SANTIAGO (IPS)–After 28 years, the past has returned to haunt Henry Kissinger, the U.S. secretary of state at the time of the 1973 military coup in Chile. The former chief diplomat faces questioning by Juan GuzmÃ¡n, the Chilean judge who is also in charge of the legal proceedings against former dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Mr. Kissinger–who served under presidents Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and Gerald Ford (1974-1977)–received a recent summons from French justice authorities to testify in Paris in a case involving the disappearance of French citizens in Chile. The former secretary of state did not comply with the request.
Mr. Kissinger is widely believed to be the key official involved in the Nixon government’s attempts–launched in 1970 in Chile through the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)–to block the election of socialist Salvador Allende to the presidency, and later to destabilize his government.
Judge GuzmÃ¡n is preparing a questionnaire for the former secretary of state, to be sent through diplomatic channels, in an attempt to obtain information about the 1973 assassination of U.S. journalist and filmmaker Charles Horman in Santiago.
The Horman case was reconstructed in 1978 by another U.S. journalist, Thomas Hauser, in his book “Missing,” which later served as the basis for a film by the same name.
Mr. Horman was 31 at the time of his arrest in Santiago on Sept. 17, 1973, just six days after the military coup against the Allende government occurred. It is believed that the military executed Mr. Horman 24 hours later at the detention center set up at the National Stadium in the capital.
However, both his arrest and his death were kept secret. It was not until Oct. 18 that his body was identified in a mass grave at Santiago’s main cemetery, known as Patio 29, after his father, Ed Horman, pressured authorities to find his son.
The Pinochet dictatorship did not authorize the repatriation of Mr. Horman’s remains until March 30, 1974.
The journalist and other U.S. citizens in Chile at the time published the “Boletin FIN” (North American Information Source), a newsletter critical of Nixon policy toward the Allende government.
Mr. Hauser’s hypothesis–shared by others who have studied the case–is that the military government arrested and assassinated Mr. Horman, with intelligence provided by the U.S. embassy in Chile, because he had come upon information about the CIA’s logistical support for the Sept. 11, 1973 coup.
Mr. Horman had traveled to Valparaiso and Vi—a del Mar, two cities on the Pacific coast, west of Santiago, the day before the coup, accompanied by Terri Simon, also a U.S. citizen.
There, the two met U.S. military officers who confided that the Chilean military was about to launch an insurrection, and was to begin on the coast with the Navy.
Joyce Horman, the journalist’s widow, filed a lawsuit in Santiago last December against Gen. Pinochet for his dictatorship’s role in the assassination of her husband. She initiated similar lawsuits in 1978 in the United States against Mr. Kissinger and nine other CIA and State Department officials.
The case was passed on to Judge GuzmÃ¡n, who ordered former dictator Pinochet’s (1973-1990) current house arrest for covering up 18 kidnappings and 59 assassinations of political prisoners committed in October 1973 by the military.
Judge GuzmÃ¡n is handling another 200 legal complaints against Mr. Pinochet for human rights violations, but has declined accusing the 85-year-old retired general of the Horman assassination–though he has indicated plans to officially question Mr. Kissinger.
The Supreme Court rejected a petition June 5 from Joyce Horman’s attorneys, Fabiola Letelier and Sergio CorvalÃ¡n, to designate a special investigative judge to the case. The court ratified Mr. GuzmÃ¡n’s role in charge of the inquiry.
Judge GuzmÃ¡n will have to establish–through the questionnaire–whether there was coordination between the CIA and the Chilean dictatorship in the illegal arrest of the young journalist, in his clandestine assassination at the National Stadium and in hiding his body in a mass grave.
The judicial conclusions that arise from the GuzmÃ¡n inquiry will undoubtedly have a political impact, both here and in the United States, given that it involves the alleged U.S. intervention in the 1973 coup in Chile.
The documents that have been declassified over the last three years in the United States by the CIA, the State Department, the Pentagon and other governmental agencies, confirm that President Nixon encouraged clandestine operations to destabilize the leftist Allende government (1970-1973).
But official U.S. discourse is to deny that logistical support for the coup d’Ã©tat in 1973 existed and, further, to claim that the bloody military uprising surprised the Washington embassy in Santiago–indicating that, although U.S. officials expected the coup, they did not know details of how or when it would be carried out.
Attorneys Letelier and CorvalÃ¡n are asking that, as part of the legal proceedings in the Horman assassination case, that legal statements be taken from Mr. Kissinger and 21 other witnesses–U.S. and Chilean officials–whose testimonies they expect will reveal the direct role of the former U.S. secretary of state in the 1973 coup.