New Information on the Assassination of Orlando Letelier

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

The U.S. State Department released formerly classified U.S. intelligence reports that pinpoint the ones responsible for the murder of former Chilean ambassador to the United States Orlando Letelier in 1976. Letelier was blown up in his car by a special booby-trap explosive. The reports, concluded by U.S. intelligence at the time, puts the blame for the assassination of Letelier on former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and his head of the infamous secret police agency DINA Manuel Contreras. Both Pinochet and Contreras are dead, so they sadly cannot be tried for the murder of Letelier. But there is no question anymore that Pinochet had indeed ordered the murder of former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and that Contreras had operatives carry out the operation.

I should explain that Letelier was the Chilean ambassador under Chilean President Salvador Allende. When Allende was killed in a military coup carried out by then General Pinochet in 1973, Letelier was imprisoned and tortured. Letelier managed to escape Chile and found exile in the United States. Rather than allow Letelier become a focal point for Chilean opposition to the new Chilean military regime in exile, Pinochet had Lelelier murdered. Since the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had worked closely with DINA at the time, there was no question that the CIA knew who carried out the assassination. All of the material about the assassination of Orlando Letelier was given to Letelier’s son Juan Pablo Letelier by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet who had obtained the material from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

But all of this begs for the question why this material had not been made public years ago? Why did the U.S. government not make this material public decades ago, and when Pinochet had been overthrown from power? Why wasn’t this material made public at the time when the Chilean government had tried Pinochet for some of his crimes during his dictatorial rule? Why was Pinochet allowed to go peacefully to his grave even though he had not only murdered a Chilean in Washington, D.C., but countless other thousands of Chileans? In some sense, responsibility for Pinochet’s crimes must rest with the U.S. government and those who played a part in his remaining in power for 17 years from 1973 to 1990.

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