Chilean Dictator OK'd Bomb Attacks

A US prosecutor has declared that Pinochet personally approved orders for a 1974 attack against exiled Gen. Carlos Prats, an opponent of his regime.

TNI and the Pinochet precedent

As Spain continues its efforts to extradite former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte to face trial for incidents of murder and torture committed under his rule, a US prosecutor has declared that Pinochet personally approved orders for a 1974 attack against exiled Gen. Carlos Prats, a opponent of his regime, according to a report published by the Argentine daily La Nacion. Prats and his wife Sofia Cuthbert were killed in a car-bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September 1974. US prosecutor Eugene Propper uncovered evidence of Pinochet's role in the killing when he was in charge of investigating the 1976 car-bombing murder in Washington of another Pinochet opponent - Chilean former foreign minister Orlando Letelier, who was killed along with his US aide, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. The US government didn't have authority or jurisdiction over the Prats case, said Propper, but in the course of the Letelier investigation we learned how it had happened [...] Contreras wanted to do it and Pinochet approved it, said Propper. Gen. Manuel Contreras was the top chief of the National Intelligence Department (DINA), Pinochet's secret police. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence in a Chilean prison for the Letelier murder.

Argentine judge Maria Servini de Cubria and prosecutor Jorge Alvarez Berlanda, who are investigating the Prats case, interviewed Propper during a recent visit to Washington. Propper said the US Justice Department has offered Argentine authorities information that could be used for the Prats case. A key witness is Michael Townley, a former DINA agent that Servini has asked to question. Townley has been living in the US under the witness protection program since he confessed his role in the Letelier murder and cooperated with its investigation. Other former DINA agents and Chilean military officers are also being protected in the US. In Washington, Servini and Berlanda signed a confidentiality pact with US authorities to guarantee discretion in the investigation.

In his statements, Propper was skeptical about any significant declassification of US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents related to the 1973 coup in Chile, in which Pinochet ousted democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende. They'll never do it, for any case, said Propper. If they do it, it will end with the intelligence agencies... The US government would never ask the CIA to declassify its documents.

On May 13, the US House of Representatives approved an amendment introduced by Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), which requires the intelligence agencies to hand over to Congress their documents about the coup. These documents must be brought to light, and their publication will substantially reinforce the trial and the extradition request for Pinochet, says the amendment. Hinchey says his goal is to find answers to important questions about the involvement of the CIA, the State Department and then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger in the overthrow of President Salvador Allende [El Pais (Spain) 5/25/99].

On May 18 about 25 people demonstrated outside a hotel in Toronto against Henry Kissinger, who now heads his own consulting firm. Hoping to make a citizens' arrest of Kissinger under the Canadian War Crimes Act, the protesters spent an hour trying to gain entrance to the exclusive luncheon where he was the guest speaker for a crowd of 1,000 business executives. If... Pinochet can be arrested and face trial for crimes against humanity, then the men who placed Pinochet in power and kept him there, including Henry Kissinger, should be held accountable as well, said Brent Patterson of Toronto Action for Social Change (TASC). Another protester, Matthew Behrens, said Kissinger is guilty of ethnic cleansing in countries around the world: Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Greece, Argentina, Brazil. After hotel security complained, police threw out the protesters and charged four people with trespassing.

Copyright 1999 The Toronto Star

About the authors

Saul Landau

TNI Senior Fellow and former Director of TNI (1976), Landau was an award-winning filmmaker, journalist and author. Landau wrote on US politics and foreign policy and has produced more than forty films on social, political and historical issues, and worldwide human rights.

Landau has written fourteen books. He received an Edgar Allen Poe Award for Assassination on Embassy Row, a report on the 1976 murders of Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his colleague, Ronni Moffitt.

Gore Vidal says, "Saul Landau is a man I love to steal ideas from"

Saul received the Bernardo O'Higgins award from the Chilen government in 2010.

In 2011, he produced 'Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up' with Danny Glover and Fidel Castro, a film about 50+ years of US-Cuba relations.

He died from cancer at age 77 on September 9 2013.