Born on June 26, 1908 in Chile, Salvador Guillermo Allende Gossens was a physician and politician who was the first Marxists to become president of a Latin American country in a public election. He was involved in Chilean politics for nearly forty years. Allende was a member of the Socialist Party, a senator, deputy and cabinet minister. In 1970 he won the presidency of Chile in a close race.
Allende nationalized industries and attempted to bring socialism to Chile. He had very strained relations between his legislative and judicial branches of government who were against socialism and communism. The Christian Democrats who had managed Allende's presidential election denounced his rule as unconstitutional and called for his ouster by force. On September 11, 1973 the military moved in to oust Allende in a coup. Troops surrounded La Moneda Palace and Allende vowed not to resign. It is reported he committed suicide later on the 11. Civilian authority was not returned to the civilian government and Chile was ruled by a military junta from 1973 to 1990. Many of Allende's supporters were murdered by the thousands.
Allende wanted to improve the economic welfare of Chile's poor. He proposed policies to boost employment and ride social unrest in Chile. He allocated scholarship to Mapuches children to integrate the Indian minority into the education system. He resumed pension and grant payments and implemented an emergency plan to provide for 120,000 residential buildings. Part time workers were granted rights to social security and a proposed price increase on electricity was withdrawn. He restored diplomatic relations with Cuba and political prisoners were granted amnesty. During Allende's presidency, racial tensions between the poor who supported Allende and white settler elite increased.
Although Allende had grand ideas for Chilean reform, the Christian Democratic Party was at odds with his socialist leanings. They accused Allende of leading Chile toward a dictatorship similar to Cuba's. The U.S. was against Allende's close contact with Cuba and the Nixon administration exerted economic pressure plus CIA and US State Department officials were instructed to put "pressure" on the Allende government. It has long been held that the US CIA had a hand in the coup to overthrow Allende and his death was an assassination instigated in part by the CIA.
Allende married Hortensia Bussi in 1914 and they had three daughters.