Oscar Guardiola-Rivera discusses Story of a Death Foretold at 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival
Colombian historian delivers thrilling talk on Salvador Allende's last stand
This article is from 2014.
In Story of a Death Foretold, Columbian historian Oscar Guardolia-Rivera chronicles the rise of Chile's socialist president Salvador Allende and the brutal CIA-supported coup which ousted him. In this electrifying hour, Guardolia-Rivera describes Allende as man animated by 'courage and love' to bring power to the people. He argues that the Chilean president's model of social transformation through democratic means was a greater danger to American capitalist and imperialist interests than Cuban-style communism because it had more chance of spreading across Latin America. Allende, a democratic socialist, pacifist and bon vivant could not be portrayed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger as a revolutionary communist bogeyman a la Fidel Castro. Challenging his authority would require the Cold Warriors in the Pentagon to take a different approach. Trade restrictions, the advice of Chicago School economists, and CIA support of reactionary forces ultimately led to the 1973 coup d'etat, in which Allende was killed and his supporters subsequently tortured and murdered by General Pinochet's men.
In his talk, the charismatic Guardiolia-Rivera does not dwell on the details of the coup itself, instead choosing to focus on personalities and socio-economic forces. We learn of how Pinochet modelled himself on Napoleon, forming his own personal police force and usurping his military rivals at the critical moment. There is the revelation of how 16th century Spanish theologians provided one of the models, via Franco's Falangists, for the neo-liberal economic theory which was put into practice in Pinochet's Chile. Inspiringly, Guardiola-Rivera points out that women led the Chilean people's movement, telling of one female leader who would conjure political rallies into existence by singing in a town square. A crowd would gather and begin dancing to her cumbia, at which point Allende would enter, infusing his opening words with the rhythms and romance of his beloved tango, before slipping into a politics. The story of Allende is a tragic one, but as Guardiolia-Rivera adds, his vision lives on in left-wing movements across South America today. Allende's ghost will not be silenced.
Charlotte Square Gardens, Aug 22.