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Henry Kissinger: the man behind the rise of a dictatorship

By Dr George Venturini

Heinz Alfred ‘Henry’ Kissinger obtained a Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1954. His interest was on Castelreagh and Metternich – two empire builders. He devoted his life to sublimate them.

In an incendiary, studiedly defamatory book the late Christopher Hitchens described him as “a mediocre and opportunist academic [intent on] becoming an international potentate. The signature qualities were there from the inaugural moment: the sycophancy and the duplicity; the power worship and the absence of scruple; the empty trading of old non-friends for new non-friends. And the distinctive effects were also present: the uncounted and expendable corpses; the official and unofficial lying about the cost; the heavy and pompous pseudo-indignation when unwelcome questions were asked. Kissinger’s global career started as it meant to go on. It debauched the American republic and American democracy, and it levied a hideous toll of casualties on weaker and more vulnerable societies.”

The story is all here: from the martyrdom of Indochina to becoming the real backchannel to Moscow on behalf of his new client: Donald Trump.

Editor’s note: This outstanding series by Dr Venturini is published bi-weekly (Wednesdays and Saturdays). Today we publish Part Ten. Here is the link to Part Nine; Pinochet: the dictator of death.


In the days which followed Pinochet arrest on 16 October 1998 in London, the families of nine French citizens who had been ‘disappeared’ or were executed in Chile or in Argentina – but for acts which could be attributed to the Chilean military Junta – between 11 September 1973 and 9 February 1977, filed complaints in France to obtain the truth and justice that they had not obtained in Chile. Isabelle Ropert filed the first complaint on behalf of her brother, Enrique Ropert, who was arrested on 11 September 1973 in front of La Moneda and then found dead on 20 October 1973 at the Santiago morgue.

The complaints filed by the families of Alfonso Chanfreau, Jean-Yves Claudet, Georges Klein and Étienne Pesle were the only ones to be recognised as admissible by the French courts. The courts have in fact affirmed the continuing nature of the crime of enforced disappearance, since the victims’ bodies have never been found. In French law this crime of ‘disappearance’ is categorised as arrest and illegal detention, aggravated by torture and barbarous acts.

The question emerged immediately as to the extra-territorial jurisdiction of French courts.

Based on the work of the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation – the Rettig Commission, the National Reparation and Reconciliation Corporation – set up in 1990 and 1992 respectively and relating only to violations of the right to life, and the National Commission on Political Prison and Torture – set up in 2003 and known as the Valech Commission, the Chilean State officially recognised 3,197 victims of ‘disappearances’ or executions and 28,461 victims of torture. The limited mandate of those organisations and the impossibility for many victims to appeal to them due to their feeling of insecurity, especially at the beginning of the 1990s, and their restrictive mandates, have consequently left hundreds of victims unidentified.

In February 2010 the so-called Rettig and Valech Commissions were reinstated for a very brief period to enable new victims to make themselves known during a six month period and thus benefit from certain reparation measures. The intention of these Truth Commissions was not to establish individual responsibility, nor to render justice.

The trial in France also permitted proceedings to be brought again in Chile. By the end of the dictatorship in 1990 it had been possible to file only a few complaints and these had been discontinued through almost automatic application of the amnesty law. And by the time of Pinochet’s return to Santiago in 2000 the dictatorship’s victims had filed 60 complaints against Pinochet. Two months later there were nearly 100 and, when he died on 10 December 2006, never having been tried, there were more than 400, especially for enforced disappearance, torture, sequestration of children and aggravated homicide. In 2001 special first instance judges were appointed to investigate these complaints, which have continuously increased since 1998. Some of these judges have done considerable work which has permitted the truth about the crimes committed to be revealed that some of them have qualified as crimes against humanity on the basis of international treaty and customary law.

To date in Chile not even 200 persons have been sentenced for crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship, and no more than 53 have been gaoled or are under house arrest. Slightly over 330 proceedings were still under way and of the less than 800 persons who are the subject of proceedings, no more than 56 are civilians. The Chilean Supreme Court no longer applies the amnesty law, even though it is still on the statute book. The low sentences, in recent years applying the rule of ‘partial statute of limitations’, are absolutely disproportionate to the seriousness of the crimes.

