilean businessman Agustin Edwards, conferred with top officials of the Nixon administration.61 The El Mercurio network consists of newspapers, radio station, ad agencies, and a wire service; it dominates the Chilean media in audience, size, and prestige, and includes the three principal newspapers of Santiago and seven provincial papers.62 In the seven-month period from September 9, 1971 to April 11, 1972 the CIA spent $1.5 million on El Mercurio,63 but the funding also preceded and followed this period. [...] The El Mercurio network was used by the CIA to "launder propaganda, disinformation, fake themes and scare stories which were then circulated through 70 percent of the Chilean press and 90 percent of the Chilean radio. The USIA and the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) in turn circulated these stories all over the world."67

U.S. Responsibility for the Coup in Chile

Peter Kornbluh points our that declassified documents have shown that,
  • Even before Allende was inaugurated as president of Chile, Edwards came to Washington and discussed with the CIA the "timing for possible military action" to prevent Allende from taking office.
  • President Nixon directly authorized massive funding to the newspaper. The White House approved close to $2 million dollars - a significant sum when turned into Chilean currency on the black market.
  • Secret CIA cables from mid-1973 identified El Mercurio as among the "most militant parts of the opposition" pushing for military intervention to overthrow Allende.
  • In the aftermath of the coup, the CIA continued to covertly finance media operations in order to influence Chilean public opinion in favor of the new military regime, despite General Pinochet's brutal repression.
The El Mercurio File

By the way, El Mercurio is still going strong, and if you want to read it, it's here.

1 comment:

Andreas Varagoulis said...

Great piece and lots of information. I'm doing a little research on SIP-IAPA's role in Latin America and generally corporate media's involvement into politics. Do you have anything else which might help me?

Thanks in advance