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Lay for the Day 11th September

1973: a military coup ousts the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, who is shot dead in the presidential residence – whether by his enemies or by his own hand, to avoid capture, has never been established.
The coup was planned and funded by the US government, and many of the leading members of the military junta which took control of the country under the leadership of General Augosto Pinochet were American-trained. In the years of Pinochet’s rule, they distinguished themselves in the abduction, torture and murder of their compatriots. The dead are estimated to number 15,000.
The President of the United States, Richard Nixon, had committed unlimited resources to the toppling of Allende in September 1970, before the new Chilean president had even been inaugurated.
On 1st October 1973, in a situation report to the Department of Defense, Patrick Ryan, US naval attaché, described the coup d’état as “close to perfect”.
On 16th November a briefing paper prepared for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger confides that there were 320 summary executions in the nineteen days following the coup and a total death toll of about 1,500.
The information above is from the pages on Chile on the Virtual Truth Commission website (“Telling the Truth for a Better America”). But even the Encyclopaedia Britannica acknowledges that “the administration restricted Chile's access to international economic assistance and discouraged private investment, increased aid to the Chilean military, cultivated secret contacts with anti-Allende police and military officials, and undertook various other destabilising measures, including millions of dollars in covert payments to Chilean opposition groups in 1970-73”.

People Rose

O the man stood up, the man stood up
And pointing in the face of corruption
He said, “I would recognise you anywhere.”
And those smiling men of reputation
Joined hands and round his feet they wove a snare
And the man went down – the man went down.

And the woman went in, the woman went in
And pointing at the cool board of directors
She said, “Your comfort comes from poisoning our children.”
And those cynic pillars as expected
Denied that their prosperity had killed them
And they put her outdoors – they put her outdoors.

And the man spoke up, the man spoke up,
Saying, “Surely you can recognise your shadow
Begging on the street alongside mine?”
And his friends said, “Come away from the window.
Come on, have another drink, another line.”
And the man fell silent – the man fell silent.

And the silence grew, the silence grew
And covered up the buzzing in the chamber,
The buzzing and the cracks, those long inhuman calls.
The silence grew till no one could remember
The sound of what those words were on the walls
Like Libertad – till a woman stood up.

And the people rose, the people rose
Until at last they outnumbered the triggers,
Saying, “If we die at least we will have lived
As human beings, not as rows of figures
And you can’t take away the lives we give.”
And the people fell – and the people rose.


Words and music by The Children
from Play

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar