Foreign Policy / Human Rights

Chilean Court Finds US Government Complicit in Death of American Journalist

On September 17, 1973, Charles Horman, an American journalist and filmmaker, was seized by Chilean soldiers and taken to National Stadium in Santiago where he was tortured and shot to death.

Horman had been in the resort town of Vina del Mar just before the September 11, 1973 coup that overthrew that replaced President Salvador Allende with General Augusto Pinochet.  Vina del Mar was a key base for the American and Chilean coup plotters and Horman saw and heard things that implicated the U.S. in the coup.  He accepted a ride back to Santiago with Navy Captain Ray E. Davis, head of the U.S. military in Chile.

After he was taken, Horman’s wife and father sought to find out about his whereabouts only to be stonewalled by both the Chilean and U.S. governments and their struggle to find the truth is depicted in the acclaimed movie Missing by Costa Garvas.

A declassified State Department memo concluded that:

US intelligence may have played an unfortunate part in Horman’s death. At best, it was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder by the GOC [government of Chile]. At worst, US intelligence was aware the GOC saw Horman in a rather serious light and US officials did nothing to discourage the logical outcome of GOC paranoia.

In 2011,  A retired Chilean colonel and  Chilean counterintelligence agent, were indicted by Chilean authorities in connection with Mr. Horman’s death, along with Captain Davis who died in 2013.   A Chilean court now has found all three were involved in Horman’s death.

Chilean authorities also sought to question former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the U.S. Ambassador to Chile at the time in connection with the murders, but both refused.

Kissinger also has been implicated in the 1972 assassination of René Schneider, the Commander of the Chilean military who opposed any coup, and the  1976 murder of a Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in a car bombing in Washington.


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