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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Profile: Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende, former President of Chile, in 1971
The 30th anniversary of Allende's death has led to an outpouring of public emotion
Chile's Salvador Allende died in a United States-backed coup on 11 September 1973 - three years earlier he had become Latin America's first democratically-elected Marxist president.

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda described him as an "immortal corpse", while one of the foreign musicians who travelled to Santiago for a concert commemorating the 30th anniversary of his death titled a performance "Salvador Allende, Son of God".

But Mr Allende has his critics.

Economists say the 1970-1973 Allende experiment - which saw the nationalisation of the banking and copper industry - was nothing short of a disaster.

Strikes held by shop keepers, students and professionals in protest at the forced redistribution of wealth to workers and peasants, meant Allende was under siege from even his own supporters.

Fourth attempt

Salvador Allende was born in 1908 in the central port town of Valparaiso - his father was a lawyer.

Expelled from university for political activities, Allende later returned and graduated in medicine in 1932.

A year later he helped found the Chilean Socialist Party.

Supporters of deceased socialist President Salvador Allende take part in a commemorative demonstration of his 1970 election victory
Allende supporters have marked his 1970 victory
He was appointed Minister of Health in 1939 during which time he introduced accident and health insurance cover and benefits for working women.

In 1970 he became president on his fourth attempt.

Pursuing a leftist agenda, Allende established diplomatic relations with Cuba and moved closer to China, North Korea and North Vietnam.

Suicide claim

But as inflation spiralled out of control the chasm between the left and right in Chile widened.

In 1973, the army led by Augusto Pinochet attacked the presidential palace.

When soldiers reached Allende he was already dead.

His doctor believed he committed suicide and his family have never disputed it.

His body lay in an unmarked grave until 1990 when he was formally buried in a ceremony at which there were calls for national reconciliation.

Pinochets attack Allende tribute
08 Sep 03 |  Americas
Pinochet profile: Saviour or tyrant
08 Dec 00 |  The Pinochet file
Country profile: Chile
05 Jun 03 |  Country profiles


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