Morandé 80

Logotipo Morandé 80
By Jorge Escalante Hidalgo

On Tuesday, September 11, 1973, President Salvador Allende arrives at La Moneda Palace just minutes after 7:00 a.m. He was alerted to troop movements in Santiago during the previous night. From the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Navy had taken control of the streets of Valparaíso.

The president enters the palace accompanied by some members from his Group of Personal Friends (Grupo de Amigos Personales, GAP). He is already wearing a protective helmet and carrying his AK-47 rifle.

The helmet belonged to his naval aide-de-camp, Commander Arturo Araya Peeters. Commander Araya was wearing it on the morning of June 29, 1973, to protect himself from the uprising of the Army tanks that tried to overthrow the Popular Unity government, but he cedes it to the president.

Allende summons his ministers to arrive urgently at the palace. Others arrive early of their own free will. A large group of his GAP stands next to him; weapons shouldered.

Seventeen members of the Investigative Police, serving in the Presidential Section of the Republic, with Juan Seoane as their chief, remain with the Head of State as his escorts.

Dramatic hours begin to unfold in La Moneda. Allende receives the latest information. Military forces begin to advance from the south and north to surround the seat of government with the intention of pressuring the president to surrender.

Around 9:00 a.m., Allende’s private secretary, Miria Contreras Bell, affectionately known as La Payita, leaves her residence in Cañaveral, in the Andean foothills of Santiago. She is accompanied by her son Enrique Ropert and the head of the GAP, Domingo Blanco, whose political name is Bruno. Some GAPs ride next to her in another vehicle. They try to enter La Moneda through the door located at Morandé 80, but it is closed. They are detained by Chile’s uniformed national police, the Carabineros, at the entrance gate and taken to the Intendencia de Santiago (Regional Government building), across the street.

Using a ruse, Miria Contreras managed to get out of that place and enter the palace. Domingo Blanco and her son Enrique do not make it out. Blanco will never be seen again. Ropert will be executed days later, and his body found on the banks of the Mapocho River.

Aides-memoires demand accountability

At 8:30 a.m., the president’s three aides-de-camp, Army Lieutenant Colonel Sergio Badiola, Navy Commander Jorge Grez, and Air Force Group Commander Roberto Sanchez, are sent to La Moneda by their commanders-in-chief. Their mission is to demand the president’s resignation. They tell him that an Air Force plane is available for him, his family, and select authorities to leave the country and seek asylum elsewhere. The only condition is that the country be on the American continent.

The president, carrying his AK rifle on his shoulder, listens to the aides-de-camp and tells me that he will not surrender:

“I want to be very clear”; he says, “I am not giving up. I can, however, talk to the three commanders-in-chief if certain conditions are met. I hope you will convey this message accordingly when you leave this place. They won’t get me out of here alive. With this rifle, I will defend myself to the end. And I will fire the last shot myself here in my mouth”.

(According to declarations of the aides-de-camp referred to in the role process: 1032-73 of the First Military Prosecutor’s Office of Santiago, Prosecutor Joaquín Erlbaum, initiated on September 12, 1973. In this process, testimony is provided by all those who survived the events at La Moneda, as well as by the military officers who assumed control of the palace after the bombing.

Some GAPs impede the passage of the aides-de-camp who advance to leave the palace. The president loudly orders them to let them leave.

General Augusto Pinochet, commander-in-chief of the Army, leads the coup from the Telecommunications Regiment, east of Santiago.

Minutes after the meeting with the aides-de-camp, on Pinochet’s orders, Admiral Patricio Carvajal calls President Allende from the Ministry of Defense to insist on his surrender. Allende refuses again. He responds harshly: “Go to hell, Admiral”.

The last lunch

On the noon of Monday, the 10th, Allende orders the television and radio stations to go on the air the following day, September 11. President Salvador Allende addresses the country through a national broadcast, announcing a plebiscite aimed at reforming the Political Constitution of 1925. He plans to submit his “Bases for the Reform of the Political Constitution of the State” to a citizen vote. Allende and his collaborators had been preparing these proposals since 1972.

Allende has accepted some proposals from the opposition Christian Democratic party to reform some parts of his government program. In doing so, he sought to broaden the social and political base of support for the government. He was also trying to avoid the imminent coup d’état.

“With or without the agreement of the Christian Democratic Party (Democracia Cristiana, DC) or the parties of the government coalition Popular Unity (Unidad Popular, UP), President Allende was determined that the path to be followed by the country should be the decision of all citizens.” This is recalled by his closest advisor, the Spaniard Joan Garcés, in his book Allende y la experiencia chilena [Allende and the Chilean Experience] (Editorial Ariel, Barcelona, 1976).

Garcés narrates in his book what the president said:

“I intend to address a message to the country. I have summoned you so that we can see if we can do it tonight. The official radio and television networks are already in place. It is very important and must be well prepared. Therefore, it may be more convenient that I speak tomorrow at noon. In any case, I want to do so before the National Council of the Christian Democratic Party meets tomorrow afternoon. The Christian Democrats should be aware of my views before they start the session”.

