The other Sept. 11
Back in April, I was walking with my girlfriend through her neighborhood in Santiago, Chile. I was talking when she suddenly shushed me as we passed an old man. She told me that he was Jaime Lucares, a retired military officer.
In 1976, Lucares gave documents to agents of Chile’s secret police, the DINA, so they could enter the U.S. to assassinate Orlando Letelier, an exiled Chilean who was working as the director of the Transnational Institute, a policy research center in Washington.
The Chilean agents, along with Orlando Bosch, an anti-Castro Cuban, and Michael Townley, a U.S. explosives expert and DINA officer, placed a bomb in Orlando Letelier’s car that blew up as he was driving down Embassy Row on Sept. 21, 1976, killing him and U.S. citizen Ronni Moffitt. George Bush Sr. had been appointed CIA head with the Ford administration, and government memos declassified in June of 1999 show he knew about the hit beforehand and did nothing to prevent it. It was one of the worst acts by foreign terrorists on U.S. soil until Sept. 11, 2001.
Sept. 11, 2003 was the 30th anniversary of the Chilean military’s overthrow of the socialist-leaning democratic government of Salvador Allende, which installed a dictatorship led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet that lasted 17 years, murdered more than 3,000 Chileans and brutally tortured thousands more.
U.S. involvement, specifically of Richard Nixon and Henry “Dr. Death” Kissinger, in the coup is staggering. In the documentary La Ultima Batalla de Allende (The Last Battle of Allende), Edward Korry, the U.S. ambassador to Chile from 1967-71, states that the CIA spent $2.7 million in the 1970 presidential election to sway the vote away from Allende, and Senate hearings in 1975 revealed that the CIA received $11 million to “destabilize” his administration.
When Allende’s party, the Unidad Popular, took control of a larger percentage of the Chilean congress in the March 1973 congressional elections, the CIA and Chilean military began planning the Sept. 11, 1973 coup that ended with Allende’s suicide, the bombing of the presidential palace, and the transition of power to Pinochet’s military junta.
Pinochet’s government was just one more in a long line of U.S. supported dictatorships in Latin America, not well known, but definitely not forgotten.