Taking into consideration the length of time since the events and the current behaviour of the perpetrators of the crimes being tried, in very many cases this rule results in those found guilty walking away free as soon as the verdict is rendered. In addition justice is very slow: 65 per cent of the ongoing proceedings – often after the proceedings have lasted more than ten years – are still at the preliminary stage. Very few of the civilian leaders under the dictatorship are concerned about justice. The Chilean legal system is confronted with echoes of the structure of impunity created by Pinochet and his followers in preparation for the transition.

None of the proceedings in Chile concerned those accused of acts committed against the four Franco-Chilean victims. The trial about to take place in Paris was without precedent.

The F.I.D.H. and its affiliates in Chile and in France, Corporación de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos del Pueblo, C.O.D.E.P.U., the Ligue des droits de l’Homme, League of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, L.D.H., as well as the Association of former Chilean political prisoners in France and the Association France Latin America had joined the lawsuit as civil parties as early as July 1999, and in that capacity were appearing alongside the families of the four Frenchmen. By intervening as a civil party in a criminal trial, a party who was not directly the victim of the crime lodges a claim for damages. Such party may take part in the trial, adducing witnesses, submitting evidence, statements and expert opinions.

As previously noted, the investigation of the case had been opened by Judge Roger Le Loire on 30 October 1998. He was the judge who had attempted to question Kissinger in May 2001 as a witness for alleged U.S. involvement in Operation Condor and for possible U.S. knowledge in connection to the ‘disappearance’ of five French citizens in Chile during the Pinochet regime.

The investigation was closed by Judge Sophie Clément, who issued an order for indictment before the Cour d’Assises – the highest French criminal court on 21 February 2007.

France issued international arrest warrants against 19 persons, including Pinochet. He was being prosecuted for his direct personal criminal responsibility in the torture and ‘disappearance’ of the four victims, as Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Land Army and head of the military Junta, and fourteen formers senior leaders of the dictatorship were charged of the kidnapping, torture and ‘disappearance’ of four French and/or French/Chilean citizens: Alfonso Chanfreau, Jean-Yves Claudet, Georges Klein and Étienne Pesle.

Initially, according to a 12 February 2008 announcement by the F.I.D.H., C.O.D.E.P.U., and the L.D.H., the trial was to have taken place between 19 and 23 May 2008. It was postponed.

The proceedings were finally scheduled to take place before the Paris Cour d’Assises from 8 to 17 December 2010.

Pinochet had died just a few weeks before Judge Sophie Clément issued an order for his indictment. The other accused were: 1) Javier Secundo Emilio Palacios Ruhmann, formerly a General of the Chilean Land Army, responsible for leading the attack on La Moneda Presidential Palace, 2) Osvaldo Romo Mena, formerly a Land Army Commander assigned to D.I.N.A., 3) Andres Rigoberto Pacheco Cardenas, formerly an Air Force Colonel and Commander of the base at Maquehue, 4) Paul Schaeffer Schneider, formerly the head of ‘Colonia Dignidad’ and a former Nazi war criminal, 5) Juan Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, formerly the head of D.I.N.A. and a former General of the Chilean Land Army, 6) Hermán Julio Brady Roche, formerly Commander-in-Chief of the Santiago garrison, 7) Pedro Octavio Espinoza Bravo, formerly a Colonel of the Land Army, Director of Operations and Chief of the D.I.N.A. Metropolitan Intervention Brigade, 8) José Osvaldo Riveiro, formerly a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Land Army, 9) Marcelo Luís Moren Brito, formerly a Commander of the Land Army, assigned to D.I.N.A., 10) Miguel Krasnoff Martchenko, formerly a Captain of the Land Army, assigned to D.I.N.A., 11) Rafael Francisco Ahumada Valderrama, formerly an Officer of the Tacna Regiment, 12) Gerardo Ernesto Godoy García, formerly a Sub-Lieutenant of the Land Army, assigned to D.I.N.A., 13) Basclay Humberto Zapata Reyes, formerly a non-commissioned officer of the Land Army, assigned to D.I.N.A., 14) Enrique Lautaro Arranciabia Clavel, formerly D.I.N.A. representative in Argentina, 15) Raúl Eduardo Iturriaga Neumann, formerly D.I.N.A. foreign affairs official, 16) Luís Joachim Ramírez Pineda, formerly Commander of the Tacna camp, 17) José Octavio Zara Holger, formerly a Land Army officer posted to D.I.N.A., and 18) Emilio Sandoval Poo, formerly an Air Force military reservist, at the time of trial a company director in Temuco.

