For the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile against the then president, Salvador Allende, analysis and publications are flourishing. Among them, the journalistic investigation by Francisco Marín Castro (sociologist, writer and director of the newspaper El Ciudadano) and Luis Ravanal Zepeda (forensic doctor), Allende, autopsia de un crimen, recently published in Chile by ediciones Ceibo.
A rigorous work, in historical and symbolic perspective, about the last moments of Allende’s life and the Popular Unity government. We spoke to Francisco Marín Castro about this event.
GC: You have researched for fifteen years the death of President Allende and its symbolic charge. Why did you do it and what were the most outstanding aspects of the research?
FC: On the occasion of the centenary of Salvador Allende’s birth, in June 2008, I published an article in the Mexican magazine Proceso, of which I was a correspondent for almost 20 years, in which I questioned the official version of Allende’s death (suicide) since the background information accepted at the time seemed unconvincing to me. That was the beginning of my investigation into the case.
Shortly thereafter, in September of the same year, the Chilean weekly El Periodista published in full a “forensic meta-analysis” report by the prominent forensic doctor Luis Ravanal Zepeda in which the official version of suicide was scientifically contradicted.
In fact, according to the review of Allende’s autopsy report of September 1973, which remained unknown until the year 2000 and which journalist Monica Gonzalez inserted as an annex in her book La Conjura. The Thousand and One Days of the Coup, it was found that Allende’s skull showed two bullet wounds from two different weapons.
The first of them is associated with a shot from a short gun that leaves a perfect hole in the back of the cranial vault and a second wound, with a high-powered weapon that causes skull bursting, applied in the submental area. The apparent purpose of the latter is to simulate suicide. This report caused worldwide impact and brought the issue of the causes of Allende’s death back into the public debate.
This first inquiry by Dr. Ravanal has never been scientifically disputed and, in fact, this forensic physician was awarded at the World Congress of Forensic Medicine (Seoul, October 2014) as the best speaker for his report on the causes of Allende’s death. Unfortunately, this distinction, the highest that can be awarded by forensic science worldwide, was never highlighted by the Chilean and international press, as it has happened with all the antecedents that point to prove that Allende did not commit suicide.
Anyway, after the publication of the September 2008 meta-analysis I approached Dr. Ravanal whom I interviewed for Proceso and we built a working relationship on this matter that led to the publication, in September 2013, of the book Allende: I will not surrender. The historical and forensic investigation that rules out suicide, with Ceibo publishing house.
This book was published in the context of the 40th anniversary of the military coup and in the midst of the closing of the “Allende case” by the Chilean justice system. This trial was led by special judge Mario Carroza who in September 2012 definitively dismissed the case, establishing suicide as the cause of death, a decision subsequently ratified by the Santiago Court of Appeals (July 2013) and by the Supreme Court (January 2014).
However, Chilean justice was never able to resolve the controversy raised by the existence of two different gunshots in Allende’s skull, in addition to omitting a real constellation of evidence pointing to homicide, which we make known in our various reports and books, the latest of them recently published by Ceibo: Allende, Autopsia de un Crimen (June 2023).
GC: The coup d’état in Chile marked a turning point in Latin America and Europe. And much has been discussed about the reasons that led to the fall of the Popular Unity government. What is your analysis?
FC: The subject is very broad and difficult to resolve even today, but what is indisputable is that the Popular Unity program, the Chilean way to socialism, represented a change in the configuration of power for the benefit of sectors that had been left behind for centuries, which obviously provoked the fury of the Chilean financial mercantile oligarchy.
Furthermore, the Chilean example, in an area considered by the United States as its “backyard”, determined the involvement of this power in destabilizing plans even before Allende took office, as evidenced by the “Hinchey Report on CIA Activities in Chile.
“Evidently there are other causes, such as the fact of pretending to carry out such deep changes without considering a replacement of the 1925 political constitution, which was a straitjacket that hindered changes and gave too great a role to political parties to the detriment of citizen communities”.
GC: What remains of that resistance in Chile today?
FC: Today, the political class as a whole is totally discredited, including the left-wing parties. Resistance to the model can be seen in the environmental struggles against predatory companies, in the struggle of sectors of the native peoples for control of their resources and political autonomy, in the rebellion of young people, especially high school students, fed up with social inequality and the deficiencies of the educational model, and in the citizen struggles to shape a new constitution that gives voice and protagonism to citizen communities. However, the ongoing constituent process is controlled by the political class and it is foreseeable that its proposal will be rejected next November, when it will be put to a plebiscite.
GC: How do you see the political situation within the Latin American and international context?
FC: The government of Gabriel Boric—who heads a coalition of left and center-left parties—which came to power 17 months ago in the midst of a post social outburst environment starting in October 2018, with broad yearnings for change, has been diluted over the months, becoming an administrator of the neoliberal model. He even sponsored and signed the trade integration treaty known as TPP-11 which entails huge renunciations of our sovereign rights as a State in favor of large corporations, despite the fact that when Boric was a deputy he had been one of its most visible opponents.
“In the area of international relations, Boric has aligned himself with the United States, distancing himself from the new leftist governments of the region, such as those led by Gustavo Petro in Colombia and Lula da Silva in Brazil.
Source: Al Mayadeen