The CIA in Latin America

Inside the Company: CIA Diary

by Philip Agee
Stonehill, 639 pp., $9.95

Salvador Allende lost the Chilean presidential election in September of 1964. The winner was the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei. At that time the victory was considered one more episode in the long and peaceful history of Chilean democracy. It has come to light now, however, that Salvador Allende’s defeat at that time was a secret victory of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which had spent millions of dollars to bolster the parties of the right and buy votes against the socialist candidate. Philip Agee, who was then a CIA officer in Montevideo, has revealed this fact and many others in this impassioned book which appeared last winter in London and is now being published in the US.

“Our problem at the time,” Agee told me when I met him in London last winter, “was the fact that the finance office at CIA headquarters in Washington had been unable to obtain sufficient Chilean currency in the banks of New York and had to buy it in Lima and Rio de Janeiro. But even in that way they had been unable to meet their needs.

“Our purchasing agent in Montevideo,” Agee went on, “was the First National City Bank, which sent its men to Santiago to buy Chilean escudos with the greatest discretion and in small, separate amounts. They returned two days later bringing in the cash in the usual way: putting it among the clothes in their luggage and bribing customs officials.” It was so much money that it took Agee a whole day to count it. “The next day,” he said, “we sent it back to Santiago by diplomatic pouch.”

Philip Agee told me these things, speaking in Spanish devoid of any regional accent and with the look and the mental precision of a good math student. What strikes one most about him, however, is his natural and modest manner. In 1957, educated to be a “good Catholic,” a graduate of Notre Dame, where he majored in philosophy, he was recruited by the CIA at the age of nineteen. He served as a field intelligence officer for eight years, being stationed in Quito, Montevideo, and Mexico City. In 1969 he left the CIA, convinced through his own experience that the United States was supporting injustice and corruption in order to retain and expand its imperialist control over Latin America. It took him four years to write this book, which takes the form of a diary meticulously reconstructing his day by day activities. It is a solid book, serious and careful, and one reads it through without a break.

During our long and intense conversation, as we examined facts and recalled events, we reached a point where we were ready to absolve the CIA of all blame. In fact, with all of its power and money, the CIA could not have accomplished a thing without the connivance of the governing classes of Latin America, without the venality of our civil servants, and without the almost limitless possibilities for…

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