Agustín Edwards Eastman
Cristián Zegers Ariztía
September 12, 1827 (Valparaíso ed.) June 1, 1900 (Santiago ed.)
El Mercurio is a conservative Chilean newspaper with editions in Valparaíso and Santiago. Its Santiago edition is considered the country's paper-of-record and it is considered the oldest daily in the Spanish language currently in circulation. El Mercurio is owned by El Mercurio S.A.P. (Sociedad Anónima Periodística, "joint stock news company"), which operates a network of 19 regional dailies and 32 radio stations across the country. (See List of newspapers in Chile.)
The Valparaíso edition of El Mercurio was founded by Pedro Félix Vicuña (Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna's father) on September 12, 1827, and was later acquired by Agustín Edwards Ross in 1880. The Santiago edition was founded by Agustín Edwards Mac Clure, son of Edwards Ross, on June 1, 1900. In 1942 Edwards Mac Clure died and his son Agustín Edwards Budge took over as president. When Edwards Budge died in 1956, his son, Agustín Edwards Eastman, took control of the company.
Role in 1973 coup d'état
The paper played "a significant role in setting the stage for the military coup" which took place on 11 September 1973, bringing General Augusto Pinochet to power. It mobilised opponents of President Salvador Allende and the gremio movement to be active in destabilisation from the street, while also advocating the neoliberal policies of the yet-to-come Chicago Boys.
El Mercurio received funds from the CIA in the early 1970s to undermine the Socialist government of Salvador Allende, acting as a mouthpiece for anti-Allende propaganda.
Declassified documents that detail US interventions in Chile revealed the paper's role, and the extent of the paper’s cooperation with the CIA:
“Throughout the 1960s, the CIA poured funds into Chile’s largest—and staunchly right-wing—newspaper, El Mercurio, putting reporters and editors on the payroll, writing articles and columns for placement and providing additional funds for operating expenses. After the paper’s owner, Agustín Edwards came to Washington in September 1970 to lobby Nixon for action against Allende, the CIA used El Mercurio as a key outlet for a massive propaganda campaign as part of Track I and Track II. Throughout Allende’s aborted tenure, the paper continued an unyielding campaign, running countless virulent, inflammatory articles and editorials exhorting opposition against—and at times even calling for the overthrow of—the Popular Unity government. " (p. 91-92)
Support reached to the highest levels of the US government. When the paper requested significant funds for covert support in September 1971, “...in a rare example of presidential micromanagement of a covert operation, Nixon personally authorized the $700,000—and more if necessary—in covert funds to El Mercurio.” (p. 93)