Brief history: What happened the last time Chile tried to nationalize a key mineral resource?

Boric’s decision builds on the legacy of his political idol, Salvador Allende. A major proponent of nationalization, Allende was elected on a platform of nationalizing major industries and wealth redistribution.


While president, Allende successfully nationalized the banking and healthcare industries, as well as Chile’s sprawling copper production. Copper, the country’s main industry in the 1970s, is comparable to lithium now in terms of infrastructure and potential demand.

Allende’s plan, which nationalized all mines including US copper interests, quickly drew the ire of the US. In response, America cut off all bilateral economic aid commitments to Chile and actively supported Allende’s political opponents.


When that didn’t work, US President Richard Nixon gave the order to overthrow Allende’s democratic government, telling CIA director Richard Helms to “save Chile.”

It didn’t take long. On September 11, 1973—just three years into Allende’s presidency—Augusto Pinochet led a violent coup against his government, instilling himself as dictator and dismantling Allende’s economic reforms.


While it is unclear how directly involved the CIA was with the operation, Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger bragged about creating the conditions for the coup in a recorded phone call, lamenting that they couldn’t publicly take credit.

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