Carlos Basso and the story of the CIA agent who refused to overthrow Allende: “I found it crazy”

The national journalist and writer presents Ghosts of the CIA, where he rescues the story of agent Henry Hecksher, who opposed participating in the coup to prevent Salvador Allende from coming to power in 1970 .In a conversation with Culto, he comments behind the scenes. behind the scenes of the book and what was the real role of the American intelligence agency on September 11, 1973.

Many Chileans did not know it, but the names of Henry Hecksher and David Phillips They were closely linked to the history of the country. Both Americans, agents of the INC. (Central Intelligence Agency), moved frantically during the tense days between the night of September 4, 1970, when Salvador Allende He obtained the first majority in the presidential elections, on October 24, the day his election was to be ratified by the plenary Congress.

By express order of the President of the UNITED STATES the republican Richard Nixon , The CIA tasked the two men with instigating a coup d’état that would prevent Allende’s rise to power. The reason is obvious. After the experience of Cuban Revolution the giant of the North was not willing to let another country come under the socialist orbit, much less within its own sphere of influence.

However, something happened. Hecksher refused to sign on to this plan, not because he sympathized with the left, but because he considered it complex and unlikely to succeed. This caused him to part ways with the CIA and Phillips had to continue the plan, which ended with the assassination of the army’s commander-in-chief, General Rene Schneider on October 22, 1970, and which failed to prevent Allende’s ratification.

This story is what saves the Chilean journalist Carlos Basso, in his brand new book CIA ghosts, released via the label Aguilar and it is already in bookstores. “I have lived for over 10 years with the central characters of this book, Henry Hecksher and David Phillips, who have already appeared in three of my previous books, and following the last declassification of documents carried out in the context of the John Affair Kennedy, several reports appeared which allowed me to square the circle, particularly in the case of Phillips, on details that I did not know,” says Basso. Worship .

“That’s where I had the idea of ​​writing a book recounting the lives of the two men and their impact on what was modern Chile, but also in Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba and, of course , in the USA. At one point I thought this might be a great story to bring to television, but I couldn’t find anyone interested in doing it, either in non-fiction or fiction form, so I I wrote trying to reflect the Shakespearean tragedy that, in my opinion, lies behind them, especially behind this enormous character that was Henry Hecksher.

Carlos Basso. Photo: Claudio Concha.

-How did you arrive at the story of Agent Henry Hecksher?

-I knew him about 11 years ago, when I was writing The CIA in Chile and, to my great surprise, I began to find documents that included a CIA agent who opposed the coup d’état planned from Washington to prevent Allende from becoming president in 1970, which resulted to an absurd plan whose only concrete effect was the assassination of General René Schneider. Although these were censored documents, some of them had his initials on them and I eventually found some that had his name on them. After that, I started looking for more information about him and realized that I was facing a huge and tragic character who ended his life in the worst way possible, for opposing what he considered to be madness, something which, as he himself had predicted. , it would end in a bloodbath.

-How did the documentary work take place which allowed you to find the attempted coup d’état against Allende in 1970?

-This context is contained in nearly a thousand declassified CIA documents that are part of the collection of 22 thousand documents that the United States declassified in 1999 and which has been growing slowly, so slowly that the latest declassification only included only two documents, which is quite exotic, to say the least. Regardless, these are very valuable documents and, in this sense, we must be grateful for the tradition of freedom of access to information that the United States has, since all these documents are public and anyone with access to the Internet can access it.


-What surprised you about the research?

-Perhaps the most surprising of all is the turn this great character, Hecksher, takes at the end of his life. His friends described him as a man of the extreme right, someone who had participated in the coup d’état in Guatemala, the assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, the Bay of Pigs, etc., but who, as head of the CIA in Santiago, rebelled against instructions. whom he even describes as “stupid”, to the point that they end up marginalizing him from the operation to kidnap General Schneider, after which they dismiss him and accuse him of being a “socialist”. Even when the famous agent Ted Shackley arrived from the East to head the Western Hemisphere Division of the CIA in 1972, he asked why there was a socialist in power in Chile and they replied: “ah, it’s Hecksher’s fault.” He was so demonized that even his name was banned, but I have no doubt that, at least as far as Chile is concerned, he must have gone to his grave with the peace of mind of following the precepts of his conscience.

-What was the most complex?

-Doing work like this is kind of a headache. There are many censored documents, many acronyms, many very complex concepts to understand and therefore understanding the processes described requires a lot of patience and effort to put the pieces together which takes years.

-You propose that the CIA did not have as much to do with the 1973 coup as US defense intelligence did. Why do you think the idea of ​​the CIA as instigator of a coup d’état is very present in the imagination?

-My theory is that there is a confusion, because the CIA not only plotted a coup in Chile, but planned, financed it in its entirety and even supplied the weapons used by the conspirators, but c was the coup d’état of 1970. This is a fact, but in 1973 the CIA’s role was much more limited and, as far as we know today, it had no operational role on 9/11 . But it is also true that between 1970 and 1973, it financed newspapers, radio propaganda, political parties and also the truckers’ movement, among others. This is why it is also difficult to say that she did not play an important role.

-So what was the CIA’s role in the 1973 coup?

-There is a role that comes from before, a process of channeling funds which – be careful – is not very different from the process of the KGB, which in turn financed the Communist Party. The difference, however, lies in the numbers, since the quantities were lower. However, the role of the CIA in the coup was not operational (and I insist that this is what we know so far, given that there are still many documents to be declassified, but tomorrow perhaps evidence to the contrary will emerge), but in addition to channeling funds towards the opposition to Allende, he also, without doubt, provided information to his counterparts in the intelligence agencies of the Forces armed, since the CIA had at least 70 informants spread across all political parties (from the far right to the far left) and processed very detailed information.


-Did the CIA have information on Pinochet?

-Of course. They dealt with many details about him and already in 1969 they classified him as a putschist general, due to his proximity to General Roberto Viaux, but the most relevant document, in my opinion, is the one they wrote in June 1972, after a CIA agent’s informal meeting conversation with Pinochet in Mexico.

In this dialogue, as recorded in the CIA report, Pinochet admitted to them that “Allende must be forced to resign or be eliminated.” If you look closely, that’s what they did on September 11: first they asked Allende to resign, then, as radio recordings from that day reveal, they decided to offer him a plane to get him out of Chile, after which Pinochet adds “but the plane falls”.

Continue reading in Cult

Source: Latercera

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