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Salvador Allende

Remembering September 11, 1973: 50 years of struggle for social justice and health equity

People of the world who struggle for social justice and health equity fondly remember and carefully reflect on the legacy of Salvador Allende this September 11, on the 50th anniversary of the tragic coup d'état in Chile. This brutally ended, with thousands of dead and disappeared, the constitutional government of Allende who led the unprecedented, peaceful and democratic  construction of socialism, anointed by popular vote. Allende himself gave his dignified and consistent life fighting against Pinochet's troops directly supported, in the political-military field, by the CIA of the United States, under the direction of R. Nixon and H. Kissinger, and in the economic field, by Milton Friedman through the "Chicago Boys". The coup was organized to put an end to the socialist and popular government, and to establish in blood and fire a dictatorship entrusted with the task of implementing the first experiment, on a country scale, of the neoliberalism that now dominates the world.

Along with Friedrich Engels and Rudolf Virchow, among others, the physician Salvador Allende was one of the precursors of social medicine in the world and in Latin America. Like Che Guevara, he was an extraordinary revolutionary, social fighter, parliamentarian, minister of health and president of the Republic. Allende conceived health as the result of social, economic and political changes that favored the social welfare and quality of life of the people, and fought consistently throughout his life for a universal, public and free national health system prioritizing children, women, the elderly and workers, decades before the British NHS, and against the extraction of lucrative economic benefits in his country by imperialism and multinational corporations of the pharmaceutical industry.

Neoliberalism, installed and experimented on the corpses of workers, first in Chile and then in the rest of the world, is the negation of Allende's legacy since through increasing economic and social inequality by making the rich richer and the workers poorer, it has also made health systems and services more precarious, favoring their commodification and privatization. On the contrary, Allende was a champion of a new and fairer international economic order, and of the redistribution of wealth and income to procure the welfare and happiness of the people. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most tangible demonstration of the tragic and inequitable legacy of neoliberalism in the world. It also shows us the path of struggle of our movement: the conquest of social equity as a condition to guarantee equity in health, as well as universal access to a public and free health system based on comprehensive PHC, community participation, intersectoral action and the economic, social and cultural development of the peoples.

Long live the memory of Allende! Long live the peoples' struggle for health!