Chile will ask US to extradite three men wanted in killing of UN diplomat

Carmelo SoriaThe Supreme Court of Chile will request that the United States extradites three individuals, including an American former professional assassin, who are implicated in the kidnapping, torture and murder of a United Nations diplomat. Carmelo Soria was a Spanish diplomat with dual Chilean nationality, who in the early 1970s was employed in the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1971, when the leftist Popular Unity party won Chile’s elections and became the nation’s governing coalition, Soria became an advisor to the country’s Marxist President, Salvador Allende. After the 1973 violent military coup, which killed Allende and overthrew his government, Soria used his diplomatic status to extend political asylum to a number of pro-Allende activists who were being hunted down by the new rightwing government of General August Pinochet.

Soria’s activities made him a target of the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), Chile’s domestic security service, which was a leading implementer of Operation CONDOR, a widespread anti-communist program that began in 1968 with the participation of most Latin American governments. CONDOR, which ended in 1989, included psychological operations, kidnappings and assassinations that targeted leftwing organizations and activists. On July 14, 1976, Soria, who had by then resumed his previous UN post, was kidnapped by agents of the DINA. He was tortured and murdered under detention. His body was found on July 16 inside a car that had been dumped in a river in Santiago de Chile. The Pinochet government refused to investigate the incident, saying that Soria had been driving under the influence of alcohol.

Last Tuesday, however, after an investigation that dates back to 1991, the Supreme Court of Chile said that an extradition request will be sent to the United States for three individuals who were allegedly directly implicated in the murder of Soria. They are: Michael Townley, a US citizen; Armando Fernandez Larios, of Chile; and Cuban Virgilio Pablo Paz Romero, all of whom were agents of DINA at the time of Soria’s murder. Townley is a former professional assassin who was hired by DINA for a series of murders. In 1978, a US court convicted him for his participation in the assassination of Orlando Letelier, former Chilean ambassador to the US, who was killed in 1976, when his car exploded in Washington, DC. Since his release from prison, Townley has been living in the US under the Witness Protection Program.

Larios, a Chilean national, was also convicted of being “an accessory after the fact” in the Letelier assassination and is also living in the US, having struck a plea bargain with Washington. The third individual, Paz Romero, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1991, after admitting that he personally detonated the remote-controlled car bomb that killed Leteler. He was paroled after serving half of his sentence and was ordered to be deported to his home country of Cuba. However, due to the absence of a bilateral deportation agreement between Washington and Havana, Romero remained in the indefinite custody of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 2001, the US Supreme Court ruled that indefinite detentions were unconstitutional, so Romero was released and has been living freely in the US since that time.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 May 2016 | Permalink | News tip: R.W.

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

Chile launches search for suspect in alleged Neruda poisoning

Pablo Neruda (right) and Salvador AllendeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The government of Chile has launched an official search for a United States suspect in connection with the alleged poisoning of celebrated poet Pablo Neruda. The Chilean literary icon, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971, died on September 23, 1973. His death occurred less than two weeks after a coup d’état, led by General Augusto Pinochet, toppled the democratically elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende, a close friend of Neruda. The death of the internationally acclaimed poet, who was 69 at the time, was officially attributed to prostate cancer and the effects of acute mental stress over the military coup. Earlier this year, however, an official investigation was launched into Neruda’s death following allegations that he had been murdered. The investigation was sparked by a comment made by Neruda’s personal driver, Manuel Araya, who said that the poet had been deliberately injected with poison while receiving treatment for cancer at the Clinica Santa Maria in Chilean capital Santiago. Investigators are still awaiting the completion of a complex autopsy performed on Neruda’s remains, which were exhumed in April. But the Chilean government has already issued a search order for a medical doctor —or someone pretending to be a doctor— who was allegedly on Neruda’s bedside on the night of his death. The search was issued based on comments made recently by another medical doctor, Sergio Draper, who supervised Neruda’s hospital treatment in September of 1973. Dr. Draper told government investigators that he turned over his shift that night to a “Dr. Price”, a young doctor in his late 20s, who was with Neruda in the hours leading to the poet’s death. According to Rodolfo Reyes, a lawyer representing the Neruda estate, Dr.Price’s identity remains a mystery. Read more of this post