E. Howard Negroponte,
INTERVIEWER: This is tape 10845 continuation of the interview with Mr. Nathaniel Davis. Talk to me a little bit about your personal memories of Salvador Allende the man, what was he like when you met him and what sort of, you know did you have a relationship with him that you could relate to that you could call a friendship or was it purely diplomatic?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: I liked Salvador Allende, he was a very attractive personality, and had a fine sense of humor. He was relaxed in his relationships including his relationship with me. He I remember on one occasion when he went down to the inauguration of some public work and he invited me and the Chinese ambassador, I think he thought that he would kind of twit me because we didn't have relations with China and he piled up a little, tiny little Chilean car he piled me in on one side, the Chinese ambassador on the other, because he wanted to see what would happen. Well he I don't know whether he was disappointed but it didn't bother me talking to the Chinese ambassador. He in that sense he was perhaps teasing and he, we had a good deal of contact in one way or another.
INTERVIEWER: Was he a communist?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Salvador Allende was a socialist and of course his aspiration was the so called Chilean way, which means that one could can carry Chile through a socialist regime, institutionally, and this is one of the reasons why he spent all the money he did in a consumer goods import program, because he was struggling to get the necessary 50% in the elections of the spring of 1972. Because if he had it, if he had a referendum, he could have changed the whole political structure of the country. And he came very close. He got almost 50%.
INTERVIEWER: What did you think personally about the manner of his death and the ferocity of the aftermath of the Chilean
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Of course if affected me. Now so far as Salvador Allende's death it is I think quite clear and I think it is recognized also by virtually everybody in Chile including the Chilean left that he did in fact commit suicide. Now how much I would say, but there is a Latin American tradition that makes that a little, it makes it much better from the point of view of his legacy if he had gone down killed with the guns blazing, but he did I think there is no question that he committed suicide. Now I also in the days after the coup did my best to influence General Pinochet and the Chilean regime to moderate their actions and to observe human rights in a way that I'm sorry to say they did not do. But it was tragic.
INTERVIEWER: I would like, I can't remember although I read your book but I can't remember you were replaced shortly afterwards.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Yes the what happened was you remember that I went up to Washington and Henry Kissinger selected me to be Director General of foreign Service and so then I went up to take up my new responsibilities and the actually left Chile on the last day of October and the coup was the 11th of September.
INTERVIEWER: Looking back on it with the benefit of hindsight, it was an unfortunate piece of timing given the conspiracies that surfaced later about American involvement in the coup which has never been proven, given that what was established was the early attempts to prevent Allende's election and 3 years later after the coup had been successful, there is no evidence of America command. Your replacement for 5 or 6 or 7 weeks later as if thanks for the job well done, and then the conspiracy theories and we've read the books and seen the movies, so do you think that was another ,with the benefit of hindsight, do you think it would have been better handled in a different way?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: By that do you mean I should have stayed in Chile longer? its hard to know I'm not sure if I had stayed in Chile longer that it would have affected the varconspiracy theories that surfaced. It and incidentally the Church Committee, Senator Church's committee access to the most secret of the papers that they discovered track 2 and they came to the conclusion that the United States was not implicated in the coup plot.
INTERVIEWER: The unfortunate tragedy for Chile was that it had rather from being this I think a country with the longest tradition of democracy in the whole region with the exception of the United States and suffered quite a nasty dose of the cold war, to which many neutral observers of which I may be one think it is not over yet, because society is still polarized.. Do you think that in countries that are, albeit, some thousands of miles away, but they still are part of Uncle Sam's backyard, that America should still have it's attention in the old Munroe way now that there is no Soviet Union about political happenings in these countries?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Well of course the great contribution of Franklin Roosevelt with his good neighbor policy was essentially to say that we will not try to run the affairs of the other countries of the hemisphere, that's one reason why Franklin Roosevelt and the good neighbors policy became so popular. Now the situation in the events of Eastern Europe in 1989 and the events in the soviet union in 1991, have transformed the, the geo-political situation in the world and the strategic situation of the world, so that the fact that Fidel Castro is still in power does not have the significance that it might have had earlier.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that America should have taken care of Castro in the way that other places were I'd say handled to exorcise the threat of the spread of communism, or socialism, or Marxism or marxist-leninism.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: I think that certainly the way things have come out, we can be very happy that we did not perpetrate another action such as the action against Arbenz in 1954.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much. Do you want to add anything Brian? Yeah its the one that we ask everybody, the end of the cold war, looking at the Latin American Caribbean region it has a pretty ferocious time in terms of the body count, the victims on both sides and the cost in money, was it worth it? Are you running?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Well once again I think that now, I think we have to make some allowance for the fact that life is lived forward and not backward. But looking back on the result in Eastern Europe and in the soviet Union I think that that the outcome of the cold war was decided there, it was not decided in the in the fields of Nicaragua or Central America, and so that in that sense if we had been able to avoid the human tragedies and human costs it would have been a good thing. But also, the same thing could be said of course in a greater extent in Vietnam, because in Vietnam the once again the Vietnam did not turn out to be the determining event in the unfolding relationship of the superpowers and it was Vietnam in that sense was looking back on it, could have been regarded as something that we would have been better off to avoid it.
INTERVIEWER: Coming back to Chile for one second on that theme, if Salvador Allende had been able or had finished his term, do you think he would have been reelected.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: No I think that if it had been possible for the democratic institutions to manage to survive through til 1976 then and to continue free elections and have free elections in 76, then Allende would have been booted out of office. It was pretty clear that he was losing his support and did not have the majority.
INTERVIEWER: What was the danger that that might not have happened? Did you see him as a threat to the democratic process?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Certainly Unidad Popular and some of the Lemere for example and the followers of Carlos Alto Perano and so on , they were quite prepared to use violence. Not Allende himself.
INTERVIEWER: Allende was in their spell as it were or they were liable...
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Allende had a very complex set of relationships within his coalition and of course Allende ultimately had the aspiration of a member of the worlds left and it was very difficult for him to curb the ambitions and the machinations of some of the people like Altaberano and his own party and Lemere and so on and so forth and he was all, not always completely decisive in his handling of things. He was famous for what was called his munecho, or his flexible wrist, which in some ways was an immense advantage to him, but also it meant that sometimes he didn't show the steadfastness and decision that might have saved him.
INTERVIEWER: 20 secs atmos. We now need to record the sound of silence.
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