September 10, 1976, a decree was issued, stripping Orlando Letelier of his Chilean nationality. The charges:

17 November 2005
TNI

 

September 10, 1976, a decree was issued, stripping Orlando Letelier of his Chilean nationality. The charges:

This personage is carring on a publicity campaign abroad, aiming at a political, economic and cultural isolation of Chile. In the concrete case of his activities in Holland, he incited the dock workers and transport workers of this country to proclaim a boycott over goods with Chilean destination or origin, and persuaded the Dutch government to hinder or prevent the investment of Dutch capital in Chile.

The assassination of Letelier, indeed, brought American investigators to TNI's doorstep in Amsterdam and later, in January 1979, four Dutch witnesses (Relus ter Beek, Jan Joost Teunissen, Emile Fallaux and Herman Vuijsje) appeared at the US trial. Although it was believed that there was a direct connection between Letelier's activities in the Netherlands, the issuance of the decree and the assassination, the story of Letelier's trips to Holland and the Stevin Group Affair has sofar never been told. The conclusion one should draw is that Letelier played a role in Stevin company's decision to withdraw from Chile, as well as the Dutch politicians who were involved, but the determining force seems to have been the role of the municipalities.

 
 

Letelier's Trips to Holland and the Stevin Group Affair

 

 
 

October 1975, Letelier was appointed TNI Director ("Director of Planning and Development for the International Political Economy Programme"). The Transnational Institute, with its office in Amsterdam, was an affiliate of the Institute for Policy Studies, based in Washington DC, where the Letelier family lived. In his capacity as Director, Letelier visited the Netherlands four times in 1976: in February, June, July and August/September.

Letelier's first visit coincided with the start of a broad boycott campaign coordinated by the Dutch Chile Committee. In this campaign, the public statements by Letelier were often used as a kind of "chief witness". February 23, the Chile Committee organised, in cooperation with the representative of the Central Unica de Trabajadores (CUT) in the Netherlands and the Dutch Transport Federation (composed of the two biggest trade unions NVV and NKV), a press conference in The Hague. Letelier spoke at this conference as the representative of the Chilean resistance. In his speech, he strongly urged the necessity of an economic boycott of Chile:

Even a boycott by one country can be effective. Even if such a boycott may not have direct consequences upon the Chilean economy, it produces a political effect.

Apart from this press conference, Letelier granted interviews to various Dutch media, stressing the importance of fighting the junta by means of a boycott. In the weekly De Groene Amsterdammer he extensively elaborated his argument.

Economic actions abroad are of utmost importance, because of the vulnerability of the junta in its financial dependence on foreign countries. I heard Dutch trade union officials saying that a boycott makes sense only if nearly every port in the world participates. But a boycott in one port already means a step forward in the defeat of the fascist dictatorship.

Referring to the important Dutch investments in Chile (by that time the Netherlands rated first on the list of countries investing in Chile), he said in the same interview in De Groene Amsterdammer:

In my opinion any investment in Chile at this moment is immoral, because it sustains one of the most fascist regimes in the world.

He continued, warning investors that they run important commercial risks, because a post-junta government could nullify agreements, made with the illegitimate government of Chile. In an interview with VPRO Radio, that was broadcasted later on March 26, Letelier made similar statements. That same day, the Dutch Chile Committee organised a boycott action in the port of Rotterdam, directed against the arrival of the first ship with Chilean fruit of the 1976 harvest.

Between Letelier's first visit in February and his second visit in June, the Stevin Group affair became a public issue. The Stevin Group was a Dutch contractor firm, that in 1975 had signed a contract with the Chilean junta for the investment of at most $ 62,5 million in mining and ore proceeding actvities in the Chilean coastal area. This projected investment gave the Netherlands its first place among the foreign countries investing in Chile.

During the months of March, April and May, public opinion was successfully mobilised against the Stevin Group Project. A crucial moment came the first of June, when the municipality of Groningen threatened to boycott the Stevin Group if it continued its Chilean project. Later on, the Groningen example was followed by Rotterdam (that, like Groningen, was governed by a leftist coalition) and other municipalities.

June 10, the Stevin Group suspended its activities in Chile until talks with the most important municipalities would have taken place. The Stevin Group was to a great extent dependent on public work orders by municipalities. The start of Letelier's second visit coincided with this decision taken by the Stevin Group. Letelier's presence and prestige was used in the effort to force the Stevin Group to completely withdraw its Chilean project. He was put in contact with Jan Pronk, Minister for Development Cooperation, with André van der Louw, mayor of Rotterdam, with Relus ter Beek, member of the Dutch Parliament and one of the specialists in foreign affairs of the Dutch Labour Party, and with Ien van den Heuvel, president of the Dutch Labour Party (at the time the biggest government party). In all these conversations, Letelier made a plea for economic boycott measures against Chile, and more specifically mentioned the Stevin Group. Letelier also had direct contact with Stevin's director who handled the Chilean case, J.K.J. Kokje.

Letelier visited Holland again in July and returned to Amsterdam on August 27 for a Fellows' Meeting at the Transnational Institute. This fourth and final visit coincided with a decisive phase in the Stevin Group Affair. On August 27, the Stevin Group published its final decision to withdraw completely from Chile.

Letelierstraat in Amsterdam Osdorp

 

DOCUMENTS & MEDIA COVERAGE

 

Letelier & TNI

The Letelier case in the Dutch media