Making good on their promise at yesterday’s teach-in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1973 US-sponsored coup in Chile in which the AFL-CIO played an active role bringing dictator Augusto Pinochet to power, union activists today held a noontime rally outside of AFL-CIO headquarters.
The object of the rally was to inform the public by bringing the union’s involvement in the coup to their doorstep and to present a letter and petition to leadership demanding that the union for the first time openly acknowledge their complicity in the coup. The union’s concerted actions in supporting the coup were part of an effort in creating countrywide labor strife which caused undue pressure on the Letelier administration and numerous hardships for Chileans, especially so for the middle class.
Speakers also criticized the union for helping implement US foreign policy objectives without ever consulting with or seeking the approval of the workers they represent. Along with the unions direct action, they pointed out that the newspaper El Mercurio was penetrated through “the placement of CIA members on its staff and in the office” which one activist noted “had two floors of operatives devoted to orchestrating Letelier’s downfall through the media.”
During the rally several activists spoke of the union’s involvement while others handed out flyers to passersby which included a list of their demands. One activist climbed up on a planter and held the letter “A” over the letter “O” on the union’s sign so that it read AFL-CIA calling attention to their involvement with the intelligence agency.
Those demands call for the “Opening of books and report to all US workers and unionists on AFL-CIO operations in Chile and around the world,” to “apologize to Chilean workers and people and compensate the families for the jailing and the murder of their family members.” And finally, to “End all funding of the ‘Solidarity Center’ by the US government and to build real and direct solidarity with workers in Chile and around the world.”
When the rally concluded, several of those in attendance entered the headquarters building and asked permission to be allowed to deliver their petition along with a letter that included their demands to union leaders. This was immediately denied and they were asked to leave the property.
Disappointed by the refusal, none were brow beaten and all promised to continue their struggle to see that the AFL-CIO will accede to their demands in making a full confession of their involvement in the coup. They further hope to see the union create a means by which its members in the future have a clear voice and choice in any such future circumstances that would be used to support or bolster US foreign policy.
Before everyone dispersed, a live report from Santiago told of large crowds of people who headed to Allende’s grave to pay their respects on this day of remembrance having been confronted by police who closed all but one of the entrances and were using teargas to control the crowds.
Photo by Phil Pasquini
(This article has appeared in Nuzeink)
Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.
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