Four of the listed defendants had died before the trial could begin. All the others were aged between 59 and 89. In the absence of an extradition treaty between Paris and Santiago, France was not in a position to force the presence of the defendants. None was present at the trial, although they were summoned by the Court. They were entitled to be represented by a lawyer in application of the in absentia procedure, but all refused.

All 14 of the living defendants were tried in absentia, making the case highly symbolic.

The French and Franco-Chilean victims at the heart of the trial were:

1) Alfonso Chanfreau, a French citizen, born in Santiago in 1950. He had married Erika Hennings with whom he had a daughter, Natalia. A member of the Movimiento Izquierda Revolucionaria – Revolutionary Left-wing Movement, M.I.R., he became a Santiago city official following the coup on 11 September 1973. On 30 July 1974 Chanfreau was arrested at his home by D.I.N.A. operatives. Gerardo Godoy García and Osvaldo Romo Mena took part in this operation. His wife Erika was arrested the next morning “so that her husband would talk.” Imprisoned for 15 days at the ‘London 38’ torture centre in Santiago, the couple were brutally tortured, by Osvaldo Romo, Miguel Krasnoff Martchencko and Marcelo Moren Brito in particular. Erika was transferred to other detention centres and then expelled to France with their daughter Natalia. Alfonso was transferred on 13 August 1974 to the ‘Villa Grimaldi’ where his legs were crushed under a vehicle, before being taken back to the ‘London 38’ centre. He ‘disappeared’ afterwards and some witnesses indicated that he was taken to the ‘Colonia Dignidad’, a place set up by Paul Schaeffer, a former Nazi war criminal, where prisoners were tortured and the agents of D.I.N.A. were trained.

2) Jean-Yves Claudet, a French citizen, born in 1939 in Maipú, a suburb of Greater Santiago, who was married to Arhel Danus, with whom he had two sons, Étienne and Roger. Jean-Yves Claudet worked as an engineer and was a member of the Movimiento Izquierda Revolucionaria – Revolutionary Left-wing Movement, M.I.R. Arrested on two occasions in 1973, he remained in detention for one year. On his release he was immediately taken to the French Embassy and put on a flight to France. From France, Claudet helped to set up a M.I.R. cell in Argentina. He went to Buenos Aires on 30 October 1975, with microfilms in his possession. He was arrested on 1 November 1975 by agents of S.I.D.E., the Argentine secret police, in the framework of Operation Condor. A D.I.N.A. representative in Buenos Aires, in a memorandum addressed to his superiors, subsequently informed them that Claudet “Ya no existe” – no longer exists.

3) Georges Klein, a French citizen, born in 1945, a psychiatrist and personal physician and adviser to President Allende. He was married to Alice Vera Fausto; they had one daughter, Vanessa. He had been active in the Socialist Party, and then in the Communist Party. Georges Klein was by the side of President Allende when La Moneda Palace was bombed. Like other defenders of the Palace, he was taken prisoner on the same day and driven by bus, with around forty other persons, to the Tacna Regiment – a land army artillery regiment. The regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Luís Ramírez Pineda who, together with General Javier Palacios, reported to General Hermán Brady Roche, Commander-in-Chief of the Santiago garrison. When they arrived, the 40 prisoners were taken to the stables and ordered to lie on their stomachs with their legs spread and their hands behind their neck until the following day. According to several witnesses, the prisoners were subjected to ill treatment during their transfer and at the Tacna regiment: beaten violently, forced to remain immobile in the cold, deprived of food and water, threatened with death. On 13 September Georges Klein was taken away from the Tacna Regiment with 20 other persons in a dumper lorry and ‘disappeared’. Evidence collected during the investigation relates that he might have been taken to the Peldehue grounds, where he was killed by machine gun fire on the orders of Major Rafael Ahumada Valderrama.

