Letelier in 1976
Sergio Orlando Letelier del Solar|
13 April 1932
21 September 1976 (aged 44)|
Washington, D.C., United States
|Cause of death||Car bomb|
|Known for||Letelier case|
|Spouse(s)||Isabel Margarita Morel|
|Children||Cristián, José, Francisco, Juan Pablo|
Orlando Letelier Ruiz |
Inés del Solar
Marcos Orlando Letelier del Solar (13 April 1932 – 21 September 1976) was a Chilean economist, politician and diplomat during the presidency of Salvador Allende. A refugee from the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, Letelier accepted several academic positions in Washington, D.C. following his exit from Chile. In 1976, agents of DINA, the Pinochet regime's secret police, assassinated Letelier in Washington via the use of a car bomb. These agents had been working in collaboration with members of the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, a U.S.-sponsored, anti-Fidel Castro, militant group.
Letelier was born in Temuco, Chile, the youngest child of Orlando Letelier Ruiz and Inés del Solar. He studied at the Instituto Nacional and, at the age of sixteen, he was accepted as a cadet of the Chilean Military Academy, where he completed his secondary studies. Later, he abandoned the military life. He did not finish college and never received a university degree. In 1955, he joined the recently formed Copper Office (Departamento del Cobre, now CODELCO), where he worked until 1959 as a research analyst in the copper industry.
In the same year, Letelier married Isabel Margarita Morel Gumucio on December 17, 1955, with whom he had four children: Cristián, José, Francisco, and Juan Pablo.
Later in 1955, Letelier was fired from the Copper Office, ostensibly for supporting Salvador Allende's unsuccessful second presidential campaign. The Letelier family left for Venezuela, where Orlando became a copper consultant for the Finance Ministry.
When he was in the university, Letelier became a student representative at the University of Chile's Student Union. In 1959, he joined the Chilean Socialist Party (PS). In 1971, President Allende appointed him ambassador to the United States. His specific mission was to try to defend the Chilean nationalization of copper against the previous private ownership favored by the US government.
In the coup d'état of September 11, 1973, he was the first high-ranking member of the Allende administration to be arrested. He was held for twelve months in different concentration camps suffering severe torture: first at the Tacna Regiment, then at the Military Academy; later he was sent for eight months to a political prison on Dawson Island and from there he was transferred to the basement of the Air Force War Academy, and finally to the concentration camp of Ritoque, until international diplomatic pressure, especially from Diego Arria, then Governor of Distrito Federal of Venezuela, resulted in the sudden release of Letelier on the condition that he immediately leave Chile.
In 1975, Letelier moved to Washington D.C. where he became senior fellow of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, where Landau worked at the time. Letelier became director of the Amsterdam, the Netherlands-based Transnational Institute, and taught at the School of International Service of the American University, in Washington, D.C. Letelier wrote several articles criticizing the "Chicago Boys", a group of South American economists trained at the University of Chicago by Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger who went to their home countries to promote and advise leaders on the benefits of a free-market economy.
This was used to great effect in Chile where General Pinochet looked to remove a socialist economic system and replace it with a free market economy. Letelier believed that in a resource driven economy such as Chile, allowing markets to operate freely simply guaranteed the shift of wealth from the lower and middle classes to the monopolists and financial speculators. He soon became the leading voice of the Chilean resistance, preventing several loans (especially from Europe) from being awarded to the Chilean government. On September 10, 1976, he was deprived of his Chilean nationality by decree.
Moffit's husband, Michael Moffitt, was injured but survived. Several people were prosecuted and convicted for the murder. Among them were Michael Townley, a U.S. expatriate working for DINA, General Manuel Contreras, former head of the DINA, and Brigadier Pedro Espinoza, also formerly of DINA. Townley was convicted in the United States in 1978 and served 62 months in prison for the murder; he is now free as a participant in the United States Federal Witness Protection Program. Contreras and Espinoza were convicted in Chile in 1993.
General Augusto Pinochet, who died on December 10, 2006, was never brought to trial for the murders, despite evidence implicating him as having ordered them. Following the assassination, the United States cut military aid to Chile, and took a stance of 'unobtrusiveness' within the country.
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Following the death of Pinochet in December 2006, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), for which both Letelier and Moffitt worked, called for the release of all the classified documents related to the Letelier–Moffitt assassination.
According to the IPS, the Clinton administration de-classified more than 16,000 documents related to Chile, but withheld documents related to the Letelier-Moffitt assassination in Washington on the grounds that they were associated with an ongoing investigation. The IPS says that the Clinton administration did re-activate the investigation into the Letelier-Moffitt murders and sent agents to Chile to gather additional evidence that Pinochet had authorized the crime. The former Chilean Secret Police Chief, Manuel Contreras, who, was convicted for his role in the crime in 1993, later pointed the finger at his superiors, claiming that all relevant orders came from Pinochet.
