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December 22, 2016
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February 4, 2009
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November 1, 1977
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Approved For Release 2009/02/04: CIA-RDP91 B001 34R000400130033-0 UTh YKULjKt.JS1Vt. - . ' Q November 197.7 Mounting evidence suggests that Cuban exiles . did the Chilean junta's dirty work STAT The le$elier-Mof #it,t Mystery ; She sold the house in Bethesda and moved into the smaller one in Washington, she said, because she just didn't need the rooms any more. Her sons, starting out on their own adult lives, had moved away. Then she laughed, her Latin eyes dancing, as she wondered where they would all sleep when her sons came back to the city in September. The conversation paused as Isabel Letelier. poured a glass of wine and offered crackers and cheese to her visi- tor. While they sat on the porch, taking in the summer evening, thoughts of her dead husband, Orlando, silently drifted between them. Then, brightly: "I remember a cocktail party we went to, in 1972, . the usual diplomatic kind of. social event. Henry Kissinger was there, and at one= point he pulled Orlando aside, and said, you know, in the way he would do it," she smiled, about to imitate the German accent, ":'Ambassador Letelier, I must tell you that those reports about the. CIA in Chile are absolutely-false. There is no truth . to them. We are not, trying to overthrow your government. You must tell your president that those re- ports are false.' "And so Orlando turned to him," she said, batting her eyelashes and recreating the moment, "and said, 'Why, Mr. Kissinger, I don't know of any reports about the CIA in Chile. But of course, we would be very interested to know what you've heard. I hope you will give. us a report on that. She smiled widely at the story,. and so did her visitor, Jegrey Stein, who-served as a U.S. Army intelligence ri//lcer in Vietnam, is a member of the Letelier-Mglitt Memorial Fu ndfor Human Rights. He writesfron Washington for the Boston Phoenix. but it was not a happy smile. For on thaymuggy.eyening in late August, eleven months had passed' since her husband and a young American woman colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, twenty-five, had been blown up in their car as they drove to work at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. Ronni's husband of almost six months.. Michael,: who had.-been riding in the back seat of the car, survived the blast, only to watch his wife stagger to the sidewalk and die as blood filled her lungs from an artery in her neck torn by shrapnel. Orlando Letelier lived another agonizing twenty minutes, his legs ripped from his body,' pinned in the wreckage of the car. - Justice Department officials have believed for several months that the generals who now rule Chile marked Letelier for assassination and hired anti-Castro Cuban ex- iles to carry it out. Several of the exiles, remnants of the clandestine army created by the CIA for its war on Cuba and Fidel Castro, have been interviewed by a grand jury which has been investigating the murders for the past year. One. of them, Jose Dionisio Suarez, was jailed in the spring for refusing' to testify after having been granted im--. munity from prosecution. From the beginning, the investigation has been marked by ineptitude and political intrigue. For weeks after the as- sassination, investigators tried to track down personal mo- tives for the murder, although the strongest, most im- mediate circumstantial evidence led directly to the doorstep of the Chilean junta and its chief, General Augusto Pinochet. Letelier was the junta's number one enemy. As the former ambassador to the United States from Chile while Salvador Allende's socialist coalition governed the coun- try, Letelier was the preeminent leader of the North American exile community. As troubles mounted for the CO YTINUEU1 Approved For Release 2009/02/04: CIA-RDP91 BOO 134R000400130033-0 Approved For Release 2009/02/04: CIA-RDP91 B001 34R000400130033-0 Popular Unity coalition in 1973, Letelier had been recalled to Santiago to become Allende's foreign minister, and later, defense minister. On the day of the coup. Sep- tember 11, 1973, he was led from the Defense Ministry in handcuffs by the machine gun-toting troops of the vic- torious generals. After a year of torture and interrogation at the hands of the junta's notorious secret police, the DINA, in a concentration camp in Chile's antarctic south, Letelier was released and Venezuela. In 1975, he returned with his family to Washington. In 1976, he was appointed director of the Transnational Institute, the foreign affairs arm of the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington-based research organization. International outrage had forced the junta to release him; he was well known and respected in Washington's diplomatic community. In 1976, Letelier began to draw on that respect as he lobbied against the junta in Washing ton and abroad. U.S. foreign aid and credits to the junta were reduced; dock workers in London refused to handle Chilean-bound cargos; and in June 1976, the Dutch government, as a result of Letelier's persistent urging, canceled a S62.5 million credit planned for the junta. He was becoming increasingly effective. In August 1976, Letelier emerged as the leader of the exile factions in a New York City gathering, and the death threats, which had begun months