4) Étienne Pesle was born in France in 1927, went to Chile in 1953 to work with the destitute, married Aydée Mendez Caceres, with whom he had two children, Roberto and Anne-Marie. Pesle was in charge of land reform at the Institute for the Development of Agriculture and Fishing in Temuco. The Institute, the goals of which were in line with the policy defined by President Allende, was to redistribute lands to the poor peasants and especially to the Mapuche peasants in the Temuco region. He was first arrested on 12 September 1973, then release, and then re-arrested on 19 September at his workplace by soldiers wearing the Chilean Air Force uniform, including Emilio Sandoval Poo, a reserve officer. The group was commanded by Miguel Manriquez, a civilian pilot and landowner against whom Pesle had led expropriation operations which benefited the Mapuche Indians. Pesle ‘disappeared’ from that day and his fate remains unknown. There is consistent evidence that he was taken to Maquehue, the air force base south of Temuco, where torture was systematically used and also applied by civilians. Some persons reported that he was killed and that his body was thrown into the sea from the private airplane of Miguel Manriquez.

“Amongst other things, these hearings will provide an opportunity to listen to historical testimony. Pinochet is dead, but this trial of the dictator, albeit posthumous, is the only trial of the whole system of repression that he established.” wrote Maîtres William Bourdon, Claude Katz and Benjamin Sarfati and Sophie Thonon, lawyers for the victims and the civil parties.

“The detention of Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998 helped revive the procedures initiated by the victims of the Chilean dictatorship both in Chile and abroad. The current trial, because of the nature of the crimes, not eligible for statute of limitation, transcends borders and contributes to the fight against impunity worldwide. It is now expected that the truth which will come out of this trial will be heard in Chile and will facilitate recognition of the realities of these crimes which are still far too little known.” said Hiram Villagra and Federico Aguirre, C.O.D.E.P.U. lawyers in Chile.

The trial opened as planned on 8 December 2010. It was based on complaints filed in 1998 by the victims’ families, who maintain that the Chilean justice system failed fully to investigate the four disappearances. The trial was of historic value in several respects. Beyond recognition of the individual responsibility of the accused, the trial would be the opportunity to establish and punish the system of repression set up and operated by the Pinochet dictatorship which reigned in Chile from 1973 to 1990. Furthermore, proceedings were connected to significant events at the start of the dictatorship which would throw light on the way it functioned and make its modus operandi perfectly clear: – the bombing of La Moneda and the arrest of the advisers of Salvador Allende; – the systematic repression of opponents – amongst whom were activists of the Revolutionary Left-wing movement, M.I.R. and persons linked to the former government – such as those involved with the great land reform embarked on by Allende; – the extremely hierarchical operation of D.I.N.A., the Junta’s political police force under the direct orders of Augusto Pinochet and Manuel Contreras; – Operación Cóndor, which aimed at eliminating opponents of the region’s dictatorial regimes; – the crimes systematically committed under Pinochet in torture centres such as ‘London 38’, ‘Villa Grimaldi’, or ‘Colonia Dignidad’.

This trial saw a number of witnesses who travelled from Chile to appear beside the plaintiff families. There would be not only witnesses to the events, such as the arrest, abduction, detention and torture of the four victims, but also experts who would give evidence of the context of those events and the internal condition in Chile, such as the Chilean lawyer and former United Nations Rapporteur, Roberto Garretón; Martín Almada, who discovered the Operation Condor archives; the American journalist John Dinges, a specialist on Operation Condor, the French magistrate Louis Joinet, and personalities from the world of human rights.

Through the trial France did render to the victims’ families that justice which had not been rendered in Chile.

Hoping for justice, the wives, children and brothers and sisters of the four men who vanished between 1973 and 1975 attended the trial from its beginning on 8 December. Thus, for instance, Erika and Natalia Chanfreau were there, and so were Roberto and Anne-Marie Pesle.

In an unusual move, the top State Prosecutor had intervened to tell the Court that the trial had been “indispensable and necessary” even though the accused were not present. The trial, he said, is not meant to “move the cursor of history towards justice” but to judge men who “let their basest instincts guide them.” using torture for “power by fear.”

On 17 December 2010 the President of the Paris Cour d’ Assises announced a landmark decision on relation the ‘disappearance’ of Alfonso Chanfeau, Jean-Yves Claudet, Georges Klein and Étienne Pesle.

