The Murder Investigation

30 October 1977
Article

Almost a year after Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt were murdered, the killers remain at large. The Institute on the very day of the assassinations launched its own investigation. The results of that probe follow:

We have reason to believe that when Cuban exiled terrorists met with DINA officials at the executive lodge of a US-controlled mining company with Canadian registry in Bonao, Dominican Republic, in June, 1976, all but the final details of Orlando Letelier's murder had clearly been arranged. The decision to assassinate the former Chilean Ambassador to the United States, and foreign and defense minister, sprang from the political insecurity of General Pinochet himself. Pinochet had followed Letelier's activities against the Chilean junta: convincing the Dutch government to cancel a $64 million credit; briefing a US congressional delegation to Chile which returned with a strong report condemning the junta's human rights violations; constantly writing and speaking about the illegitimacy as well as the economic and political bankruptcy of Pinochet's military clique. All indications are that the Chilean self-appointed President decided that Letelier was too dangerous to live. He had earlier convinced the junta to revoke Letelier's citizenship, but that had not stopped Letelier's activities.

So we believe that Pinochet quietly ordered Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, the head of DINA, the secret police and torture squad that reported to Pinochet personally, to get rid of Letelier, and that Contreras dispatched a trusted DINA officer to Miami where another DINA agent, Chilean consul officer Hector Duran, arranged a meeting. The DINA connector met some leaders of Brigade 2506, the veterans of the Bay of Pigs. We have information that the DINA representative promised Brigade leaders money and materials in exchange for them serving as contractors for the Letelier murder.

After some negotiation, the Brigade leaders agreed and hired explosive experts in New Jersey - also Cuban exiles - who undertook the contract for money and because they were led to believe that Letelier was a Cuban spy. The actual hit men were loosely connected to an ideological fascist group, who played a minor role at best, was selected to take the rap in case investigators pursued the killers' trail vigorously. This man, Guillermo Novo, is now a fugitive.

Tight surveillance of Letelier was carried out in Washington so that all his movements were known and predictable, his automobile and parking place identified. The detonator and device were placed well before the murder, but even so the killers knew that Ronni Moffitt and her husband Michael were passengers in the car when they decided to push the button.

The Department of Justice and FBI's own investigations, after months of pursuing passion and insurance as possible motives for the murders, now coincide in every detail with our own, so far we have been able to ascertain. All of our evidence and material has been turned over to the federal prosecutor. One of the Cuban exiles sits in the DC jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury. The DINA contractor remains in Chile, immune from the legal process.

We await the indictments of Contreras, the high DINA official who travelled to Miami under a false name; Duran, the Miami consular Chilean official; and the Cuban connectors and hit men. When this occurs or a full report is issued in its stead documenting the case against DINA and the Cuban exiles, it will be obvious that Pinochet himself ordered the murder. We accused him shortly after the assassinations. We accuse him again! The Carter Administration should acknowledge Pinochet's guilt and take the appropriate diplomatic steps.