|Kissinger covered up Chile torture
by Lucy Kosimar
(The Sunday Observer, [UK] February 28, 1999)
A newly declassified cable obtained by The Observer reveals the lengths to which Henry Kissinger went to cover up atrocities in Chile and give comfort to the regime of General Pinochet.
The cable, describing their only meeting in 1976, shows how Kissinger bolstered Pinochet while hundreds of political prisoners were still being jailed and tortured.
The then American Secretary of State assured Pinochet that President Gerald Ford's administration would not punish him for violations of human rights. He told him he was a victim of Communist propaganda and should not pay too much attention to American critics.
The cable is among files being declassifed for the Spanish prosecutor seeking Pinochet's extradition from London to face trial in Spain. The Law Lords' revised judgment is expected within three weeks.
Pinochet led the coup which overthrew the democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973. Kissinger's complicity has always been suspected, but the cable reveals details which will cause him deep embarrassment.
The cable shows, too, that in 1974 he rejected the advice of his own officials that he should publicly denounce the plan by Chile and other repressive regimes to set up a covert office in Miami for the notorious terrorist Operation Condor.
Had he done so, prospective victims would have been warned. Although the office was not in fact opened, the conspiracy continued to target and murder the regime's enemies.
After hits in Buenos Aires and in Rome, the operation came to Washington with a vengeance. A car bomb killed Orlando Letelier, former Chilean Foreign Minister and ambassador to the US, and his Institute for Policy Studies colleague, Ronni Moffitt.
Pinochet could feel confident that such activites would cause few problems. After all, he had had a warm private meeting with Kissinger a few months before.
The meeting occurred in Santiago on 8 June 1976, during a gathering of the Organisation of American States. Kissinger and the Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, William Rogers, met Pinochet in the presidential suite in Diego Portales - an office building used during repairs on La Moneda, the presidential palace Pinochet had bombed.
Kissinger, dogged by charges he had promoted the military coup against an elected Chilean government, sought to maintain a cool public distance from Pinochet. But at his confidential meeting, he promised warm support.
Kissinger made clear how much he backed Pinochet, saying, 'In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here. I think that the previous government was headed toward Communism. We wish your government well.'
He dismissed American human rights campaigns against Chile's government as 'domestic problems' and assured Pinochet that he was against sanctions such as the proposed Kennedy Amendment to ban arms aid to governments that were gross human rights violators.
Kissinger had a problem because the OAS report to the Santiago meeting said that mass arrests, torture, and disappearances continued in Chile. The speech he would give that afternoon could not ignore human rights but must not offend or weaken Pinochet.
Kissinger wanted Pinochet to know that the speech should not be interpreted as a criticism of Chile. He told him: 'I will treat human rights in general terms and human rights in a world context . . . I will say that the human rights issue has impaired relations between the US. and Chile. This is partly the result of Congressional actions. I will add that I hope you will shortly remove those obstacles.'
He added: 'I will also call attention to the Cuba report [on human rights there] and to the hypocrisy of some who call attention to human rights as a means of intervening in governments.'
But Kissinger suggested to Pinochet that his statements on Chile were calibrated to avoid greater damage to the country. He told him: 'I can do no less without producing a reaction in the US which would lead to legislative restrictions. The speech is not aimed at Chile.'
And he emphasised that he did not believe the charges. 'My evaluation is that you are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world, and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government which was going Communist. But we have a practical problem we have to take into account, without bringing about pressures incompatible with your dignity, and at the same time which does not lead to US laws which will undermine our relationship.'
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