earlier, began to intensify. In Septem- ber, Augusto Pinochet decreed the end of Letelier's Chilean citizenship. On September 21 he was murdered. Grief and outrage, expressed by members of Congress, foreign heads of state, and other leading public figures, were immediately reflected in the newspapers, which printed diabolical portraits of the junta and its dread DINA agents on their editorial pages. Not long after.. however, it became apparent that the Justice Department was trying to explore every possible lead and motive ex- cept the most obvious one. In the immediate wake of the assassinations, the FBI failed to interview the janitor at the Institute for Policy Studies, who makes frequent trips into the alley and thus might have provided information on who might have at- tached the bomb to Letelier's car. It failed to show pic- tures of suspects to Letelier s maid, who told IPS associ- ates that she had noticed four Latino men loitering near the house on the morning of the murders. FBI agents also- took four days to retrieve evidence from the bombing site which had been gathered by a private citizen walking through Sheridan Circle the day after the murders. Further, the U.S. attorney in charge of the case, Eugene Propper, failed to arrange an interview with Orlando Bosch, the supreme leader of the Cuban anti-Castro exile terrorist groups, who was jailed in Venezuela last Novem- ber. Meanwhile, a free-lance writer was able to waltz into Bosch's jail cell in Caracas last April and obtain the admis- sion from him that he had organized a meeting of all the. Cuban exile factions' leaders in the Dominican Republic in June 1976, where Letelier's assassination was dis- cussed. Letelier's campaign to discredit the junta abroad "was bothering some of our friends in Chile," Bosch told the interviewer. "Chilean officials told me many times when I lived there that they wanted him dead." Bosch C~JrlT[NUECf Approved For Release 2009/02/04: CIA-RDP91 B001 34R000400130033-0 denied further knowledge of the assassination in the inter- view, but reportedly told Venezuelan authorities that two other Cuban exiles carried out the hit. .While the Justice Department's investigation puttered along through the winter. Letelier's associates at the In- stitute for Policy Studies became alarmed over the han- dling of evidence by FBI officials, the D.C. Metropolitan Police, and U.S. Attorney Propper. Among Letelier's personal effects recovered from the bombing site was a briefcase full of the normal mix of per- sonal correspondence and working papers. Mrs. Letelier was unable to have the briefcase returned to her on the day of the assassinations. Soon afterward, however, docu- ments from the dead man's briefcase began appearing in the press, most often in : the columns of Jeremiah O'Leary, a conservative reporter for The Washington Star known to have a close association with the FBI and CIA,' and in the nationally syndicated columns of Rowland Evans and Robert Novak. The overall effect of the stories, - which twisted and distorted Letelier's papers, was to brand him falsely as a Soviet or Cuban agent, a smear' campaign whose object no doubt was to distract attention from the suspects and somehow justify the murders. Eight months after Letelier's death, an Institute for Policy Studies staff member called U.S. Attorney Propper and notified him she would be down to his office that day to retrieve an inventory sheet of the briefcase's contents. She was startled to learn, however, that the Justice Depart- ment official had never received or demanded one from the District of Columbia police. Mrs. Letelier immediately called Propper and de- manded an explanation. "You have to understand," Propper told her, "that most of the documents were in Spanish. Therefore the police could not classify them. You know how the police department is." It turned out that the briefcase's contents had all been photocopied, but no. lists of the items had been prepared. "And the contents were efficiently distributed among right-wing writers," Mrs. Letelier noted to the official. "I had nothing to do,with that," Propper replied. it is im- possible to control the press. The Department is very upset about it." , . "I don't want to receive more surprises," she replied, and hung up. But more surprises were on the way. On May 23, Mrs. Letelier's assistant, Rhonda Johnson, ar- rived at Propper's office in. the Justice Department to compare lists of the briefcase's contents. She found some materials from the investigation mixed in with photo- copies,of the briefcase materials and other items missing. And although all of Orlando Letelier's belongings retrieved from the car by the police had supposedly been returned to his widow by that time, Propper reached into his filing cabinet and handed Johnson Letelier's appoint- ments book. Johnson was further disturbed to find that when she compared her inventory of the briefcase with copies of the items held by the D.C. Police Department homicide squad, nine pieces of material were missing. The Approved For Release 2009/02/04: CIA-RDP91 B001 34R000400130033-0 police had no explanation for how the items had been lost. activities in various countries. In December 1974, he es Under pressure from the Institute for Policy Studies, tablished a base of operations in Chile. "I passed several Propper issued a statement that none of the contents of times from Chile to Argentina. . .we tried to shoot some the briefcase had any relevance to the Letelier case, or any. Cuban diplomats