"Agustín Edwards, the Chilean media magnate who published El Mercurio, the country’s most influential conservative newspaper, and played a crucial role in overthrowing the socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973, died" in 2017.
"Today, El Mercurio group controls three major newspapers and over 20 regional papers throughout the country. El Mercurio has served both as a mouthpiece for Chile’s conservative and business elites and as a political force in its own right.
"For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Edwardses used their political and economic prowess to shape Chile’s politics and policies, backing right-wing candidates and governments. In the late 19th century they had an important role in sparking both Chile’s Civil War and in the Pacific War with Bolivia and Peru, according to Víctor Herrero, author of the award-winning 2014 book “Agustín Edwards Eastman: A Declassified Biography of the Owner of El Mercurio.”
- “You cannot understand modern Chilean history without taking into account the history of the Edwards family,” Mr. Herrero said in a recent interview. “Submerged in the logic of the Cold War, Edwards embarked his companies and media outlets in a relentless war against international communism. He was probably Chile’s last ‘Cold War’ warrior.”
Agustín Edwards "graduated from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton in 1949. Mr. Edwards was presiding over El Mercurio when Mr. Allende campaigned in 1970 for the presidency and promised revolutionary changes. He promptly began using his business and political contacts in the United States to urge American officials to intervene to prevent an Allende victory, traveling to Washington to make his case. To further that cause, his newspaper group received money from the Central Intelligence Agency.
"When the effort failed with the election of Mr. Allende in September 1970, Mr. Edwards immediately put El Mercurio in the service of destabilizing the new Socialist government. Days after the election, Mr. Edwards met with Richard Helms, the director of C.I.A., at the request of President Richard M. Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, according to United States government records that have since been declassified.
"Mr. Edwards discussed with Mr. Helms the timing for a possible military coup against Mr. Allende and those who might take part in it. “Edwards not only advocated a pre-emptive military coup in his meeting with Helms, but also supplied intelligence on potential coup plotters that the C.I.A. could enlist,” said Peter Kornbluh, head of the Chile Declassification Project at the National Security Archive in Washington. “Based on the declassified record, history will remember him for his betrayal of the democratic institutions of his own country.”
"El Mercurio went on to spearhead a propaganda campaign against the Allende government, again drawing C.I.A. support — about $2 million. El Mercurio had been receiving C.I.A. funds since the 1960s, the declassified documents show. Nevertheless, President Allende did not crack down on El Mercurio or any other media outlet during his administration.
"By then Mr. Edwards had fled with his family to the United States. There, his friend David Rockefeller, president of Chase Manhattan Bank, now known as Chase Bank and part of JPMorgan Chase, helped the family get settled, and they eventually bought a home in Greenwich, Conn. Mr. Edwards took an executive position under another friend, Donald Kendall, the chief executive of PepsiCo, in nearby Westchester County. (Mr. Rockefeller died in March.)
"Mr. Allende was overthrown by the military in September 1973 and died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds during the coup. El Mercurio pledged immediate loyalty to the new military rulers, led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. It was one of the few newspapers allowed to publish, as it continued to receive C.I.A. funds to portray the military junta “in a positive light,” according to the declassified documents.
"Mr. Edwards returned to Chile in 1975 and resumed control of his publishing group. Throughout General Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, El Mercurio lent credence to the military’s misinformation campaigns and denied the extensive, and well-documented, human rights violations taking place."
Resources and articles
- NYT Agustín Edwards, Conservative Media Tycoon in Chile, Is Dead at 89, organizational web page, accessed April 6, 2018.