At 10:30 a.m. on the morning of the 11th, Allende summons all those who were present in La Moneda at the time to an urgent meeting in the Toesca Room.

He tells them that his decision is made under his life values: “My decision is to fight to the end together with the GAP comrades.” (Same process, according to surviving Investigations officials).

Minutes later, members of the GAP set up a .30 machine gun on a second-floor balcony facing the Plaza de la Constitución. They fire back as military troops begin to attack the palace.

The palace will be bombarded in 10 minutes

After 10:30 a.m., the director of the Carabineros School, Colonel José Sánchez, contacts Major Claudio Venegas, head of the Palace Guard, instructing him to evacuate all personnel from the Palace. Carabineros were aligning with the Armed Forces, he informs Venegas. He instructs him to remove all institutional weaponry from the guard. What cannot be removed must be destroyed.

The president’s hands remain blackened by gunpowder residue due to the shots fired from his rifle against the armed forces.

He attempts to call his wife, Hortensia Bussi, at their Tomás Moro residence, but he notices that the line was tapped. He then connects directly to the General Staff of Army General in the Ministry of Defense building.

In nearby buildings, from high-rise floors and terraces, loyalist officials fired at the military attempting to overthrow the government.

At 11:00 a.m., Admiral Patricio Carvajal contacts La Moneda with the Minister of Interior and Defense, José Tohá. He informs Tohá that La Moneda will be bombarded in the next ten minutes by Hawker Hunter Air Force planes. It will then be taken over by military forces that surround the palace. The admiral reminds Tohá that Allende had already responded with a series of curse words when he insisted on his surrender.

Tohá relays all of this to the president:

In the face of the threat, tension escalates at the government headquarters. Allende convinces his daughters Beatriz and Isabel to leave La Moneda together with female employees who arrived early that day for work. Only his secretary Miria Contreras refuses to leave his side. The other seventy people or so were frantically searching for safe places to take shelter from the impending bombardment.

Aircraft bombs cause extensive damage and ignite several fires.

Following the air raid, journalist Augusto Olivares, advisor to the President, takes his own life by shooting himself in the head.

Minute of silence for El Perro

Allende realizes that all is lost. He orders all those who remain with him to form a line to surrender. He instructs them to go downstairs and leave La Moneda through the Morandé 80 door. He tells them he will be the last to go down.

The line begins to form. Faces are lined with defeat. Some are crying. The president asks La Payita to lead the line. They look for a piece of wood and a white apron for her to raise up on her way out. It is the irrevocable surrender, shattered dreams, wrapped in the flames of the palace that sheltered them.

Before the descent begins, Allende makes a gesture full of emotion. He takes off the helmet of his aide-de-camp killed the prior July 26, and asks for a minute of silence in homage to his advisor Augusto Olivares: the beloved Perro.

Despite the anguish and the brutal blow with no return that they received in the last hours, they all look at the President and keep silent. Some lower their heads, others look to the sky amidst the flames.

As in a last wind of hope, Allende shouts:

And where are the people…where are the people…where are the people…!?

But the people are not there…the brigades are not there…the industrial cordons are not there…the communal commands are not there…nobody is there…only those who are still by his side in La Moneda collapsed, now collapsed and in flames.

A bitter silence ensues. The descent down the stairs has begun. Outside, fate awaits everyone. The wolves are loose and hungry.

Allende slipped away to the Independence Hall. The last in line hear him scream…yell…

“Allende doesn’t give up, goddammit!”

(Same process, Fernando Pino Abarca, Investigation Police officer).

One…two shots in a burst. Doctor Patricio Guijón and detective Pedro Valverde run into the room. The door is ajar. The President lies seated in an armchair. His head bowed…shattered…the AK rifle still in his hands.

Statement of Sergio Osvaldo Badiola Broberg (witness)

Last armed resistance

At 2:00 p.m. the military took control of the Government Palace, under the command of Army General Javier Palacios:

“I entered the Palace through the Morandé 80 door, leading part of the forces under my command (…) I observed that on one of the stairs, numerous civilian personnel, including GAP members, doctors, and Investigations personnel, were descending, complying with the surrender order. Another large group continued to resist our actions, firing at us from different rooms on the second floor of La Moneda. I ordered a clean-up operation, unit by unit, and several of the resisters were killed and removed by ambulances of the National Health Service.”

(Statements in the trial of General Javier Palacios).

Outside, soldiers mistreat those who surrendered, forcing them to lie down on the sidewalk. A tank advances to destroy them but stops at close range. It is all over. Now begins what will become a memory…an eternal memory.

Source: Process role: 1032-73 of the First Military Prosecutor’s Office of Santiago, Prosecutor Joaquín Erlbaum, initiated on September 12, 1973.

Ceremony to commemorate 50 years since the coup d 'état

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As of September 9, 2023, a monolith stands in front of the Morandé 80 door of La Moneda, commemorating the 38 people who were detained, disappeared, or politically executed on September 11, 1973. Their names are inscribed on the pavement as a tribute to their bravery and resistance during the bombing of the Government Palace.

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