Orlando Letelier


Orlando Letelier : biography

13 April 1932 – 21 September 1976

After his release in September 1974, he and his family resettled in Caracas, but then Letelier decided to head for Washington D.C., at the proposal of American writer Saul Landau. In 1975 Letelier moved to Washington where he became senior fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS is an independent research institute based in Washington, D.C., devoted to international policy studies), where Landau worked at the time. He also became director of the Transnational Institute (TNI is an independent research institute based in Amsterdam), and taught at the School of International Service of the American University, in Washington, D.C. He plunged into writing, speaking and lobbying the US Congress and European governments against Augusto Pinochet’s regime, and soon became the leading voice of the Chilean resistance, preventing several loans (especially from Europe) from being awarded to the military government. On September 10, 1976, he was deprived of his Chilean nationality by decree.


Following the death of Pinochet in December 2006, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), for which both Letelier and Moffitt worked, called for the release of all the classified documents related to the Letelier–Moffitt assassination.

According to the IPS, the Clinton administration de-classified more than 16,000 documents related to Chile, but withheld documents related to the Letelier-Moffitt assassination in Washington on the grounds that they were associated with an ongoing investigation. The IPS says that the Clinton administration did re-activate the investigation into the Letelier-Moffitt murders and sent agents to Chile to gather additional evidence that Pinochet had authorized the crime. The former Chilean Secret Police Chief, Manuel Contreras, who, as previously mentioned, was convicted for his role in the crime in 1993 and later pointed the finger at his boss, claimed that all his orders came from Pinochet.

There are rumors that a draft indictment of Pinochet was prepared, but they were not confirmed by the George W. Bush administration.

Recent disclosure

A State Department document made available by the National Security Archive on 10 April 2010 reveals that a démarche protesting Pinochet’s Operation Condor assassination program was proposed and sent on 23 August 1976 to US diplomatic missions in Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile to be delivered to their host governments but later rescinded on 16 September 1976 by Henry Kissinger, following concerns raised by US ambassadors assigned there of both personal safety and a likely diplomatic contretemps. Five days later the assassination took place. On 16 September 1976, Kissinger rescinded the démarche order to his staff, and on 20 September 1976 US diplomats were duly informed of the revised directive. The next day, 21 September 1976, Letelier and Moffit were killed in the bomb blast.