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Economía y Sociedad № 112

The Rivera Memorandum:
Frei calls the Armed Forces


July 6, 1973

(An account of the meeting between the Chilean Industrial Association and Eduardo Frei, President of the Senate and former President of Chile (1964-1970), written that same day by Mr. Rafael Rivera, legal advisor to that Association and a participant in the meeting.)

On this cold day of winter (Friday, July 6, 1973), at dusk, the executive directors of the Industrial Association (SOFOFA) convened for a meeting with Senate President Eduardo Frei, who had agreed to receive them in his office at the Senate building. The meeting began at 6:30 pm.

The group was composed of the following: Raúl Sahli, serving in the capacity of deputy president, since Orlando Sáenz was out of the country; Eugenio Ipinza, second vice president; Sergio López, treasurer; Fernando Agüero, general manager; and Rafael Rivera, legal advisor.

Frei was delayed in receiving us. We waited in the parlor of the Senate presidency around 45 minutes. When he entered, he excused itself, expressing that he had just conducted an emergency meeting of the opposition senators because of the serious situation that the country faced.

The directors of SOFOFA declared their anxiety over the turn of events surrounding the “tanquetazo” of Friday, June 29, a failed uprising of the Second Armored Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Souper, that had led to a massive taking of industries.

They told Frei that the country was disintegrating and that if urgent measures were not taken, Chile would fall under a bloody Cuban-style Marxist dictatorship.

Frei listened in silence, downcast. He seemed to be overwhelmed. He stood up from his chair, opened a silver box and offered Partagas cigars to those in attendance. Then he sat down, and slowly, solemnly stated that he was grateful for the visit, but that he was convinced that it was no use getting in touch with the political opposition to the Popular Unity administration, because the situation was so critical that it had already bypassed such measures.

Then Frei added, “There is nothing that can be done by myself, by Congress, or by any civilian. Unfortunately, this problem can only be fixed with guns”. Instead of going to Congress, we should go to the regiments. “I fully share your apprehensions, and I advise you to state them plainly to the commanders-in-chief of the Armed Forces, hopefully today”.

Immediately after that he related that a senior Army officer had told him in confidence that he and his family were in serious danger uptown. Frei said he had responded that he and his family were 12 persons and that thousands of people lived uptown, meaning that his situation was ultimately irrelevant, and that as a senator, he had been elected by the people to legislate, a duty with which he was complying. “On the other hand", Frei had told the officer, “you have the bayonets and you should know what you have to do to save the country”.

We said good-bye, surprised by what we had heard from Frei’s lips. We were struck by his clarity and his decisiveness, so alien to his naturally doubtful and cautious character.

Following Frei’s counsel, we walked down Morande Street towards the Department of Defense. It would have been around 8 o'clock or later. The doors of the department were half open. We asked the guard if any of the three commanders-in-chief were present, saying that we wished to be received by one of them. After some consultations we were informed that the only one in his office was Vice Admiral Patricio Carvajal, the Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff. Despite knowing the motive for our visit, Carvajal sent his assistant to tell us that nothing should be presented to him and that we should have the kindness to go away. We were distressed at such a reception, and we left with fewer hopes than we had sheltered before that frustrated visit.

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