Senator Isabel Allende. Photo by Socialdemokrater.
Chile, News Briefs, Southern Cone

TV Report on Salvador Allende’s Death Angers Family

June 1, 2011 By Mari Hayman

Senator Isabel Allende. Photo by Socialdemokrater.

A Chilean state television program speculating that former Chilean President Salvador Allende was murdered during the Sept. 11, 1973 coup has angered members of Allende’s family, one week after the former president’s body was exhumed by an international team of forensic experts to determine the cause of his death.

Chile’s TVN aired a “Special Report” on Monday night dedicated to Allende, whose democratically-elected socialist government was forced out by a violent military coup that led to the country’s 1973-1990 dictatorship. The program featured two forensic experts who argued that President Allende had been hit by a smaller-caliber weapon in addition to the AK-47 with which he presumably took his own life. TVN asked the forensic experts to analyze a 300-page military review that was reportedly found when a house belonging to Chilean military prosecutor Col. Horacio Ried was demolished by last year’s earthquake. The document includes ballistics reports, photos and witness testimony, as well as the original autopsy report that has long been public.

Senator Isabel Allende, one of President Allende’s daughters, called TVN’s report on her father’s death “extremely imprudent” and said it was “shameful that a public television channel would conduct a completely speculative investigation, and not allow the judicial and scientific team that, for the first time, is doing a serious investigation about the death of my father, to work.”

On May 23, Allende’s body was exhumed by forensic experts to determine whether the former president had been murdered or if he took his own life during the military’s 1973 aerial bombing of the presidential palace, La Moneda. The investigation is expected to be completed within 90 days, and has not yet reached a conclusion. Many of those who were with Allende before his death have died or were disappeared during Chile’s dictatorship.

Senator Allende said Tuesday that she would pursue action against TVN in Congress, and had already complained to TVN’s director, Mauro Valdés, before the program aired.

Over time, Allende’s family has come to support the theory that the former president shot himself. “What we’ve said all these years: our conviction is that President Allende made the decision to die as a gesture of political coherence to defend the mandate given to him by the people”, Senator Allende announced in a public statement last week after the exhumation of her father.

Despite the Allende family’s objections, Eduardo Contreras, a lawyer and member of the Central Committee of Chile’s Communist Party, said the TVN program reinforced that there were still “legitimate doubts” about the causes of Allende’s death. “Allende doesn’t only belong to his family, but to all Chileans, all forces of democracy in the country and in Latin America,” he said.

The Allende family supports the investigation of President Allende’s death by Judge Mario Carroza, whom Senator Allende said has been investigating the military documents featured on TVN for some time. Carroza’s investigation has been ongoing since January as part of a larger investigation into 726 deaths that occurred during Chile’s dictatorship.

Photo: Socialdemokrater @ Flickr.