Augusto Pinochet Report: Documents Show U.S. Knew of Pinochet Crackdown
By Karen DeYoung and Vernon Loeb. Washington Post
Thursday, July 1, 1999; Page A23
Days after the bloody 1973 coup that that overthrew Chilean President
Salvador Allende, the CIA mission in Chile reported to Washington that
the new government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet planned "severe
repression" against its opponents. A month later, the agency noted
that "the line between people killed during attacks on security
forces and those captured and executed immediately has become
The CIA cables are among nearly 6,000 newly declassified government
documents released yesterday related to human rights and political
violence in Chile during the first five years of Pinochet's rule.
In addition to indications that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy in
Santiago had detailed information on the extent of repression and
rights abuses there soon after the coup, the documents provide new
insights into disagreements within President Richard M. Nixon's
administration over policy toward Pinochet's Chile.
The Clinton administration agreed to review and release selected
documents from the State and Defense departments, the CIA and the FBI
after Pinochet was arrested last October in London in response to a
Spanish extradition request on charges of alleged human rights
violations committed during his 17-year rule. The extradition trial is
scheduled for September.
The redacted documents made public yesterday cover the years of the
worst excesses of the Chilean military government, from 1973 to 1978,
when at least 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" at the
hands of government forces. Additional documents -- including some
from 1968 to 1973 covering the election of Allende, a Marxist, as
president and the events leading up to the coup and his death -- are
scheduled for later release.
The documents are primarily status overviews and intelligence reports
on the situation inside Chile, and add little of substance to
scholarly and congressional reviews of the period, as well as
investigations conducted by the democratically elected Chilean
governments that followed Pinochet. Nor are the documents likely to be
useful in the Pinochet extradition case.
For example, information concerning the 1976 car bomb assassination in
Washington of former Chilean diplomat and Pinochet opponent Orlando
Letelier and his assistant Ronni Karpen Moffitt were left out, the
State Department said, because aspects of the case are still being
investigated by the Justice Department.
Human rights organizations commended the Clinton administration for
the release but expressed disappointment at its selective
nature. Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archives, who is
compiling information for a book about Pinochet, said of the released
documents: "The CIA has much to offer here, and much to hide. They
clearly are continuing to hide this history."
Embassy reporting from Santiago reflected the Nixon administration's
support of the 1973 coup, although the administration consistently
denied helping to plan or carry it out. In late September that year,
the embassy reported, the new Pinochet government appealed for
American advisers to help to set up detention camps for the thousands
of Chileans it had arrested.
Worried about the "obvious political problems" such assistance
might cause, the embassy suggested in a cable to the State Department
that it instead "may wish to consider feasibility of material
assistance in form of tents, blankets, etc. which need not be publicly
and specifically earmarked for prisoners."
Ambassador David H. Popper wrote the State Department in early 1974
that in conversations with the new government "I have invariably
taken the line that the U.S. government is in sympathy with, and
supports, the Government of Chile, but that our ability to be helpful
... is hampered by [U.S] Congressional and media concerns ... with
respect to alleged violations of human rights here."
In a December 1974 secret cable, the agency reported on information it
had received concerning a briefing in which Chile's interior minister
and the head of the Directorate of National Intelligence noted that
the junta had detained 30,568 people, of whom more than 8,000 still
were being held. The two also agreed that an unspecified number of
people were being secretly held because "they are part of
sensitive, ongoing security investigations."
The Pinochet government never publicly acknowledged secret
detentions. According to Chilean government reports in 1991 and 1996,
a total of 2,095 extrajudicial executions and death under torture took
place during the military regime, and 1,102 people disappeared at the
hands of government forces and are presumed dead.
By July 1977, U.S. policy under the new Carter administration had
turned sharply against Pinochet. Yet the embassy expressed irritation
over being asked to write "still another human rights report"
on Chile and noted the "strong and varied views" inside the
In its own report, the embassy military group complained: "We [the
United States] do not appear to be visionary enough to see the total
picture; we focus only upon the relatively few violation cases which
occur and continue to hound the government about past events while
shrugging off demonstrated improvements."
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