orlando-statue

(From left) Orlando Letelier’s son Francisco, Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archives, IPS Director John Cavanagh, IPS project director Sarah Anderson, and journalist John Dinges.

More than 100 years ago, when groups began installing statues across this country of pro-slavery Civil War leaders, they were hoping to embolden white supremacists for years to come.

Thirty-six years ago, when Peter Kornbluh and others helped install the monument to Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt on the other side of Sheridan Circle, they were hoping to embolden human rights heroes for years to come.

Today we celebrate another monument designed to embolden human rights heroes. And we can finally say we not only have a tribute to Orlando and Ronni on the soil of a country (the United States) that supported the Chilean dictatorship that ordered their killing. We now also have one on property that belonged to that dictatorship.

And we are marking this milestone at a time when the monuments to white supremacists are finally starting to come down.

They were on the wrong side of history.

Orlando and Ronni were on the right side of history.

And so I don’t foresee these monuments ever coming down. Instead, people will keep coming to this spot for 50, 100, 200 plus years. And they will learn about the Chilean ambassador who installed this statue, a man who came close to being in the car with Orlando and Ronni on that fateful day and went on to fight for human rights and against unjust wars.

And they will learn about how Orlando and Ronni’s family and friends, passionate lawyers, courageous colleagues at the Institute for Policy Studies, and so many more worked to turn this tragedy into a force for justice, setting international legal precedents and using the awards program in their names to lift up human rights heroes throughout the Americas.

And for years to come, no matter how fatigued they may be by the struggles of their day, they will be reminded that they stand on the shoulders of those who came before them, people like Orlando and Ronni who took huge risks to make the world a better place. And they will find inspiration to carry on the struggle for peace, justice, and dignity.

You can read more about the unveiling in this article by the Washington Post.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.