The United States has turned over a collection of newly classified documents on the 1976 car bomb murder of Orlando Letelier and his American colleague, Ronni Moffitt in Washington in 1976. Letelier was a former Chilean ambassador to the United States and cabinet minister under the socialist government of Salvador Allende (1970-73); he and Moffitt worked at the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning think tank. A subsequent grand jury investigation resulted in an extradition request for the head of the Pinochet regime’s security agency, Colonel Manuel Contreras and two other Chilean intelligence agents—which the regime rejected.
The new batch of documents was delivered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting with President Michelle Bachelet this past week in Santiago. As I write this, only two have been published and they confirm what most people familiar with the case already knew–that Pinochet ordered the killings. One is a 1987 memo from then Secretary of State George Schultz to President Ronald Reagan states
“We have long known that the Chilean secret police/intelligence service was behind this brutal act, perhaps the only clear case of state-sponsored terrorism that has occurred in Washington, D.C.” Schultz then speculates whether the U.S. government would want to indict Pinochet himself, and that his role in the assassinations and cover-up “is of the greatest seriousness and adds further impetus to the need to work toward the complete democratization of Chile.”
The other document is a State Department cable sent early in 1987, with a couple of source names deleted and mentions assertions by Contreras that Pinochet had ordered the Letelier assassination. Contreras told another senior army official that he had hidden sealed documents in several locations “in the event of his, Contreras’ death.”
More documents to follow, and the National Security Archive web site, with its lengthy file on other declassified material on the case and on Chile, is a good place to find them: