In response to:

Chile's Murderous Regime from the November 13, 1975 issue

To the Editors:

Congressman Moffett’s statement [NYR, November 13, 1975] regarding the attack of the Chilean Christian Democrat leader Bernardo Leighton last October 6, by four anonymous young thugs in Rome requires correction. During the confused hours after he was shot, it seemed doubtful whether Leighton would survive and confused reports from Rome led some to believe that he had died. This accounts for Mr. Moffett’s assumption that the assassination attempt had succeeded when in fact Leighton is still alive. Although his condition remained critical for months, it is now improved. His wife, who tried to protect him when the shooting began, is now almost totally paralyzed by a bullet which buried itself in her spine.

The machine gun attack on Leighton and his wife was barely noticed in the US press—it was reported in two sentences in The New York Times—but it raised grave questions for Chile’s political future. Leighton was in New York last April when, along with several other exiled leaders of the left wing of the Christian Democratic party, he took part in a then-secret meeting to organize a broad international movement to restore Chile’s democratic life. He is only one of dozens of moderate opponents of the present regime who have been violently attacked, and in some cases killed, in countries outside Chile, particularly in Argentina and Brazil. Neither the murder of the pro-Allende General Carlos Prats in Argentina nor the crime against Leighton have yet been solved. But whoever was responsible for them, it is well known that the Chilean secret police agency—DINA—is active both in Europe and in the Latin American countries. Not content with imprisoning and torturing many thousands in Chile itself, and with forcing some 12,000 Chileans to leave the country, the regime is “extremely concerned,” as one high official of DINA has stated, “to curb the antigovernment activities of the exiles.”

Laurence Birns

New York, New York

This Issue

February 19, 1976