The Court sentenced to life in gaol Juan Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, who at the time headed Pinochet’s political police, and Pedro Octavio Espinoza Bravo, No. 2 in the political police unit. Three others, Hermán Julio Brady Roche, Marcelo Luís Moren Brito, Miguel Kraznoff Martchenko were given 30-year prison sentences. Six were sentenced to 25 years: Gerardo Godoy Ernesto García, Basclay Humberto Zapata Reyes, Enrique Lautaro Arranciaba Clavel, Raúl Iturriaga Neumann, Luís Joachim Ramírez Pineda, José Osvaldo Riveiro. One received a 20-year sentence: Rafael Francisco Ahumada Valderama, and one 15 years: Emilio Sandoval Poo. One defendant, 77-year-old Gen. José Octavio Zara Holger, was acquitted.

The Court’s decision went beyond the request of State Prosecutor who had sought 20-year prison terms for three of the defendants and 15 years for the remaining 11.

For the first time in the history of Chile, the legal system of another country would come to identify and punish acts committed by these perpetrators.

Families of the victims nevertheless took heart in the convictions more than 30 years after the four disappeared.

Applause broke out in the court room among families of the victims after the reading of the verdicts. “Five members of the military came to get my father. They were in air force uniform.” Roberto Pesle told France-Infos radio. “They took him in front of all of his work colleagues. That is how he disappeared.” What happened next was speculation, Pesle said. “What they often did at that time was to get rid of the bodies by tossing them into a volcano or into the ocean.” His father’s body was never found.

Natalia Chanfreau, the daughter of one of the ‘disappeared’, said that the fact that the accused were unlikely to be arrested unless they tried to leave Chile did not detract from the trial’s significance. “What is important is the symbolic value of getting international condemnation of what happened.” she said. “It is important, too, that the guilty know that impunity is not eternal and it is not universal. … I was one year old when my father disappeared. I am now 37, so it is an entire life without the right to justice.” said Natalia Chanfreau. … “There are still many things to do. I would like to know where [my father] is, and of course I would also like [the guilty] to be in prison … but for the moment, I am really happy.”

William Bourdon, the lawyer representing the families of three of the victims, underlined the significance of the trial as the only major trial in contemporary times which gave an overall picture of the Pinochet regime and which was “marked by something Pinochet invented, which was to erase opponents by making them disappear.” … “The French judges understood very well that they were not only judges for the French victims but also judges for all of mankind.” he said. Noting the defendants’ absences, he said countries should be obliged to extradite even their own citizens when charged with international crimes.

“We hope this decision will lead the Chilean courts to act quickly, with total transparency and independence in relation to serious human rights violations committed during the dictatorship.” said Claude Katz, attorney for the F.I.D.H. and L.D.H.

On 23 December 2010, as the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances entered into force, the F.I.D.H. hailed it as a decisive step in the protection of the rights of victims of this atrocious crime. “The phenomenon of enforced disappearances is universal, affecting all continents. These horrific crimes not only target the ’disappeared’ persons themselves, but also their families and whole societies.” said Souhayr Belhassen, F.I.D.H. president.

More than 30 years after the adoption by the U.N. General Assembly of Resolution 33/173, December 1978, which for the first time referred to the issue of ‘Disappeared persons’, the International Convention finally came to constitute a binding instrument containing important provisions for the protection of the rights of victims.

The legal significance of the Convention is remarkable, since it not only provides a legal definition of the crime of ‘enforced disappearance’, but also establishes a set of obligations of States to prevent and prosecute this crime through concrete measures at the national level. The Convention recognises in particular the right to information, the right to know the truth, the right to justice and the right to reparation.

“The right to know is a fundamental right, as the phenomenon of enforced disappearance breaks the daily life of families.” underlined the former U.N. Special Rapporteur, Louis Joinet, during his testimony at the Pinochet trial before the Paris Cour d’Assises.

As of December 2016, 96 states have signed the Convention and 54 have ratified it.

The Convention places an obligation on State parties to take measures to prosecute the perpetrators of this crime when they are present on their territories, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, irrespective of the nationality of the victims and the alleged perpetrators, as well the country where the crime was committed. Finally, the Convention sets up a Committee which will monitor implementation by State parties.

“We now urge states that have not yet ratified the Convention to do so and encourage those that are already party to the Convention to implement its provisions, including by incorporating the crime of enforced disappearance into their national legislation.” concluded Souhayr Belhassen.

