(Washington, DC) On September 21, 1976, agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet carried out a brutal car bombing in the heart of the U.S. capital. Killed in the attack were two colleagues at the Institute for Policy Studies: Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean ambassador to the United States who had become one of Pinochet’s most vocal critics, and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, a 25-year-old American who worked at IPS as a development associate. Until 9/11, it was the most heinous act of international terrorism in our nation’s capital.
To mark the 40th anniversary, the Institute is organizing two major events:
40th Annual Letelier-Moffitt Awards: For 40 years, IPS has hosted an annual human rights awards program to honor the lives of Letelier and Moffitt and honor new champions of the human rights movement. This year’s program will honor past awardees, including Harry Belafonte, Casa de Maryland Director Gustavo Torres, and Ai-Jen Poo, of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. IPS board member Danny Glover will provide special remarks. The awards program will be held at the Carnegie Institution for Science, 1530 P. Street NW with a 5:30 pm reception and 7:00 pm program.
“Over the past 40 years, this tragic event has stoked the flames of human rights activism around the world and led to numerous path-breaking legal precedents,” notes IPS Director John Cavanagh. “IPS and FBI investigations uncovered overwhelming evidence of the murderous crimes committed by the Chilean secret police at home and abroad. This led to the convictions of several of the military officers and others involved in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination. Eventually, this work also helped lay the foundation for Pinochet’s arrest in London in 1998, advancing the principle of ‘universal jurisdiction’ for human rights atrocities. These measures of justice for Letelier and Moffitt stand as a testament to the power of persistence.”
40th Annual Memorial Program at Sheridan Circle: With the Embassy of Chile, IPS is co-hosting this ceremony at the site of the assassination at 23rd Street and Massachusetts Ave at 10:45 am on Friday, Sept. 23. At this event, President Michelle Bachelet, herself a victim of torture under the Pinochet dictatorship, will receive a final tranche of declassified documents about the Letelier-Moffitt case from a representative of the U.S. Department of State.
“This ‘document diplomacy’ will give the families of Letelier and Moffitt a measure of closure,” notes IPS Global Economy Director Sarah Anderson. “It will also serve the public’s right to know how this horrible act of international terrorism could be committed in our nation’s capital.” The declassification builds on actions by the Clinton Administration, which made public more than 16,000 documents related to Chile in 1999, but withheld documents related to the Letelier-Moffitt assassination, citing an ongoing investigation.
Orlando Letelier’s four sons (Francisco, Cristian, Jose Ignacio, and Juan Pablo) and Ronni Karpen Moffit’s niece, Rebecca Karpen, will also participate in the ceremony at Sheridan Circle. Peter Yarrow, of the legendary folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary, will pay musical tribute.
Visit this page for more detail on the measures of justice achieved since the 1976 assassination.