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Declarations & Statements



Boston Globe, 20.11.00, p.A14

Editorial - 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.

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