August 8, 1983: Bus bombings in Chile

On this day in 1983, Leftist revolutionaries in Chile torched buses during demonstrations that rocked the country.

Some would say that just about anything goes when it comes to overthrowing a dictatorship.

The US is indeed a very important nation. It has become, especially since the end of WWII, the world’s economic, military and, perhaps, cultural leader. It has an undisputed place as the global power numero uno. A testimony of its status is the sheer number of people from all four corners of the planet who seek to emigrate there.

It is not all good and wonderful though. The US has engaged in some questionable actions abroad to either project its influence or to undermine what it saw as a threat to the ‘American way of life’. These actions were often carried out by its intelligence agencies…yes the CIA I mean.

One of the more egregious moves was the US-prompted coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973 and his replacement with the military officer General Augusto Pinochet who went on to rule as a dictator until 1990. The rationale? Allende was a ‘communist’ and this was the Cold War after all. The crimes committed against ordinary Chileans by his ‘government’ are legion and will not serve as discussion here.

What is of interest here, however, is the reaction to the regime. Chileans did engage in acts of sabotage to try to damage the reputation of Pinochet’s rule and show that he was not all-knowing and all-seeing.

On this day in 1983

What transpired on this day in 1983 is a good example. Buses were bombed and torched in the course of street riots in several cities. No one was injured although the riots continued for some days.

Was the lack of death planned or lucky? Did the bombers, described as ‘left-wing revolutionaries’, carefully carry out their actions so as not to hurt innocent civilians? Great questions, the answers to neither of which I happen to have.

There are some who would argue that anything, including violence, is ok when the overarching goal is to get rid of a hated and brutal dictatorship. What if ‘anything’ leads to the deaths of passersby?

Another great question the answer to which escapes me.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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