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Chile’s Murderous Regime

Congressman Anthony T. Moffett (D. Conn.) recently made the following statement on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to take note of yesterday’s assassination of Bernardo Leighton, an old and widely respected leader of Chile’s Christian Democratic Party. He was exiled from his home in 1973 at the time of the military coup. Mr. Leighton was No. 2 on the junta’s most-wanted list. Yesterday he and his wife were machine-gunned in Rome. His wife was in critical condition last night; whether she is alive today I do not know.

For those who think the junta in Chile is using torture and execution only on some revolutionaries, I will give a brief outline of Mr. Leighton’s background. He was Minister of the Interior under the administration of President Eduardo Frei; before that he had held various positions in Chilean government, and at the same time exerting leadership in the Christian Democratic Party. During the presidency of Salvador Allende, Mr. Leighton was elected to the Chilean Congress where he grew in his leadership capacity and continually insisted on constitutional, electoral democracy.

When the coup came in September of 1973, Leighton and his family left Chile, fearing for their safety. The junta then announced that Leighton would never be permitted to return to Chile, the oldest democracy in Latin America. While in exile, Mr. Leighton was politically active, working not only with all Chileans opposed to the brutal regime of the junta, but also with the World Parliamentary Union, which met in London last month. That conference came out with a strong statement against the junta.

Obviously, in the eyes of the military reactionaries currently in charge in Chile, these activities of Leighton’s were capital crimes. Like General Carlos Prats, a moderate, constitutionalist Chilean army general who was blown up by an assassin’s bomb last year while he was in exile in Argentina, Leighton represented strong, moderate opposition to the right-wing, police-state mentality represented by the junta. As General Prats represented democracy among the military, so Mr. Leighton represented it among politicians and the populace.

For this crime Bernardo Leighton had to die. Now that this fascist junta has achieved its purpose in killing, torturing, and jailing ultra-leftists, Communist and Socialist Party members and anyone who participated in the Allende administration’s agrarian reform program, it is now starting in on the most moderate, respectable, constitutionalist forces who oppose the junta in favor of a return to electoral democracy in Chile. The police state in Chile is now even attacking the Committee for Peace, a coalition of Catholics, Jews, and Protestants inside the country, who, with traditional religious protection, are attempting to exert a conciliating influence on the situation, and provide a link to the outside world. A Presbyterian minister connected with this group, along with his wife and three children, were kidnapped last week in Santiago. No one has heard from them.

This, Mr. Speaker, is the government to whom the administration wishes to give $83,693,000 this year in economic assistance. I am sure when the military aid request emerges this fall that the administration will include a hefty amount for Chile.

The history of our involvement in Chile during and after the overthrow of Allende is one of disgrace. One month after Allende was violently overthrown, the United States agreed to sell Chile $72 million in arms. In fiscal year 1974, Chile was the ninth largest buyer of US weapons in the world. For fiscal year 1975, AID offered Chile $20 million in loans. Public Law 480—Food for Peace—gave $57.8 million, the sixth largest allocation in the world. This represented 81 percent of all Public Law 480 money for Latin America for fiscal year 1975. The US-dominated World Bank gave Chile $13.5 million in loans in 1974, a massive increase in its involvement from the years of Allende rule when it cut off credit altogether.

Mr. Speaker, it appears as though our government is not only failing to condemn the oppressive junta in Chile but is actually seeking to reward it. We need a new policy toward Chile and we need it now. The ban on military assistance, mandated by Congress in 1974, should be extended. Economic aid, especially the AID programs, should be dramatically reduced if not eliminated altogether until human rights are restored.

And finally, Mr. Speaker, Congress should send its own investigating team to Chile, to gain firsthand knowledge of the situation and exert appropriate pressure on the junta to change its practices.

Letters

Leighton Lives February 19, 1976

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