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Hortensia Bussi de Allende, D.E.P.

21 June 2009

Hortensia Bussi Soto de Allende (22 July 1914 – 18 June 2009), the widow of Chilean President (and victim of neo-liberalism) died peacefully during an afternoon nap Thursday in her native Valparaíso.

Salvador Allende and Hortensia Bussi, 1970

Salvador Allende and Hortensia Bussi, 1970

Although she might have been somewhat surprised at the comparison, she had more in common with Eva Duarate than just having met her future husband — and the future president of her country — while working as a volunteer during an earthquake relief campaign. Like Evita, “Tencha” would be the symbolic figurehead of an on-going mostly working class Latin American movement founded in a attempt to remove foreign control from their nation’s economic life, and to bring the workers into the government. And as “primera dama,” like Eva Peron, her active participation in building a social services network and fomenting worker’s charities won her the adulation of the poor.

People forget sometimes that Juan Peron was overthrown by the far right — with the support of the Church and foreign business interests. As was Salvador Allende. But whereas Peron was not a democratically elected leader, never viewed as a champion of democracy*and Eva — having died before his overthrow — was only a symbolic ghost, Salvador Allende’s widow was very much alive, and involved physically in the restoration of her nation’s honor and dignity.

Following Salvador Allende’s overthrow and murder, she was hustled out of Santiago to Valparaíso for a secret burial of the martyred president. Facing death threats, she was granted political asylum by Mexico and flown there in a private plane five days after the coup.

As it had for Spaniards after 1936, Mexico City became the true capital of Chilean cultural and intellectual life after 1973, the mother of democratic Chile being the indefatigable — and unrepentant — Bussi.

From her Mexico City home, Bussi traveled the globe for the next fifteen years, always under threat from Chilean agents, and usually under an alias, to meet with heads of state and other leaders in her campaign to restore democracy to Chile. The nation’s return to sanity was due largely, in President Michelle Bachelet’s words on Bussi’s 94th birthday to her “enormous commitment, yesterday and today, to our democracy.”

* rabidgandhi (see the comments) is correct. Peron was elected in 1945, 1951 (overthrown in September 1955) allegedly because he was assuming dictatorial powers. Upon his return from exile, he was elected to a third term in 1973, but died within a few months of assuming office. Fairly or not, however, his governing style has never been viewed as democratic.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary O'Grady permalink
    22 June 2009 12:07 am

    I’m so glad Hortensia Bussi de Allende lived to see Dr. Bachelet become president of Chile.

  2. rabidgandhi permalink
    4 July 2009 8:18 pm

    Was Perón being elected president three times not enough for him to be considered a “democratically elected leader”?

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