Chile to Hear Truth on CIA Links to Junta

29 June 1999
Jonathan Franklin

United States government officials are going to release thousands of top secret files documenting the relationship between the US intelligence community and the Chilean secret police.

TNI and the Pinochet precedent

A quarter of a century after a car bomb killed her brother, the Chilean human rights attorney Fabiola Letelier is preparing to hear the truth about his murder. Tomorrow United States government officials will release thousands of top secret files documenting the relationship between the US intelligence community and the Chilean secret police. Ms Letelier will be waiting to read them, hoping to find out who organised the 1974 assassination of her brother Orlando - then a prominent Chilean exile working in Washington against the military junta, led by General Augusto Pinochet, which overthrew President Salvador Allende the previous year. "This is an important number of CIA documents that will allow us to acquire a fuller truth of what happened, not just about the CIA's role in preparing the coup but their participation in later events", Ms Letelier said. "There may be documents that prove that the [murder] of Orlando was ordered by Pinochet". The bombing is just one of hundreds of incidents that may be clarified by the historic release of approximately 25,000 previously secret files, including those from the department of defence, CIA, state department and FBI. The information will be made available in both Chile and the US. Activists are planning to scan the most important documents on to a web site at George Washington University.

Despite extensive editing by American national security experts, the sheer volume of the material is expected to provide new details about the unsavoury tactics used by the US to topple Allende's democratically-elected government. Allende died in the September 1973 military coup and approximately 3,000 Chileans were murdered in the aftermath. To date, the bodies of fewer than 10% of the "disappeared" have been found. Peter Kornbluh, a reporter for the National Security Archive, a non-profit group in Washington, called the release a victory for human rights activists. "These documents will allow victims of the dictatorship to close their doubts or questions". Swayed by public pressure and an investigation by Spanish prosecutors into human rights abuses by Gen Pinochet, Mr Clinton in February issued a directive to "declassify documents related to human rights abuses in Chile". The first batch of documents will cover the years 1973-1978, a time when Gen Pinochet was consolidating his brutal regime. Previously released CIA documents have revealed that before the military takeover the agency concluded that "it is firm and continuing policy that Allende should be overthrown by a coup". The political impact in Chile of the files' release will be considerable. The ruling Christian Democrat party had planned a reorganising conference at the weekend to stem its slide in popularity. Now the accusations and calls for honesty will be especially strong.

Copyright 1999 The Guardian