General Augusto Pinochet led a military coup in Chile on 11 September 1973 in which President Salvador Allende was killed. Pinochet ordered the killing of more than 3,000 Allende supporters in 1974 before appointing himself President in 1974, retaining the post until 1990. He was arrested in London in 1998, but two years later he was allowed to return to Chile where he died in 2006.
In 1999 New Internationalist reported that defenders of Pinochet in the Chilean Reconciliation Movement, a UK based organisation, were paying Bell Pottinger Communications to mount a defence of the former dictator in a $310,000 contract. Bell Pottinger Communications had worked on the 1989 presidential campaign of Hernan Buchi, Pinochet's former finance minister and candidate in Chile’s first presidential elections since 1970.
- "Bell Pottinger has sent 14 postcards, in the name of the Chilean Reconciliation Movement, to 5,000 British ‘opinion makers’ (including the heads of the top 2,000 corporations, the members of the Houses of Commons and Lords, and the major news media)"
- Tim Bell’s public-relations expertise was also employed for a televised meeting between Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher in the house where the ex-dictator is confined. The meeting was arranged by Robin Harris, a senior advisor to Thatcher. Harris has also produced and sent to over 5,000 UK ‘opinion formers’ (the same 5,000 as the postcards, perhaps?) a paper entitled ‘A Tale of Two Chileans: Pinochet and Allende’. Harris’s paper rehearses the same accusation as the postcards – President Allende had planned a ‘self-coup’ with dictatorial aims. Over half of the paper’s footnotes cite a document produced by the dictatorship with CIA assistance shortly after the military coup. Harris also promises shortly an appendix detailing ‘Plan Z,’ the fictitious plot under which Allende and his associates were to eliminate an extensive list of enemies including prominent members of the armed forces."