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A senior analyst at the National Security Archives showed newly-declassified documents that reveal the extent of U.S. involvement in the Chilean coup in 1973 in a presentation last night.
Peter Kornbluh, director of the National Security Archive’s Chile Documentation Project, spoke last night at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies about the memos, meeting transcripts and CIA communications surrounding Pinochet’s rise to power that the National Security Archive recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
These documents are the basis of his new book, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability , which details the tumultuous history of Chile from 1970 to 1990—and the part that the U.S. government played in it.
In his presentation, Kornbluh compared the American policies implemented in Chile to the current U.S. foreign policy in Iraq.
“Chile can be seen as a case study of the themes in Iraq,” Kornbluh said.
He said that three major themes often associated with U.S. foreign policy today—pre-emptive strikes, regime change and the questionable honesty of government leaders—were also prevalent characteristics of U.S. action in Chile during the 1970s and 80s.
“Already 30 years have passed since the coup in Chile. It may be we have to wait 30 more years to uncover equivalently high level documents on Iraq,” he said.
He said he has taken the opportunity to “compare real records to the official story” in his book.
Kornbluh said it is now possible to read transcripts of cabinet meetings “where regime change was plotted” during the Chilean crisis that show the U.S. was aiming to remove democratically-elected president Salvador Allende Gossens. At the time, the U.S. actively denied any involvement in Pinochet’s rise to power.
Kornbluh said that this discrepancy between what the U.S. government told the public and what it actually did led to the first indictment of a director of the CIA, Richard Helms.
He said that there is evidence that the CIA was involved in covert actions in Chile, such as attempts to block loans to Chile from multilateral banks which may have facilitated the coup.
Kornbluh’s new book also testifies to the horrible human rights violations committed under Pinochet revealed in declassified documents he got through the National Security Archives.
In his speech, Kornbluh specifically mentioned numerous executions and terrorist acts committed by Pinochet, including a car bombing in Washington D.C. that killed a Chilean diplomat.
“It is an extraordinary history and resonates strongly today,” he said. “It is also important to Chileans trying to bring closure.”
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