Agustín Edwards, Conservative Media Tycoon in Chile, Is Dead at 89

Mr. Edwards’s great-grandfather, Agustín Edwards MacClure, founded El Mercurio in the port city of Valparaíso in 1827. It is the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in the world. El Mercurio in Santiago was founded in 1900.

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 Eastman was born on Nov. 24, 1927, in Paris to María Isabel Eastman and Agustín Edwards Budge. At the time, his father was an executive at the Paris branch of the J.P. Morgan bank.

The younger Mr. Edwards grew up in England and Chile and studied law at the University of Chile, though he did not complete his studies there. He 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…

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