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Today's Old News

Nov. 3 in History: Washington resigns, Chissano turns the tide and treaties in Vietnam. Read more of yesterday’s old news today.

Nov 3, 2019

Allende Ascends, Pinochet Prevails
After winning the Chilean Presidency following an extremely close election process, Salvador Allende became the first Marxist to ever become elected to the highest office in a democracy on Nov. 3, 1970. He subsequently pursued intensive economic and social reform through rapid nationalization of industries, new educational programmes and the decentralization of economic planning. An unquestionably drastic shift from those of his predecessors, Allende’s policies resulted in a considerable degree of opposition, especially from the white upper class of Chile. This, combined with the administration frequently being at odds with the National Congress, dominated by the Christian Democratic Party, and the increasing efforts by the Nixon administration to undermine the regime, ultimately resulted in mounted national instability that produced two military coups, which paved the way for General Augusto Pinochet to become the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. As the military surrounded the Presidential palace, Allende gave his farewell speech thanking the people of Chile and reasserting the faith he had in the future of his nation, before taking his own life to prevent himself from becoming a propaganda tool. Following his death, Pinochet assumed the presidency, placing Chile under a right-wing dictatorship until 1990.
The Man Who Would Not Be King
On Nov. 3, 1783, every officer in the Continental Army, the force that had led the United States to independence, received a letter from their Commander in Chief, George Washington, thanking them for their exceptional service and instructing them to demobilize and return home. This was a decision that shocked many international observers, as they had all expected Washington to seize power for himself. Arguably the most popular man in the U.S. and with the entire army at his disposal, the General could have easily dismantled the Continental Congress and killed the dream of American democracy prior to its inception. While Washington would later leave retirement in 1988 to run for the office of President, his fateful decision to pursue power through democratic rather than military terms earned him the moniker of “The American Cincinnatus” for his fateful decision to emulate the Roman General’s decision to relinquish great power and refrain from tyranny.
Making the Whole World Blind
Indira Gandhi is a controversial figure in Indian politics for many reasons. The legacy of her two stints as Prime Minister has generated many debates, including her use of emergency rule, nepotism and corruption, turning India into a nuclear power as well as her role in Operation Blue Star. In response to Sikh seperatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale seeking refuge in the Golden Temple complex to evade arrest, Gandhi launched a military operation, which resulted in 500 casualties, including Bhindranwale’s death and significant damage to the temple itself. This ultimately led to Gandhi’s assassination by two of her Sikh bodygards, which sparked a series of violent anti-Sikh pogroms across India. By the time the local authorities and the military finally took action to end the violence on Nov. 3, 1984, the damage had been done, with thousands of homes and temples looted or burned down, countless people harassed and assaulted and [at least 8,000 dead] ( across the whole country. Today, the legacy of the riots loom large with many refusing to see them just as random violence, but as an active genocidal effort by the state.
Good Morning Hanoi, Good Evening Saigon
By 1970, the war in Việt Nam was unquestionably the biggest issue in the United States. After seven years of being tangled up in what seemed to be a conflict with no foreseeable end, the overwhelming majority of Americans were now pushing for an immediate withdrawal of American troops. Exacerbated by the Kent State Massacre, President Richard Nixon addressed the nation on Nov. 3, 1969 to announce that the U.S. would now adopt a new strategy known as ‘Vietnamization’. This would involve the rapid withdrawal of American troops in favor of increasingly limited aid, however ever since they entered the war in 1963, the US had actively been undermining the autonomy of the Army of the Republic of Việt Nam by making these forces dependent on American training, supervision and supplies. This enabled a culture of corruption and nepotism to emerge in the Southern armed forces. Consequently, when the US decided to abandon these forms of support except for monetary and air support, the fate of the South was clear. Whilst there are undoubtedly a myriad of factors that contributed to the victory of the People’s Republic of Việt Nam, it is impossible to ignore the impact of Vietnamization.
Turning the Tide
Joaquim Chissano unexpectedly assumed the presidency of Mozambique on Nov. 3, 1986 when his predecessor President Samora Michel was killed in a plane crash. Though Chissano inherited a weak state in the midst of a civil war, he would go on to make Mozambique one of the most effective democracies in Africa. In 1992, he ended the civil war by promising the rebels general amnesty and grant half of them positions in his own military. Regardless of some setbacks such as a severe flood in 2000, he would see major successes. With a drastic reduction in child mortality, extreme poverty and unemployment as well as great increases in literacy and agriculture, Chissano would make major strides in his three terms as president. Since retiring from that position, Chissano has served as the Chairman of the African Union, as a special envoy for the United Nations, and as an elder statesman in his native Mozambique. Today, he continues to work in politics and serves as an advocate of democracy and LGBT rights in Africa.
Toby Le is a columnist. Email him at
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