The Pinochet Affair: US files on Chile retain secrets

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The Independent Online
THE US administration is still hiding many secret documents detailing human rights violations during the 17-year rule of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile, The Independent has learnt.

The Spanish judges seeking the extradition of General Pinochet to Spain officially asked Washington last year for information concerning US involvement with him. According to Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive - which specialises in using the Freedom of Information Act to prise documents from US Government agencies - the response was unsatisfactory and much information about abuses in Chile is still being kept secret for fear of political embarrassment to the US.

Much of the secret material relates to Operation Condor, an international organisation of death and terror squads run collaboratively by the military in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in the Seventies and Eighties, which the two Spanish judges, Baltasar Garzon and Manuel Garcia Castellon, are particularly interested in investigating. "There is a large quantity of documentation covering acts of great brutality that has not come out," Mr Kornbluh said yesterday.

Another obstacle to the judges' attempts to put General Pinochet on trial emerged yesterday in Madrid. Spain's chief prosecutor, Eduardo Fungairino, said the general could not be charged with genocide because the victims of the Chilean dictatorship shared neither race nor religion. Spain, he concluded, would not therefore be competent to try him. Mr Fungairino's judgment will be crucial when the National Court meets next week to decide whether Judge Garzon can proceed with his request for the former dictator to be extradited from London to Spain.

Those pursuing the cause of General Pinochet's victims say Mr Fungairino has obstructed them all along. He refused to investigate the disappearance of Spaniards during the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships, saying it was nothing to do with Spain. Last October he described the Argentine and Chilean military regimes as "temporary substitutes... that put right the deficiencies of the constitutional order to maintain public peace".

Catalonia's veteran chief prosecutor, Jose Maria Mena, condemned the remark as "fascist and vomit-making", and left-wing MPs united in a call for Mr Fungairino's resignation.

There are many in Washington, notably in the military and intelligence services, who would be severely embarrassed by any airing of the US actions against Salvador Allende, the Marxist who gave up medicine for politics and was elected president in 1970. During the Nixon and Kissinger years covert attempts were made to kill Chilean officers who opposed military intervention in politics and against Mr Allende particularly.

In an interview to be screen- ed in an episode of the BBC2 series Cold War, Colonel Paul Wimert, military attache in Santiago from 1965 to 1971, tells how he took money to Chile to finance the assassination of General Rene Schneider, who was loyal to civilian rule and would not move to stop Mr Allende's inauguration as president. "The CIA gave me $250,000 to use on some military we knew we could count on to help us get rid of Schneider," he confesses.

General Schneider was assassinated on 22 October 1970.

The Central Intelligence Agency would be particularly embarrassed by any disclosure of its action to subvert Mr Allende and bring General Pinochet to power and keep him there, either as president or commander of the army, till March this year. It exceeded the already liberal guidelines it had been given to pursue Mr Allende's overthrow.

Andrew Neil,

Review, page 4