Washington, Sep 23 (EFE) – Chilean President Gabriel Boric led an emotional tribute to former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in Washington on Saturday, just steps away from where he was assassinated in 1976 with a car bomb for his tireless fight against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
Boric delivered a speech in which he urged the US to reflect on its role in Pinochet’s dictatorship and in other Latin American countries during what was known as “Plan Condor” at the height of the Cold War.
“We hope the US will reflect more deeply on what they promoted in Chile, not only in Chile but also in other Latin American countries,” said Boric, the most leftist president to come to power since the ousted Salvador Allende (1970-1973).
Boric expressed gratitude to a group of progressive members of the US Congress, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who introduced a resolution to apologize for Washington’s role in the dictatorship and demanded the declassification of more documents related to these events.
“This is very important for us; it means a lot to us,” Boric said, addressing those present.
His speech, delivered under constant rain, took place in Sheridan Circle Plaza, in the heart of Washington, just a few meters from the site where, on September 21, 1976, a car bomb killed Letelier. Letelier had served as foreign minister in the government of Salvador Allende and had been a tireless advocate for the return of democracy in Chile.
Alongside Letelier, American Ronni Moffit, who worked for the Institute for Political Studies (IEP), a think tank that had served as a platform for Letelier to denounce the Chilean dictatorship, lost her life.
From the outset, Letelier’s circle pointed to Pinochet as the mastermind behind the attack. However, the US did not reveal that its intelligence services were aware of the assassination until 40 years after Letelier’s death when it declassified documents related to his assassination.
“We have learned, thanks to declassified files, many years after the crime, that this attack by the DINA (Directorate of National Intelligence) that took place in this Sheridan Circle against Orlando and Ronni was ordered directly by the dictator,” said Boric.
He then expressed his gratitude to American Peter Kornbluh, who played a fundamental role in declassifying these documents related to Letelier’s death and received vigorous applause from the audience.
Boric also emphasized the importance of defending democracy, especially on the 50th anniversary of the coup that ended Allende’s life and installed Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship.
“We know that democracy faces various threats; perhaps today, these threats differ from those 50 years ago. Still, our commitment to it and our unwavering respect for human rights must remain absolute, regardless of the circumstances, because there are no inevitabilities in history,” Boric said.
After his speech, Boric paid his respects by examining the plaque on the ground in Sheridan Circle, which pays homage to Letelier and Moffit. The plaque features their faces, dates of birth and death, as well as the words “justice,” “peace,” and “dignity.”
The plaque and the entire Sheridan Circle plaza were adorned with red and white carnations on Saturday as a tribute to Letelier.
After the attack and with the arrival of Democrat Jimmy Carter to the presidency in 1977, the United States distanced itself from Chile and other dictatorships in the region. However, the complete break with Pinochet would still take a decade to materialize.
The military coup in Chile marked the beginning of a cruel dictatorship that lasted for 17 years, claiming the lives of more than 40,000 victims, including at least 3,200 murdered opponents, a thousand of whom are still missing. EFE