A Congressional delegation of Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Misty Rebik, chief of staff for Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) arrived in Santiago, Chile on August 16 ahead of the 50th anniversary of the coup against former President Salvador Allende. Sponsored by the Center for Economics and Policy Research (CEPR), a U.S. think tank, the purpose of their trip was to understand Chile’s efforts to strengthen its democracy. The delegation, which includes Representatives Joaquín Castro (D-TX), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Greg Casar (D-TX) and Maxwell Frost (D-FL), has already visited Brazil and will travel to Colombia after Chile.
Ocasio-Cortez met with President Gabriel Boric’s spokesperson, Camila Vallejo, at the Palacio de La Moneda (the presidential office). In an Instagram video, Ocasio-Cortez and Vallejo strongly highlighted the United States’ obligation to disclose information regarding its involvement in the 1973 coup. “The United States can foster a new era of relations with Chile through transparent information exchange,” said Ocasio-Cortez. She also noted that prior to her trip to Chile, she introduced legislation to declassify documents related to the coup that ended the socialist government of Salvador Allende (1970-1973). Vallejo, a member of the Communist Party of Chile, also noted the recent resolution by Chile’s Chamber of Deputies instructing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to release classified records detailing the United States’ involvement in the coup.
The U.S. delegation began by meeting on August 17 with Santiago Mayor Irací Hassler, who is also a member of the Communist Party of Chile and a contemporary of Ocasio-Cortez and Vallejo, to discuss equality and environmental issues. On August 18, the delegation will visit Casa Igualdad, a space inaugurated in March by Mayor Hassler to provide legal, psychological and social support to caregivers and the people they help.
The delegation’s packed agenda includes a meeting with President Gabriel Boric and Foreign Affairs Minister Alberto van Klaveren, meetings with Chilean legislators, and a visit with Justice Minister Luis Cordero to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which commemorates the victims of human rights violations during Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship (1973-1990). Their agenda includes a discussion with Maipú Mayor Tomás Vodanovic about local strategies to protect the right to clean water, and a meeting with Antonia Orellana, Chile’s Minister for Women and Gender Equity.
“U.S. foreign policy has too often contributed to instability in Latin America. We should be protecting democracy rather than supporting coups, and we should be creating peace and prosperity across the Western Hemisphere rather than replaying the Cold War,” Representative Greg Casar (D-TX) said in the CEPR press release. “Now is the time to talk about our history, jointly fight the climate crisis, and invest in lasting peace. That is why I’m joining this delegation to Brazil, Colombia, and Chile — to meet, listen and learn from our counterparts and chart a new way forward.”
Delegation coordinator David Adler said, “Fifty years ago, the United States supported a bloody coup against the democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende. The scars from this tragic event are still visible today... This delegation arrives to help usher in a new chapter of U.S.-Chile relations based on mutual understanding and the common pursuit of social justice. All too often, visitors from Washington come to the region to deliver lectures and unsolicited advice. This delegation has come to Chile to listen, learn and forge lasting alliances for hemispheric cooperation.”
Fernando Purcell, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile with a doctorate in U.S. history from the University of California-Davis, believes that the delegation’s visit will have positive bilateral impacts. “While they only represent a portion of U.S. society and the political spectrum, the gesture of visiting Chile with an agenda heavily influenced by the 50th anniversary of the coup and human rights issues is significant.” Purcell also sees commonality between Ocasio-Cortez and the current political generation leading Chile. “They espouse the same causes — women’s rights, sustainable development and labor rights.”
The delegation led by Ocasio-Cortez, so strong aligned with the 40-something generation that currently governs Chile, will meet for breakfast on August 18 with Michelle Bachelet, who made history in 2006 by becoming Chile’s first female president.
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