Terrorism / Chilean Junta

Dinges, John. The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents. New York: The New Press, 2004. 322 pages.

Operation Condor was a secret kidnapping and assassination program during the 1970s. It was organized by fascist Chile, and included the intelligence agencies of Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. Condor assassinated a prominent activist in Washington and was also active in Europe. At home the Condor countries were kidnapping, torturing, murdering, and disappearing tens of thousands of their own people.

For Henry Kissinger it was a lovely war, and even today the extent of CIA complicity in Condor is unresolved. In 1999 Clinton ordered the declassification of documents about Chile and Argentina, the effect of which was to raise more questions than answers. A more interesting resource are the files found in a Paraguay police station in 1992. The author also got copies of correspondence between Chile's intelligence agency and their operatives in Buenos Aires, and interviewed or obtained testimony from more than 200 people. (John Dinges lived in Chile during the 1970s and is now a journalism professor at Columbia University.) There is so much evil described in this book, and so many compelling stories of victims, and heroes relentlessly pursuing justice without compensation or fanfare, that after putting this book down one must ask, "Why is quality journalism such as this published so rarely in the U.S.?"

Branch, Taylor and Propper, Eugene M. Labyrinth. New York: Penguin Books, 1983. 623 pages.

Dinges, John and Landau, Saul. Assassination on Embassy Row. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981. 411 pages.

Freed, Donald. Death in Washington: The Murder of Orlando Letelier. Westport CT: Lawrence Hill, 1980. 254 pages.

On September 21, 1976, Orlando Letelier was assassinated in Washington. He had been Minister of Defense in Chile in 1973, when President Salvador Allende, elected three years earlier by the Chilean people, was murdered during a CIA-supported coup. After a year in a concentration camp, Letelier was released and moved to the U.S., where he began organizing against the Chilean junta out of offices at the Institute for Policy Studies. Agents of Chile's intelligence service DINA placed a bomb in Letelier's car, which killed him and IPS co-worker Ronni Moffitt.

Some of the assassins were convicted, and some are still wanted. As of 1991, the U.S. was still seeking to extradite three suspects from Chile, including former DINA head Gen. Manuel Contreras and his chief aide Col. Pedro Espinoza. The most notorious plotter is Michael Townley, an American expatriate who was extradited from Chile in 1978 to take the heat off of junta leader Augusto Pinochet. Townley served five years of his sentence before being released into the U.S. witness protection program. Some of us coup watchers had already heard about Townley. Two years before the assassination, NACLA described him as a Peace Corp volunteer turned right-wing terrorist and CIA advisor in pre-coup Chile. Microcomputers were invented to keep track of people like him.

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