The US government has released the first batch of documents relating to the
violence unleashed between 1973-1990 by General Augusto Pinochet’s
dictatorship in Chile. Reading some of the memos, cables and intelligence
reports, I was shocked — the shock of recognition.
The documents shockingly show what many people already knew. US officials
helped Chile’s secret police, DINA, or covered up their atrocities. Try to
imagine a US official writing:
"Severe repression is planned. The military is rounding up large
numbers of people, including students and leftists of all descriptions, and
interning them. 300 students were killed in the technical university…"
An October 26, 1973 CIA cable reports on Pinochet’s plan "to destroy
any and all resistance within two months." And, the cable continues,
"This will require more killing by the military…"
A February 5, 1974 cable refers to DINA using techniques "taken
directly from the Spanish Inquisition, which often left the person
interrogated with visible bodily damage."
Washington covered up Pinochet’s excesses so that Congress — the public –
Listen to a September 27 1973 report from US Ambassador Nathaniel Davis. He
offers a job description for "an advisor …qualified in establishing a
detention center for the detainees who will be held for a relatively long
period of time."
The "advisor must have knowledge in the establishment and operation of
a detention center." Davis suggests that the State Department send tents,
blankets, etc…which need not be publicly and specifically earmarked for
prisoners" — so as not to admit we’re outfitting Chilean concentration
In June 1976, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Pinochet in Chile.
Indeed, Kissinger had helped Pinochet organize six South American secret
police forces to form OPERATION CONDOR. The CIA had even donated to DINA a
sophisticated computer that allowed agents to conduct surveillance on exiled
dissidents and then murder them – as DINA did in 1974 to former Chilean Chief
of Staff Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires.
In June 1976 Kissinger visited Pinochet in Chile and blessed his regime
Three months later, in September 1976, three months after Kissinger approved
Pinochet’s methods, CONDOR agents assassinated former Chilean Chancellor
Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC. Ronni Moffitt, Letelier’s American
colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, also died in the car bombing.
US officials traced the assassination to Pinochet’s office but stopped
short of charging him. They all knew Pinochet was guilty. They knew his thugs
had beaten and administered electric shocks to the genitals of some 200,000
Chileans, that they had murdered 3200 people in Chile. By applying pressure,
Washington could have stopped the horror. Chile’s military depended on the US
for legitimacy and support.
How now to use the documents that show US officials countenanced torture
and murder? First, support the current Spanish case charging Pinochet with
crimes against humanity. Second, extradite Pinochet for assassinating Orlando
Letelier. Finally, consider charges against Henry Kissinger and George Bush,
who, documents show, willingly abetted mass murder and torture.
Saul Landau is the Hugh O. LaBounty Chair of Interdisciplinary Applied
Knowledge at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 3801 W. Temple
Ave. Pomona, CA 91768 tel – 909-869-3115 fax – 909-869-4751