in the middle of 1975...because of the other case pending before the Department. By early sum- contacts we made down there, we set up the murder of mer however, details of Letelier's personal life, as culled two Cuban diplomats," he has admitted. Bosch also re- from ..lcorrespondence in the briefcase, were circulating portedly received training from the DINA while he was in throughout, the press and right-wing groups close to the Chile. "The purpose behind the training," according to at CIA dnd FBI. In an interview last June, Edwin Wilson, a former Cuban exile leader who has recanted his past and former` CIA officer. whose primary duty was to .set up returned to Havana, "was to have Bosch assassinate fronts for the agency for the Bay of Pigs invasion,andother Andres Pascal Allende, nephew of the slain Chilean presi- CIA wars in the Congo and the Far East, admitted to me dent." 'that-h. ehadaearned details of Letelier'spersonal life from,. In-the summer of 1975, while Bosch traveled through friends inside the agency. Wilson, who was interviewed by Latin America and the Caribbean on a Chilean passport, the FBI in- connection with the Letelier assassination, now setting up some of the 150 bombings and fifty murders his. runs a Washington consulting firm whose business in- group has taken credit for, DINA chief Manuel Contreras .. cludes1shippirig.explosive timing devices to foreign clients, arrived in the United States to inspect DINA operations' More recently, an aide to Senator Richard Stone of here. The visit included a. meeting with then-CIA Deputy Florida said.'he had heard from "Judiciary Committee Director Vernon Walters in Washington. Shortly before sources ;chat Letelier was a "Cuban agent," and "that s the Contreras visit, DINA agent Frederico Willoughby ..'why lie'was.killed." Jack Anderson associate Les Whitten also came to the United States for medical tests at Johns ,airedj;the same. charge in a December 1976 column. Still Hopkins University hospital. Before returning toSantiago, another rumor was that,Letelierwas murdered by leftists, Willoughby visited the CIA, State Department, and rather than the right, to make a martyr of him. The New several members of Congress. On September .16, 1975, -Yorkl'`Times failed to assign a reporter to the case; The according to published. reports, DINA chief Contreras Washington Post remained largely silent during the late asked Pinochet for an extra S600,000 to "neutralize" summer. Chilean dissidents in seven countries, including the In March>;Isabel Letelier and Michael Moffitt had met United States. with AttorneyGeneral Griffin Bell and requested the ap- In October, the former vice. president of the Christian polntment of a special prosecutor, based on their Democratic Party, Bernardo Leighton, was gunned down knowledge 'of mishandled evidence and the questionable with his wife in Rome. During that fall and later,,there was ability-;:of: the Justice Department to obtain cooperation a noticeable increase in DINA operations throughout : from the' CIA, which. played a prominent role in the Latin America, Western Europe, and the United States. "destabilization of the .Allende government and sup- The international movements of DINA agents began to plied the junta's secret police with-arms and training after be more closely monitored by the police. In some cases, the. coup:': Be11 refused, explaining that he 'didn't want DINA agents were deported when assassination plans another Watergate." came to light. .:His; choice. of words was apt. Justice Department in- For Chilean exiles, it was a frightening period. Letelier, vestigators_now believe that the Cubans connected to the for one, learned that the junta,had been debating whether Letelier hit were;trained,by';the agency,_and that=the CIA- or,>.not to kill him. Shortly before he was murdered, it has supported junta sponsored the murders. been learned, a Chilean official in Miami, Consul General with well-known exile terrorists Gaspar Jiminez'Escobedo and Ramiroae la re and other members of the Miami-based exile group, Brigade 2506. haIIPVP PYnIn6uPQ All de e,interveneCag4uw- the government was recommendedby::the so-called 40'Com .usedfor`the Letelier hit arrived aboard a Chilean airlines mttiee under the. direction of Secretary of State' Henry` flight to Miami, and were shipped north into the hands of Kissinger, and approved by President. Richard Nixon. Cuban exiles who would carry out the execution. 'CIA'Director.Richard Helms put the. plan into action. At A prime suspect for that assignment is Guillermo'.. the lsame- time the CIA was; waging-a- clandestine- war Novo,a close associate of Orlando Bosch and a member against the=socialist; government ,of 11 Chile, however; the of the. Cuban Nationalist Movement, .based in --agency: had.retreated, from its secret wariagainst the com- Union City, New. Jersey.