Information on how to get involved with Blowback's petition drive to indict former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

BLOWBACK CAMPAIGN: INDICT GENERAL PINOCHET

We are still gathering petition-letters for the indictment of Chilean dictator Pinochet for ordering the 1976 car bomb attack in Washington, DC, which claimed two lives. These will be delivered to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in a second meeting with them about this topic. Let us know if you want to get involved and can help us gather signatures or undertake other activities.

Background

On September 21, 1976, a car bomb shattered a Washington, D.C. morning, killing two of the car's passengers and injuring one other. The intended target was killed: Chilean citizen Orlando Letelier, former Foreign Minister and Former Ambassador to the U.S., one of the leaders of the opposition against the dictatorship installed in Chile just a few years before, on September 11, 1973, with CIA help. Killed with Letelier was Ronni Karpen Moffitt, a young U.S. citizen working at the Institute for Policy Studies, while her fianc馥 was injured. Blowback had struck again: Chilean state-sponsored terrorism had perpetrated the first political assassination in the nation's capital since the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The person who put the assassination in motion, Chilean General Manuel Contreras, headed Chile's secret police, the DINA, the National Intelligence Directory. As the investigation heated up and evidence started to point in his direction, he was forced out and the DINA was dissolved. After much pressure (and after the dictatorship ceded way to elected government), Contreras and a subordinate were jailed in Chile in a prison built especially for members of the armed forces convicted for human rights crimes.

Did Contreras act alone or was he ordered to attack Washington? It is a matter of the public record that he responded directly to the head of the Junta, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, as is it a matter of record that Contreras owed all of his power to Pinochet, with whom he met every morning.

According to the Chilean Government's official truth commission, the Pinochet regime was responsible for widespread human rights violations following its overthrow of the democratically-elected government of President Salvador Allende. Extrajudicial executions and "disappearances" claimed more than 3,000 Chileans and a few expatriates like U.S. citizens Charles Hormann and Frank Teruggi. So not only did the Pinochet regime murder, but it had already murdered U.S. citizens.

Would Contreras have set off a car bomb in the streets of Washington, DC, without consulting with his superior? Considering that this was an act of terrorism in Washington, DC, and that the Chilean generals had received much support from the US Government, it is unlikely that Contreras would have acted alone.

Contreras maintains that he only undertook actions that were ordered - but has not gone further to say that Pinochet ordered him to do this.

It is this unanswered question that should be decided by a U.S. court representing the people of the District of Columbia, on whose soil this dastardly act took place. According to an official at the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, there is no consensus within their ranks as to whether or not there is enough evidence to convict Pinochet. So let the jury decide!

Most Recent Action

BLOWBACK gathered more petition letters during its last mini tour but we want to have at least 100 petition letters before we go back to the U.S. Attorney's office.

In April, we met with Daniel Seikaly, Chief of the Criminal Division. He told us that they were finalizing a memorandum for the Department of Justice. Although Blowback believed that there was a draft indictment from the prior Administration (which this memorandum would accompany), Seikaly later wrote to say that "no 'draft' indictment has ever been prepared. The original indictment, drafted in 1978, is still outstanding against Contreras and Espinoza."

Seikaly said that once the memorandum was finalized, it would be sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ), probably the Criminal Division, and would probably be referred from Deputy Assistant Attorney General to Assistant Attorney General to Deputy Attorney General, before finally landing on the Attorney General's desk. Seikaly has written us that DOJ policy "requires that the prosecutors have a good faith belief that there is sufficient admissible evidence to enable a jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That policy applies to all cases."

He said that there were three camps on this issue:
1. Those who believe there is enough evidence to prosecute and secure a conviction.
2. Those who believe there is not enough evidence.
3. Those who believe that "while the evidence was not overwhelming, it is sufficient under DOJ policy to justify an indictment, especially given the nature of this case."

What You Can Do

Send us an e-mail (i n f o @ b l o w b a c k . o r g) and let us know that you want to help. We'll send you some petition-letters for you to get signed and return to us. We'll let you know what we do and what is the reaction from the Attorney's Office. Together we can successfully push for the indictment of this criminal.

Other Sources

Check out the declassified documents on the following Chile and Pinochet-related topics available here on the Blowback website:

Executions
Death Squads
DINA & Torture Tactics

Sign up for the occasional e-mail alert "Pinochet Watch." Let them know you heard about them from us. Email saraha@igc.org