Newly declassified U.S. intelligence documents revealed Thursday that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet personally ordered the 1976 assassination of one of his country’s diplomats in Washington.
Orlando Letelier, a former defense and foreign minister, was killed by a car bomb along with American Ronni Moffitt.
Letelier had been a top official under Marxist President Salvador Allende, who was ousted in a coup led by Pinochet in 1973. Letelier was tortured and jailed, but later managed to escape to the United States.
“We hope that studying these documents will shine a light” on both Pinochet’s role in the killing and a judicial system that never tried the dictator for the crime, Letelier’s son, Chilean Sen. Juan Pablo Letelier, told reporters Thursday.
Letelier said he had received copies of the documents at the behest of President Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet received them from Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Chile on Monday for an oceans conference.
Reuters reports the documents were originally sent to George Shultz when he was serving as Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989, according to Letelier.
“There’s also proof in that document of how Pinochet sought to block the investigations and cover up his name and responsibility,” he said.
The documents include State Department cables summarizing a series of informant reports from the years before 1978. They were also posted by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit organization based in Washington.
One document includes an assertion by the former head of Chile’s intelligence agency, Manuel Contreras, that “he authorized the assassination of Letelier” on direct orders from Pinochet.”
In 2005, Contreras and his second in command were convicted in Letelier’s death. Contreras died in August.
Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. He was never tried in the death of Letelier and died in 2010.
“Pinochet escaped legal accountability as an international terrorist, but these documents provide at least clear verdict of history on his role and his guilt,” said Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive and author of “The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability.”