On 11 September 2013, the 40th anniversary of the coup, the National Security Archive released thousands of documents which belong to the Chile Documentation Project directed by Peter Kornbluh, author of several books on the presence of the United States in Latin America.(P. Kornbluh, The Pinochet File: A declassified dossier on atrocity and accountability, The New Press, New York, N.Y. 1989, with updated edition, 11 September 2013).

At a special ‘Tribute to Justice’ on 9 September 2013, in New York, Kornbluh had received the Charles Horman Truth Foundation Award for the Archive’s work in obtaining the declassification of thousands of formerly secret documents on Chile after Pinochet’s arrest in London in October 1998. Other awardees included Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzón, who had Pinochet detained in London; and Chilean judge Juan Guzmán Tapia, who prosecuted him after he returned to Chile in 2000.

Ten of those documents were posted on the same day. (National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 437).

They unequivocally clarify Kissinger’s responsibility for the coup.

Here is Kissinger, urging Nixon to overthrow the democratically elected Allende government in Chile because his “ ‘model’ effect can be insidious.” The posted records spotlight Kissinger’s role as the principal policy architect of the United States’ efforts to oust the Chilean leader, and assist in the consolidation of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

The documents include transcripts of Kissinger’s ‘telcons’ – telephone conversations – which were never shown to the special Senate Committee chaired by Senator Frank Church in the mid 1970s which produced the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, 1975. The new documents provide key details about the arguments, decisions, and operations Kissinger made and supervised during his tenure as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State.

“These documents provide the verdict of history on Kissinger’s singular contribution to the denouement of democracy and rise of dictatorship in Chile.” said Peter Kornbluh at the launch of his book’s new edition. “They are the evidence of his accountability for the events of forty years ago.”

The posting included a Kissinger ‘telcon’ with Nixon which records their first conversation after the coup. During the conversation Kissinger tells Nixon that the U.S. had ‘helped’ the coup. He says: “[Word omitted] created the conditions as best as possible.” When Nixon complained about the “liberal crap” in the media about Allende’s overthrow, Kissinger advised him: “In the Eisenhower period, we would be heroes.”

That ‘telcon’ appeared for the first time in the newly revised edition of Kornbluh’s book. Several of the other documents posted on 11 September 2013 had appeared for the first time in the original edition.

Among the key revelations in the documents:

On 12 September, eight days after Allende’s election, Kissinger initiated discussion on the telephone with C.I.A. director Richard Helm’s about a preemptive coup in Chile. “We will not let Chile go down the drain.” Kissinger declared. “I am with you.” Helms reassured him. Their conversation took place three days before President Nixon, in a 15-minute meeting which included Kissinger, ordered the C.I.A. to “make the economy scream” and named Kissinger as the supervisor of the covert efforts to keep Allende from being inaugurated. Since the Kissinger/Helms ‘telcon’ was not known to the Church Committee, the Senate report on American intervention in Chile and subsequent histories date the initiation of U.S. efforts to sponsor regime change in Chile to the 15 September meeting. (Document 1, Telcon, Helms – Kissinger, 12 September 1970, 12:00 noon).

Kissinger ignored a recommendation from his top deputy on the National Security Council, Viron Vaky, who strongly advised against covert action to undermine Allende. On 14 September Vaky wrote a memorandum to Kissinger arguing that coup plotting would lead to “widespread violence and even insurrection.” He also argued that such a policy was immoral: “What we propose is patently a violation of our own principles and policy tenets. … If these principles have any meaning, we normally depart from them only to meet the gravest threat to us, e.g. to our survival. Is Allende a mortal threat to the U.S.? It is hard to argue this.” (Document 2: Viron Vaky to Kissinger, “Chile – 40 Committee Meeting, Monday – 14 September 1970)

After U.S. covert operations, which led to the assassination of Chilean Commander in Chief of the Armed forces General René Schneider, failed to stop Allende’s inauguration on 4 November 1970, Kissinger lobbied President Nixon to reject the State Department’s recommendation that the U.S. seek a modus vivendi with Allende. In an eight-page secret briefing paper which provided Kissinger’s clearest rationale for regime change in Chile, he emphasised to Nixon that “the election of Allende as president of Chile poses for us one of the most serious challenges ever faced in this hemisphere” and “your decision as to what to do about it may be the most historic and difficult foreign affairs decision you will make this year.” Not only were a billion dollars of U.S. investments at stake, Kissinger reported, but what he called “the insidious model effect” of his democratic election. There was no way for the United States to deny Allende’s legitimacy, Kissinger noted, and if he succeeded in peacefully reallocating resources in Chile in a socialist direction, other countries might follow suit. “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on – and even precedent value for – other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.” (Document 5: Memorandum for the President, “Covert Action Program-Chile”, 25 November 1970).

