Allende was an example of resistance and courage

A member of Allende’s bodyguard recalls September 11, 1973 in La Moneda Palace

CIENFUEGOS.—When student leader Luis Renato González Córdova was given the responsibility of forming part of President Salvador Allende’s bodyguard, known as the Personal Friends Group (GAP), he was only 19 years of age, but it was a position he really wanted, given his affection and respect for the leader of Popular Unity.

Explaining how he joined the bodyguard at such a young age, he said, “My grandfather, Juan González, was a founding member of the Socialist Party and all of our family of working class origin were members. In addition to being trustworthy, I was educated and very discreet, practiced kung-fu and knew about weapons. That made me a suitable candidate.”

On September 11, 1973, Eladio – Luis Renato’s combat name – began his turn of duty at the presidential residence on Tomás Moro 200, at 6:00am. He was to remain there until 9:00am.

“Early on, there was an alarm call, but my compañeros and I had orders not to wake the Doctor [Allende], who had been in a meeting until very late the previous night. There was talk of a possible coup, but initially not much attention was paid to that, because there had been various alarms of that kind before. Afterward, things changed,” he recalled.

After Police General Jorge Urrutia communicated with Allende and informed him of the real situation, the President gave orders and the garrison chief assigned Eladio to Allende’s personal escort, to depart rapidly for La Moneda. He was one of 16 bodyguards who took part in the action within the presidential palace.

“When we got there, the chief called us in for a meeting, talked to us, and thanked us for being there with him, in what was a devious coup d’état by the military in conspiracy with Washington. He was aware of the danger of remaining there and gave us the option to decline and leave. Nobody left. He did make clear his intention of remaining on war footing until the end.”

In the middle of the attack and the aerial bombardment, Allende continued giving instructions and showing concern for the condition of those defending him. He wanted to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, González affirmed.

“However, the figure democratically elected by the masses, always calm and in control of the situation, fought gallantly; he exposed himself to the bullets in defense of the palace and even fired a bazooka.”

After a battle in which, with tremendous resistance and courage, just a few people were capable of standing up to a military force eminently more powerful (Sherman tanks, 75mm non-recoil cannons mounted on jeeps, hunter aircraft and 200 troops from two regiments), the coup perpetrators entered La Moneda and detained the GAP members with kicks and savage blows. “I did not witness Allende’s final moment,” González stated.

So much happened afterward to that young man that it was almost like a film set: in the central command post, where he was transferred for some strange reason, he passed himself off as an orderly and escaped his captors. After a brief stay in a safe house, he sought asylum in the Mexican embassy.

He subsequently moved into a long period of exile between Mexico and, in particular, Cuba, which he made his second homeland. “I lived for 30 years in Cienfuegos, where I worked for the Multi-Crop and Glucose Enterprise and had my son Iván.” After the 1988 referendum victory, rejecting the continuing rule of dictator Pinochet, he returned to Chile.

Luis Renato is one of four living former members of the GAP (Two are in Chile, another in France. After the assault on La Moneda Palace many were detained and subsequently assassinated) He returned to his country, but a kidney disorder prompted his son to bring him back to Cuba.

Some months ago, he returned to Cienfuegos, where he was successfully treated in the Nephrology Unit of the Dr. Gustavo Aldereguía Lima Provincial Hospital, and now lives a normal life with his son Iván and two grandchildren.

On the 40th anniversary of the death of the Chilean President, Luis Renato emphasized Allende’s beautiful friendship with Fidel, and the everlasting value of his example. “His work was not destroyed, because his ideals live on. The grand poplar-lined avenues of Latin America are opening and peoples are speaking up.”

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