-Novo was jailed in 1973 in con- 'mumst'government of Cuba. By 'late .1974, the disillu- section with conspiracy charges in the bombing of a sior edanti-Castro Cuban armies, largely, cut off from the Cuban ship. When he was paroled in 1974, Novo joined `CIA's welfare rolls,=turned to the.generals 'in Chile, and,: Bosch for assignments in Chile and Venezuela. Foreign ?especially to.Augusto Pinochet, who. had. assumed .leader- travel was a violation of his parole terms; and so a hearing ->shio of the : hemisphere' s-anticommunist crusade. was scheduled, in New Jersey last June. Novo, however. Atfter, the Bay of?Pigs, the Cuban right-wing leader, failed to-appear; and awarrant has been issued for his ar Orlando Bosch, had retired to medical practice in Miami's rest next% twn..veart_', from 1974 through 1976, Approved For Release 2009/02/04: CIA-RDP91 BOO 134R000400130033-0 .,,;~?,; Approved For Release 2009/02/04: CIA-RDP91 B001 34R000400130033-0 'If. President Carter can welcome Pinochet and shake his hand, why can't he welcome me and shake my hand?' various gangs of Cubans, operating -mostly out of friendly territory in Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and the murky underworld of Miami's "Little Havana," carried out scores of bomb- ings, kidnappings, and murders. But in June 1976, Bosch decided to try and pull them all together. At a summit meeting of some twenty Cuban terrorist leaders in the Dominican Republic, Bosch formed an umbrella group, CORU (Coordination of the United Revolutionary Organizations), for which he would be the only publicly identified spokesman. Since CORU's formation, the organization has claimed credit for fifty bombings outside the United States. However, no one has stepped forward to take credit for the Letelier assassination, and the exiles are thought to be increasingly worried about the FBI. The Chilean junta, of course, has steadfastly denied any involvement in the murders, and the exiles, according to a Miami source close to Brigade 2506, have become increasingly ap- prehensive over the prospect of the welcome mat being withdrawn by Pinochet, who is anxious to gain the ap- proval of President Carter. Just before Pinochet left Santiago for Washington and the Panama Canal treaty ceremonies, the president of Bri- gade 2506, Roberto Carballo, sent Pinochet a letter out- lining conditions for a proposed meeting with exile leaders in Miami. Pinochet had been mulling over the idea of a show-the-flag stopover in Miami on the way back to San- tiago, and reports that he would meet with exile leaders leaked into a Spanish-language newspaper in Miami early in September. But Carballo's letter, hand-carried to Pinochet, outlined conditions for a meeting that were ap- parently stiffer than Pinochet had expected. Claiming to. represent all the anti-Castro, anticommunist Cuban war- riors in Miami, Carballo demanded: ?A proclamation byPinochet Pinochwillingness of the, government of Chile to support the fight against the tyran- ny of Fidel Castro...." ?An explanation of the "ways and means of the sup- port of Chile in the fight" against Castro. ?"Consideration of the necessary means to implement this fight...." ? "A joint statement... giving details of the talks and taking international responsibility" for the arrangements between them. Carballo had wanted to negotiate a treaty between what he evidently saw as two sovereign entities -'the junta and the exiles - but for whatever reason, he was rebuffed. Pinochet flew straight home to Santiago. During that same week, Representative Ronald Dellums, California Democrat, sponsored 'a press con- ference with Isabel Letelier and Michael Moffitt to de- nounce President Carter's welcome of General Pinochet in the White House. They also announced they had re- quested a personal meeting with Carter to press for the ap- pointment of a special prosecutor. "If President Carter can welcome Pinochet in the White House and shake his hand, why can't he welcome me and shake my hand?" Moffitt asked. "I'm an American citizen, and my wife was murdered by people who Justice Department officials believe were agents of the junta. This meeting will be used by Pinochet to bolster his support back home. If Carter is serious. about human rights, why doesn't he welcome Isabel and me, just like he's welcoming Pinochet?" The Washington Post, The Washington Star, and The New York Times did not think the views of Isabel Letelier and Michael Moffitt would be important enough to send a reporter to listen to them. The Times did report on Sep- .tember. 10, however, that Pinochet had returned to a "triumphal welcome" in Santiago after his meeting with Carter, which "enhanced his political prestige here, ac- cording to a wide range of political observers." Relations between the new government in Washington under Carter'and the four-year-old Chilean junta had been cemented. Pinochet's public relations ploy in August (changing the name of the secret police) had apparently worked. Upon his return to Santiago on September 9, Pinochet announced that a new U.S. ambassador would soon arrive. The announcement was not made in Wash- ington. The post had been vacant since Carter's election. The most chilling aspect of this new phase of relations be- tween Washington and Santiago is that Pinochet may now feel that he has a free hand to provide the terrorists with base camps in Chile for operations throughout the hemisphere. If so, President Carter, to whom the Ameri- can people had looked for a fresh start after the treacheries of Vietnam and Watergate, has chosen to pick up the bur- dens of the past.. "The thing I worry about," Michael Moffitt said one night early in August, "is that Chile will go the way of Brazil. The Brazilian generals have shot or jailed the op- position or sent- it into exile, and the resistance has been largely crushed. *The unions have been busted, and politi- cal parties outlawed. And yet, what do people here know about it? It's been years now, and the U.S. Government has hardly made a peep. That's why we have to do some- thing. Ina couple more years, it maybe too late." 0 Approved For Release 2009/02/04: CIA-RDP91 B001 34R000400130033-0