by Carmen Aguirre, as dictated to & edited by Rachel Steinberg
Organized resistance to Pinochet’s dictatorship began in 1976, three years after the coup. Between 1973-1976, any resistance to the coup was wiped out through imprisonment, torture, murder and/or exile. In 1976, the resistance began to reorganize and, by 1978, an international call was made to Chileans (and their supporters) living in exile to return to Chile and join the resistance.The goals of the resistance were twofold: First, the resistance wished to topple Pinochet and restore democracy to Chile. Second, they wished to pursue Allende’s socialist economic vision for the country. The resistance consisted of people from all social classes, although members came primarily from the working and middle class, First Nations organizations, students, unions, and grassroots organizations. Though these groups made up the bulk of the movement, members of the resistance also included members of the military and clergy. The resistance was multi-generational: the members were as young as fourteen; the oldest in their 90s, equal parts men and women. All were recruited by existing members, and all risked their lives by merely joining the resistance, let alone actively carrying out any underground activity. Operating underground in what was at the time considered the world’s most repressive right-wing regime was life-consuming. It quite often meant carrying fake identification, using a pseudonym, never meeting in groups larger than four, receiving orders via post office boxes, passing on information and goods on street corners and other public places, moving regularly and blending in with the status quo of wherever a member resided. The resistance consisted of a Central Committee, a Secretary General, members and helpers. As it was very difficult to have meetings, opinions were shared through documents received in post office boxes. Only at very critical times were there face-to-face meetings with the membership, such as the Underground Congress mentioned in Blue Box.
By the 1980s, resistance to Pinochet was so widespread that monthly million-strong rallies were commonplace in Santiago and other major Chilean cities. By midway through the decade, calls for general strikes were heeded by over 50% of the population and Pinochet was increasingly isolated from the rest of the world due to an international grassroots boycott of all Chilean goods.
Although Pinochet’s dictatorship ended in 1990, he remained commander in chief of the armed forces and was never tried for crimes against humanity. The neo-liberal economic structure that he put in place remains intact to this day in Chile. It is for these reasons that the resistance believes it lost its struggle.