The next day Nixon made it clear to the entire National Security Council that the policy would be to bring Allende down. “Our main concern,” he stated “is the prospect that he can consolidate himself and the picture projected to the world will be his success.”

In the days following the coup, Kissinger ignored the concerns of his top State Department aides about the massive repression by the new military regime. He sent secret instructions to his ambassador to convey to Pinochet “our strongest desires to cooperate closely and establish firm basis for cordial and most constructive relationship.” When his Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs asked him what to tell Congress about the reports of hundreds of people being killed in the days following the coup, he issued these instructions: “I think we should understand our policy – that however unpleasant they act, this government is better for us than Allende was.” The United States assisted the Pinochet regime in consolidating, through economic and military aide, diplomatic support and C.I.A. assistance in creating Chile’s infamous secret police agency, D.I.N.A.

At the height of Pinochet’s repression in 1975, Secretary Kissinger met with the Chilean foreign minister, Admiral Patricio Carvajal. Instead of taking the opportunity to press the Junta to improve its human rights record, Kissinger opened the meeting by disparaging his own staff for putting the issue of human rights on the agenda. “I read the briefing paper for this meeting and it was nothing but Human Rights.” he told Carvajal. “The State Department is made up of people who have a vocation for the ministry. Because there are not enough churches for them, they went into the Department of State.” [Emphasis added] (Document 9, Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, “Secretary’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Carvajal, 29 September 1975).

As Secretary Kissinger prepared to meet General Augusto Pinochet in Santiago in June 1976, his top deputy for Latin America, William D. Rogers, advised him to make human rights central to American-Chilean relations and to press the dictator to “improve human rights practices.” Instead, a declassified transcript of their conversation reveals, Kissinger told Pinochet that his regime was a victim of leftist propaganda on human rights. “In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here.” Kissinger told Pinochet. “We want to help, not undermine you. You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.” [Emphasis added] (Document 10: Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, “U.S.-Chilean Relations”, (Kissinger-Pinochet), 8 June 1976).

For the past two hundred years the United States has ‘maintained its presence’ in Chile and other parts of Latin America for the same ‘reasons’ as the Spanish, Portuguese, British, Dutch and French colonial ‘powers’ before them. The ‘reasons’ have remained unchanged: natural resources and cheap labour, compounded these days by neo-colonial extraction of forcibly contrived ‘debt’.

The modern methods of gaining and retaining that ‘presence’ are the myth of the free market, globalisation, privatisation, dismantling of domestic agricultural economies, and opening of markets imposed by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other ‘international’ institutions through local clients – essentially to favour transnational corporations.

Leaders of those corporations, their advisers, ‘captains’, banksters, compradores are forever busy telling ‘the natives’ what to do. But, for once, they should listen to the voice of peoples from Latin America, and that voice should, for once, come loud and clear to the people who live where those corporations reside – by and large in the United States. They could hear the voice of Latin America through the words of the French philosopher Simone Weil, who once wrote that people in Europe were shocked by the Nazis because the Nazis applied to Europe the same methods European powers practiced in their colonies.

Next installment Wednesday: Kissinger gave ‘green light’ for the invasion of East Timor.

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at



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  1. Freetasman

    Now Trump suggesting the possibility of sending the army to Venezuela.
    I cannot weaking up of this nightmare and make me think if Kissinger do not have some inputs on this.

  2. Michael Taylor

    Freetasman, it wouldn’t surprise me either.

  3. Freetasman

    Would be interesting what it is the view of Dr Venturini regarding Kissinger’s “make the economy scream” and the present Senate bill S-1018 about Venezuela.
    I do not know if he read the comments here.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Yes, Dr Venturini reads the comments. ?

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