President Slavador Allende of Chile was said to be preparing to hold a plebiscite that would reaffirm his mandate to govern, to pull his country out of the 46-day-old crisis.
President Slavador Allende of Chile was said to be preparing to hold a plebiscite that would reaffirm his mandate to govern, to pull his country out of the 46-day-old crisis. The opposition claims that half a million people -- including lorries, busses, taxis, white collar workers, business and professional men, and shopkeepers -- are on strike, costing Chile $ 6 million (GBP 2.4 million sterling) a day. The government maintains that all the key sectors of the economy are still working. Opposition leaders and the news media are openly calling for Dr. Allende's resignation.
The deteriorating situation led to a two-hour gun battle between Air Force units and factory workers on Saturday (September 8th). The soldiers were searching houses around a textile factory for weapons when they were allegedly fired on from the factory. They poured several hundred rounds of automatic fire into the building. An Air Force statement later said sight men were wounded, including one Air Force Corporal, and added that the incident showed that the factory personnel were "armed and organised to carry out para-military operations."
The government also seized the University of Chile television station. Although it was not broadcasting, the move against the students became another hot issue of government critics.
A minor move against the tide was made on Sunday (September 9th) by about 3,000 faithful of all denominations, who gathered outside the Moneda Presidential Palace to pray for peace. Similar prayers were offered in churches and synagogues all over the country.
Dr. Allende, a 65-year-old socialist veteran, took office in November 1970, as the Western World's first freely-elected head of state, with a mandate to rule until 1976. He is beset by extremists on all sides. The Socialist leader of the largest component of his Popular Unity Government strongly criticised the President for compromising socialists policies. Dr. Allende can only survive with the support of the country's military and such incidents as the textile factory battle were seen as evidence that the military were losing patience.