by Gustavo Gonzalez
(IPS) SANTIAGO --
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 Guzman, the Chilean judge who is also in charge of the legal proceedings against former dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Kissinger -- who served under presidents Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and Gerald Ford (1974-1977) -- received a summons just last week from French judicial 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.
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 Guzman 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.
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, directed by the French-Greek filmmaker Costa Gavras.
Horman was 31 at the time of his arrest in Santiago on September 17, 1973, just six days after the military coup against the Allende government occurred. It is believed that the military executed 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 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's policy toward the Allende government.
Hauser's hypothesis -- shared by others who have studied the case -- is that the military government arrested and assassinated 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 September 11, 1973 coup.
Horman had travelled to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, two cities on the Pacific coast, 120 km 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, which was to begin on the coast with the Navy.
Joyce Horman, the journalist's widow, filed a lawsuit in Santiago last December against Pinochet for his dictatorship's role in the assassination of her husband. She initiated similar lawsuits in 1978 in the United States against Kissinger and nine other CIA and State Department officials.
The case was passed on to Judge Guzman, who ordered former dictator Pinochet's (1973-1990) current house arrest for covering up the 18 kidnappings and 59 assassinations of political prisoners committed in October 1973 by the military mission known as the "caravan of death."
Guzman is handling another 200 legal complaints against Pinochet for human rights violations, but has declined from accusing the 85-year-old retired general of the Horman assassination -- though he indicated that he planned to officially question Kissinger.
On June 5, the Supreme Court rejected a petition from Joyce Horman's attorneys, Fabiola Letelier and Sergio Corvalan, to designate a special investigative judge for the case. The court ratified Guzman's role in charge of the inquiry.
Guzman 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 Guzman's 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 Nixon encouraged clandestine operations to destabilize the leftist government of Allende (1970-1973).
But the official U.S. discourse is to deny that logistical support for the coup d'etat 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.
Likewise, Kissinger and the top CIA officials from three decades ago maintain that the U.S. government did not approve, much less support, the political repression unleashed in Chile following the coup and its extensive violations of human rights.
Attorneys Letelier and Corvalan are asking that, as part of the legal proceedings in the Horman assassination case, that legal statements be taken from 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.
The Horman lawyers also indicated that last January, during his final days in office, president Bill Clinton asked the Chilean government to launch a high-level investigation into the Horman assassination.
The document bearing Clinton's request "inexplicably" has not been remitted by Chile's Foreign Ministry to the Supreme Court of Justice, report Letelier and Corvalan.
Last week, French judge Roger Le Loire summoned Kissinger to testify, during a private visit to Paris, about the alleged role the U.S. played in the disappearance of five French citizens in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship.
The former secretary of state refused to appear before the French magistrate and continued his travels, heading to Italy. The U.S. embassy in Paris issued a statement that an official request of this nature should be handled by the Bush administration.
June 18, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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