[A-List] US imperialism: Chile 1973
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Fri Mar 12 05:26:29 MST 2004
New Evidence Surfaces in '73 Killing of American in Chile
By LARRY ROHTER
New York Times: March 12, 2004
SANTIAGO, Chile, March 11 - More than 30 years after an American writer and
filmmaker was kidnapped by Chilean security forces and killed here, signs of
progress in resolving the case, on which the Academy Award-winning movie
"Missing" is based, are finally beginning to appear.
Thanks to the efforts of a judge newly assigned to the case, evidence has
been unearthed pointing to the involvement of high-ranking military and
intelligence officials in the death of Charles Horman, who disappeared
shortly after the American-instigated military coup that toppled President
Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. A former intelligence agent has already
been indicted, and lawyers representing Mr. Horman's widow say they expect
Chilean law establishes a prosecutorial role for judges and allows
individuals to file criminal suits. Joyce Horman acted in December 2000,
after judges here revoked the immunity of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile's
dictator from 1973 to 1990. Other courts declared General Pinochet unfit to
stand trial in 2002, but the investigation of Mr. Horman's killing was
permitted to continue.
In December, Judge Jorge Zepeda Arancibia, who took over the case early last
year, ordered the arrest of Rafael González Verdugo, a retired military
intelligence agent. Mr. González Verdugo has admitted to having been present
during an interrogation of Mr. Horman and to having helped recover his body
later from a cemetery wall. He has been charged as an accomplice to the
killing and was released on bail last month.
Over the years, Mr. González Verdugo has claimed in sworn affidavits that a
Central Intelligence Agency operative was present at the interrogation, an
assertion that was incorporated into the film and led to Congressional
hearings and calls for reforms of the C.I.A. But now that he is facing
charges, Mr. González Verdugo has changed his story, saying he lied in the
1970's to gain political asylum and flee Chile.
"González Verdugo has recently made a series of statements that are not only
unfounded but can be shown to be such," said Fabiola Letelier, one of Mrs.
Horman's lawyers and sister of Orlando Letelier, the pre-Pinochet Chilean
defense minister assassinated in a car bombing in Washington in 1976. "He
was a key intelligence operative in the days following the coup, but would
now like people to think he was a saint who did nothing."
Judge Zepeda, who through a spokesman declined a request for an interview,
has placed confidentiality restrictions on information that is contained in
case files, so lawyers are limited in what they can discuss. But they report
what they call significant progress in several areas of the investigation.
"When we asked initially, we were told `there is nothing left' " in the way
of official files and records, said Sergio Corvalán, another of the lawyers
who represents the Horman family. "But relevant documents from the period
have been located in the Ministries of Foreign Relations, Defense, Interior
and Health, documents that mention Charles Horman by name and relate to
internal investigations of his death." Mr. Corvalán said there "is a good
possibility" that other former Chilean government officials would be
detained and that those indicted would probably outrank Mr. González
Gen. Augusto Lutz, General Pinochet's first chief of military intelligence,
died at a hospital in 1974 of an "accidental" injection that is now widely
believed to have been deliberate. But Gen. Herman Brady, military commander
of Santiago at the time of the coup, and Gen. Sergio Arellano Stark, General
Pinochet's right-hand man in the army, are still alive and have been
mentioned in local press accounts as possible suspects. "Besides these,
there are other generals," Mr. Corvalán said. "There was a plot."
Some of the new material also appears to cast doubts on the United States
government's longstanding version of events. Mr. Horman was abducted from
his house on Sept. 17, nearly a week after the coup, and was last seen at
the National Stadium, where scores of Chilean and foreign political
prisoners were held.
"U.S. officials were saying that Charles was killed so fast after he was
picked up that there was no opportunity to protect him," Mrs. Horman said in
a telephone interview from New York City. "But that just doesn't seem to
hold up. He was probably killed on the 20th or 21st, so there was time and
they didn't move on it."
Documents recently declassified as a result of efforts by the National
Security Archive in Washington have also strengthened Mrs. Horman's
conviction that the American Embassy here was both involved in her husband's
death and failed to prevent it. In 1976, for instance, three State
Department officials wrote a cable to the assistant secretary of state for
inter-American affairs accepting a degree of responsibility for Mr. Horman's
"U.S. intelligence may have played an unfortunate part in Horman's death,"
the report acknowledges. "At best, it was limited to providing or confirming
information that helped motivate his murder by the government of Chile."
As part of the investigation, lawyers for the Horman family also asked that
Henry A. Kissinger, secretary of state at the time of the coup, be
questioned in the United States. The Chilean Supreme Court filed such a
request along with a detailed questionnaire, but did not receive answers to
all of its questions, with the State Department citing secrecy provisions
and the principle of sovereign immunity for official actions.
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