25th Anniversary of the Chilean Coup

11 September 1998

The United States has not apologised for destabilising Chile and thereby altering the destiny of its people.

TNI and the Pinochet precedent

I had nothing to do with human rights violations, Augusto Pinochet told Chilean reporters recently, referring to his 1973-1990 reign as dictator. Pinochet claimed he knew nothing of the whereabouts of over 1000 people who disappeared after being detained by his security forces during those 17 years. Why should I be involved in this if I have nothing to with human rights. I've asked my friends but nobody knows anything. Do you think I'm keeping secrets? asked Pinochet.

Accusing me of human rights violations is the most unjust thing one could do to a man, he said. I want to be remembered in history as a Chilean who loved his patria and fought to make it greater.

Pinochet's rise to prominence began with a decision made by President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger. In 1970, reacting to the election of Dr. Salvador Allende and his socialist coalition, Nixon ordered the CIA to stop Allende's inauguration. Kissinger justified this by calling the Chilean people's electoral judgment irresponsible.

Allende ascended to the presidency despite CIA dirty tricks and instituted reforms to benefit the poor. The CIA, however, began to systematically destabilise Chile's economy and social order, while simultaneously encouraging the military to revolt. On September 11, 1973, army chief Pinochet finally led a coup to destroy the Allende government. Pinochet's forces proceeded to assassinate, torture and imprison tens of thousand of subversives - those thought to retain loyalty to democratic government. Pinochet abolished Chile's Constitution, its trade unions, social services: its freedom. Tens of thousands of Chileans took refuge abroad. The long arm of Pinochet's secret police, DINA, reached them also. In September 1974, DINA agents assassinated General Carlos Prats, former Chilean chief of staff, and his wife, both exiled in the Argentina. In 1975, a DINA hitman shot exiled Christian Democrat Bernardo Leighton and his wife in Rome, critically wounding both.

In September 1976, DINA agents car-bombed Orlando Letelier, Allende's defense Minister, exiled in Washington, DC. Ronni Moffitt, sitting next to him, died in the explosion as well. Both were my colleagues at the Institute for Policy Studies. The Justice Department indicted nine conspirators, including Chile's secret police chief and his deputy who were tried and convicted in a Chilean court and are serving prison terms there for their role in those killings.

The United States has not apologised for destabilising Chile and thereby altering the destiny of its people. Indeed, Washington has yet to admit its direct role in the coup. But on the day Allende died, along with Chilean democracy, US Navy spy ships, coincidentally on maneuvers off the Chilean coast, monitored communication at Chile's military bases, in order to inform the coup makers about regiments that might remain loyal to Allende.

Pinochet, now 82, faces murder charges in Spain, Argentina and Chile. But now under civilian rule he claims immunity as Senator for Life, which he himself created for his retirement. We shall see! Attorney General Reno could still name Pinochet as a co-conspirator in the Letelier-Moffitt case - a token measure, which would stop short of indicting Henry Kissinger for war crimes against the Chilean people. It's too early to know the full scope of Chile's suffering thanks to his and Nixon's decision. But an apology and an indictment of Pinochet would be admirable first steps in a rectification process.

Copyright 1998 Pacifica Network