Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — Chile

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1973.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central 12:00 am, 28th November 1973

The hon. Gentleman says "Allende"—a president who presided over a country enjoying universal suffrage, who increased his popular vote at the election in 1963 from 36 per cent. to 44 per cent. The hon. Gentleman does not now seek to intervene. Allende was a president who was pledged to carry through a fundamental programme of social and economic reform, who was determined to eradicate from Chilean society that poverty, degradation and humiliation which had been the lot of the Chilean masses for years. He nationalised the copper mines—a terrible offence—which happened to be aided and abetted by all the other parties in the Chilean Parliament; that measure went through unanimously. He nationalised other industries. Was this a reason for the bloody upheaval? He restored the land to the landless. Was this a reason for the upheaval?

Of course, in doing that Allende brought upon himself the unyielding enmity of the Americans, the ITT and other multinational companies, and, of course, all those who were prepared to go along with American policy, like our own British Government. The right hon. Gentleman pooh-poohed the whole idea of the invisible blockade. But aid and credit was blocked. The loan re-scheduling which Allende yearned to achieve was stopped. There is ample evidence to show that, even as Allende was on the brink of coming to power, the Americans had stopped the loan and the aid in the pipelines to Chile. It has to be remembered that much of Chile's immediate difficulties resulted from the borrowings of the Frei régime and those amounted to one-quarter of Chile's export earnings. The reality is that ITT and Kennecott yearned for their revenge. They decided to sabotage the Chilean economy, and they were assisted in that enterprise by those who now seek to sustain the junta to preserve their own economic life. In those circumstances it is hardly surprising that the Chilean economy should come under great strain. It is a great pity that the USSR and China were not more forthcoming in their aid and that they were prepared to allow Chile to decay.

I want to examine the rôle of our own Government. We have heard tonight the clucking noises of distaste for the worst excesses of the régime. They made representations—and a fat lot of good that seems to have done. In the main, however, having aided and abetted the United States and the multi-nationals in the destruction of the Chilean experiment, the Government have taken on a posture of almost complete rigidity. They have abandoned humanity. The right hon. Gentleman says that we cannot take people into our embassy in Santiago because that would create a terrible precedent. It is time that the Foreign Office got its priorities right and changed these ridiculous precepts.

I went to see the Foreign Secretary with some of my right hon. and hon. Friends. He said "What would happen if a number of Jews in Moscow were to seek refuge in our embassy?" We all said "Of course, the right thing to do is to admit them." The right hon. Gentleman says that that is totally impracticable. Over 2,000 Chileans have sought asylum in embassies in Santiago. A number of other nationals have done so as well. The United Nations has been anxious to place refugees. Most Latin American embassies opened their doors. Most European countries within the Nine opened their doors too and responded to that request for the placement of refugees—the Papal Nuncio, Italy, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, France and, above all, Sweden, whose ambassador has led the situation heroically and deserves to be commended for what he has done. I wish that our ambassador had half the guts that that man has shown. The right hon. Gentleman says that it is all unrealistic. How did these people manage to do it if it is so unrealistic? We have had paraded before us yet again tonight the same miserable arguments which indicate this terrible rigidity of mind on the part of the Government.