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They Educated the Crows An Institute Report on the Letelier-Moffitt Murders

Excerpt from They Educated the Crows: When a head of state orders a murder and uses state apparatus to carry out that murder, that leader exposes not only his illegitimacy, but also his political desperation. The murder of Orlando Letelier by General Pinochet, a dictator with the ability to manipulate an entire judicial system, was truly a desperate act. Pinochet's grievance against Letelier fell outside any judicial framework. Letelier posed a threat that the head of state could not tolerate, even for a short time. The ruler without law, Constitution, or the consent of the governed must cover up his political bastardy. Under President Salvador Allende, Letelier had served as Chile's ambassador t o the United States. Later, Letelier was Chile's Minister of Defense in August and September of 1973. When the coup occurred he was, in fact, Pinochet's direct superior. After the coup Pinochet declared himself and his junta to be the embodiment of Chile, thereby converting those democrats who threatened his political legitimacy into ‘enemies of Chile'. He first had Letelier arrested without charges, then abused, then thrown into a concentration camp with no formal charges, then deported without papers. Later, he was stripped of his nationality and, finally, assassinated. Letelier became more than a symbolic threat, however; he became a major leader and unifier of the forces seeking the restoration of democracy in Chile. On the day of his release from Dawson Island, the concentration camp on the South Pole (a release which resulted from the concentrated pressures of the world-wide diplomatic and political community) the Chilean camp commander, speaking in Pinochet's name, made one final threat to Letelier: No matter where he went he would be observed by Chilean government agents, and ‘President Pinochet will not tolerate activities against his government'. The warning etched in his mind, Letelier nevertheless assumed the responsibilities of political leadership in exile. Letelier became Director of the Transnational Institute, and championed the cause of human rights in the Third World generally. He attempted to use his personal influence as a former minister and Ambassador of the Allende government to reason with powerful persons and organizations. The object: to isolate Pinochet; to dramatise his illegitimacy; to work for his demise and for the restoration of democratic government. Letelier spoke to international bank officials, and members of the US and foreign congresses and administrations. He toured Canada, Mexico and Europe. International organizations throughout the world chose him to represent the people of Chile and to speak for them at major conferences and meetings. In Holland in early 1976 Letelier met with union, government, and industrial leaders, persuading them to rescind a promised $63 million in credits to Pinochet's government. Letelier wrote articles for the New York Times and was frequently interviewed by other media outlets around the world. He encouraged a Congressional delegation to visit Chile and investigate human rights violations there, and before they left in April, 1976, he briefed the members of the group. From the Presidential headquarters in Santiago, Letelier must have appeared dynamic, effective, and, problematic.


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