Pinochet considered killing own spy chief to hide role in US bombing

Orlando LetelierThe president of Chile in the 1970s considered killing his own spy chief in order to conceal his government’s involvement in a terrorist attack in Washington DC, which killed two people, according to declassified memos from the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The target of the attack was Orlando Letelier, a Chilean economist who in the early 1970s served as a senior cabinet minister in the leftwing government of Salvador Allende. But he sought refuge in the US after Allende’s government was deposed in a bloody coup on September 11, 1973, in which Allende was murdered. He taught in several American universities and became a researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington. At the same time, he publicly pressured the US to break off diplomatic and military ties with the Chilean dictatorship.

On September 21, 1976, Letelier died along with American IPS campaigner Ronni Moffitt, when the car they were in suddenly exploded in front of the embassy of Ireland in downtown Washington DC. It is believed that DINA, the Chilean secret police, carried out the bombing. In a private memorandum in 1987, the then-US Secretary of State George Schultz described the bombing as “the only clear case of state-supported terrorism that has occurred in Washington DC”. But the Chilean government, which at the time had friendly relations with the White House, refused to cooperate with the US investigation into the incident.

But declassified US government documents now show that the CIA had concluded that the Chilean government was indeed behind Letelier’s murder. Additionally, the bombing had been directly authorized by the country’s dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, who had led the coup against Allende in 1973. Copies of the documents were personally delivered to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry, as Santiago is seeking to reopen the investigation into the murders. They reveal that Manuel Contreras, head of DINA at the time of the bombing, told an American source that he had supervised the operation to murder Letelier’s under direct orders by General Pinochet. Additionally, according to the CIA documents, the Chilean dictator tried to sabotage the US investigation in to the bombing, and even contemplated killing Contreras in order to hide his personal involvement.

As intelNews has reported before, the US investigation led to the arrest of Michael Townley, an American professional assassin who had previously worked for the CIA. Townley was hired by DINA to help assassinate Letelier’s. He was extradited to the US by the Chilean government in 1978 after strong US pressure. He served just 62 months in prison, in return for agreeing to collaborate with US government investigators. Townley is currently said to be living under the US Witness Protection Program.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 12 October 2015 | Permalink

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Augusto PinochetBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
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CIA killed Chile Army commander, says Pinochet’s spy chief

Carlos Prats

Carlos Prats

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The convicted former chief of Chile’s intelligence services during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet has accused the CIA of murdering the deposed leader of the Chilean army and former Vice-President of Chile, in 1974. General Carlos Prats González was a close political ally of Chilean President Salvador Allende, who was toppled by a CIA-assisted military coup in 1973, led by General Augusto Pinochet. General Prats managed to escape with his family to neighboring Argentina. It was there where, in 1974, he was killed along with his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, in a massive car bomb. A Chilean court has convicted General Manuel Contreras, who headed Pinochet’s feared DINA secret police, for the murder of General Prats and his wife. But Contreras, 81, who has been in prison since 1995, servicing over 100 years for several kidnappings and murders of anti-Pinochet dissidents, now accuses the CIA of the Prats murders. Read more of this post

Suspects arrested for 1981 poisoning of Chilean ex-president

Eduardo Frei

Eduardo Frei

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Chilean judge this week charged several people connected with the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, of complicity in the 1981 murder by poisoning of former Chilean President Eduardo Frei Montalva. With the help of the CIA, Frei, a conservative centrist, became Chile’s elected leader from 1964 to 1970. In 1973, he supported the Augusto Pinochet junta movement against Chile’s elected President, Salvador Allende, but soon became disillusioned and opposed the military regime’s widespread human rights abuses. In November 1981, Frei checked into Santiago’s Santa Maria Clinic for a routine hernia operation. It was there, according to the court indictment, that several doctors connected with the Pinochet junta systematically poisoned the former Chilean President with thallium and small doses of mustard gas, which eventually killed him. Read more of this post

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