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A US State Department document made available by the National Security Archive on 10 April 2010 reveals that a démarche protesting Pinochet's Operation Condor assassination program was proposed and sent on 23 August 1976 to US diplomatic missions in Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile to be delivered to their host governments but later rescinded on 16 September 1976 by Henry Kissinger, following concerns raised by US ambassadors assigned there of both personal safety and a likely diplomatic contretemps. Five days later, the Letelier assassination took place.
Documents released in 2015 revealed a CIA report dated April 28, 1978, which showed that the agency by then had knowledge that Pinochet ordered the murders. The report stated "Contreras told a confidant he authorized the assassination of Letelier on orders from Pinochet." A State Department document also referred to eight separate CIA reports from around the same date, each sourced to "extremely sensitive informants" who provided evidence of Pinochet's direct involvement in ordering the assassination and in directing the subsequent cover-up.
- Chile under Pinochet
- Chilean political scandals
- National Security Archive
- Journalist Robert Novak's involvement in the Orlando Letelier assassination
- State Terrorism
- Lettieri, Mike (1 June 2007). "Posada Carriles, Bush's Child of Scorn". Washington Report on the Hemisphere. 27 (7/8).
- Letelier, Orlando. "The Chicago Boys in Chile: Economic Freedom's Awful Toll", The Nation 223, no. 28 (1976): 137-42.
- "Cable Ties Kissinger to Chile Scandal". The New York Times. Associated Press. 10 April 2010.
The next day, on Sept. 21, 1976, agents of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet planted a car bomb and exploded it on a Washington, D.C., street, killing both former Ambassador Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Letelier was one of the most outspoken critics of the Pinochet government.[dead link][dead link]
- Associated Press "Cable Ties Kissinger to Chile Scandal", Blog Cella, 10 April 2010; retrieved 21 September 2011.
- Freudenheim, Milt and Roberts, Katherine "Chilean Admits Role in '76 Murder" The New York Times, 8 February 1987; retrieved 20 September 2011.
- Constable, Pamela; Valenzuela, Arturo (1988). Chile's Return to Democracy. Council on Foreign Relations. p. 186.
- "New Docs Show Kissinger Rescinded Warning on Assassinations Days Before Letelier Bombing in DC".
[A senior analyst at the National Security Archive, Peter Kornbluh, noted] Then you have the US ambassador in Chile saying, basically, well, Pinochet's feelings will be hurt and he'll be insulted if I tell him ... that we think that he's involved in international assassinations. I think that that's not a very good idea...give me further instructions. And you had our ambassador--these are some other documents that we've recently obtained through the FOIA--our ambassador in Uruguay, Ernest Siracusa, writes back and says: I'm worried that my life will be in danger if I actually raise this subject here. Why don't you take the security risk in Washington.On 16 September 1976, Henry Kissinger rescinded the démarche order to his staff, and on 20 September 1976 US diplomats were duly informed of the revised directive. The next day, 21 September 1976, Letelier and Moffit were killed in the bomb blast.
- Dinges, John (14 October 2015). "A BOMBSHELL ON PINOCHET'S GUILT, DELIVERED TOO LATE". Newsweek.
- Dinges, John, and Landau, Saul. Assassination on Embassy Row (London, 1981) ISBN 0-07-016998-5, (McGraw-Hill, 1981)
- Dinges, John. The Condor Years (The New Press: 2004) ISBN 1-56584-764-4
- Hitchens, Christopher, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, (Verso Books: 2001) ISBN 1-85984-631-9
- Taylor Branch and Eugene M Propper Labyrinth (Viking Press 1983, Penguin Books 1983, ISBN 0-14-006683-7)
- Orlando Letelier Archive held by the Transnational Institute.
- MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base Nine legal documents from the trials of Letelier's assassins. Includes trial transcripts.
- Institute for Policy Studies, where Letelier and Moffitt worked at the time, gives circumstances surrounding bombing.
- John Dinges John Dinges was a correspondent for "The Washington Post" in South America from 1975 to 1983, author of The Condor Years: How Pinochet and his Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents (The New Press 2004) and with Saul Landau Assassination on Embassy Row (Pantheon Books 1980), (Asesinato en Washington, Lasser 1980, Planeta 1990)
- Biography at Memoria Chilena
- Tom Hayden (April 18, 2005). "An Exiled Son of Santiago". The Nation. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
- New Docs Show Kissinger Rescinded Warning on Assassinations Days Before Letelier Bombing - video report by Democracy Now!, April 12, 2010
- The Washington Post Remembrance of the Assignation - Video report by the Washington Post 9/18/2016
- Orlando Letelier's article "Economic 'Freedom's' Awful Toll; The 'Chicago Boys' in Chile", TheNation.com, September 21, 2016.
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