US agencies paid
millions to prop up Pinochet
report: Pinochet on trial
Franklin in Santiago
Monday November 20, 2000
The release of 16,000 secret documents from US intelligence agencies has set Chile's Christian Democrat government coalition scrambling to explain the millions of dollars in covert support it received from the agencies between 1964 and 1974.
Many party leaders from that era are still in powerful government positions. President Ricardo Lagos, a socialist, who is not implicated in the scandal, is under pressure from congress to investigate current CIA activities in Chile. "I'm not naive. I know that intelligence practices - to put it elegantly - or spying are as old as humanity," he said. "But I would hope that this is a throwback to the cold war, and it doesn't happen any more, because it can affect relations between countries."
The documents are allowing historians to piece together the secret diplomacy used by the US to set the stage for a coup, then to prop up the military junta leader Augusto Pinochet throughout his 1973-1990 rule. They include previously unknown details about the workings of the Pinochet regime, including the dictator's role in foreign assassinations and his troubled attempts to travel abroad as the legal net tightened around him in the early 1990's. The Chilean government says it will formally protest at the US interference, and the leading newspaper El Mercurio has tried to limit the fallout from the revelation that it received about $1.6m (£1m) in covert support from US agents. El Mercurio was a leading critic of the government of Salvador Allende, and a crucial cog in the CIA's propaganda machine.
The documents - many of them heavily censored - released by the US state department, the defence intelligence agency, the CIA, the FBI and the justice department are the fourth and last round of disclosures ordered by President Clinton.
They cover US activities in Chile in 1968-1991. Approximately 1,400 CIA documents were released after the Clinton administration spent months overcoming the reluctance of the agency's director, George Tenet. "The CIA as an institution suffers form a pathology of secrecy," said Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archives, a research institution in Washington. "It is as difficult for them to give up a document as it is for a child to share a toy."
Gen Pinochet is under court supervision in Chile, where he is being investigated for nearly 200 criminal offences. The new documents may also prompt the US to request his extradition, since they include evidence of his direct role in the car bombing of the Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976. While the US efforts to overthrow the democratically elected Allende and support Gen Pinochet are hardly secrets, the details show the extent to which US officials were willing to abuse Chilean sovereignty.
A CIA memo prepared three years before the 1973 coup states: "If civil disorders were to follow from a military action, the USG [US Government] would promptly deliver necessary support and material, (but not personnel)." In a state department memo written weeks after the coup that put Gen Pinochet in power, Jack Kubisch wrote: "The junta does not appear to represent a threat to our major national interest. No overriding national objective seems to me to be served by supporting opposition to it."
documents' declassification was a result of Gen Pinochet's arrest in London
in October 1998. The Spanish investigating judge Baltazar Garzon had compiled
evidence that Gen Pinochet and other Chilean army officers had organised
a transnational hit squad known as "Operation Condor". The US response
was to declassify thousands of documents and let Mr Garzon and other foreign
magistrates peruse the information.
On November 13, the National Security Archive (NSA) (last discussed in the October 6, 2000 _Scout Report_) announced the release of over "16,000 secret US records on the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and Washington's role in the violent overthrow of the Allende government and the advent of the military regime to power." Totalling more than 50,000 pages, the records include numerous controversial documents that the CIA had refused to release until they were pressured by the White House. The NSA has posted a selection of some of the key documents on its site. They are offered in .pdf format with a brief description. [MD]
US guilt on Chile
DISCLOSURES in 16,000 recently declassified US government documents on Chile before and during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet suggest not only that Washington was complicit in the violent suppression of Chilean democracy but that Americans might need their own Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Americans were murdered by Pinochet's agents, and documents released this week suggest official US callousness, even foreknowledge, about the September 1976 assassination in Washington, D.C., of Orlando Letelier, a minister in the elected government of President Salvador Allende, whom Pinochet overthrew in his military putsch of Sept. 11, 1973.
Murdered along with Letelier was an American woman, Ronni Moffet, who was in a car on Embassy Row with Letelier when a remote-control bomb exploded, killing them and wounding her husband, Michael Moffitt.
Among the government secrets uncovered thanks to the long-overdue declassification of old documents is that US officials were aware of Operation Condor, a conspiracy among rightist dictators in Latin America that enabled Pinochet to kill leftists and Chilean democrats in other countries. The documents show that Washington wanted to warn Pinochet to desist - or at least not to have his targets assassinated on American soil.
The US ambassador to Chile was instructed to convey this message to Pinochet in August 1976. a month before two Chilean agents set off their bomb in Washington. In a cable that represents an example of misplaced diplomatic delicacy, Ambassador David Popper declined to carry out his instructions for fear of displeasing Pinochet, America's anticommunist ally. ''He might take as an insult any inference that he was connected with such assassination plots,'' Popper cabled the State Department.
The newly declassified files also reveal that the CIA had fingered as a ''subversive'' one of the Americans murdered during Pinochet's overthrow of Allende's government. Frank Teruggi was killed with many other supporters of Allende who were rounded up, tortured, and murdered in Santiago's soccer stadium. Because of the Costa-Gavras movie, ''Missing,'' Teruggi's compatriot, Charles Horman, became the better known American victim of the thuggish, fascist forces that seized power in Chile in 1973 with Washington's backing.
The truth is coming out now, but for reconciliation somebody needs to apologize on behalf of the US government for America's role back then in subverting democracy and murdering Americans.
story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 11/20/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
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