DINA chief’s letter asks Pinochet for money to “neutralize” exile leaders. Letter is a false document, but request actually was made.

6. KGB Fabrication. A Document purporting to be letter from Contreras to Pinochet asking for $600,000 for the “neutralization” of exiled opposition leaders. The document, dated September 16, 1975, has an authentic looking signature of DINA chief Manuel Contreras, but was later revealed to be a KGB forgery. The document first surfaced in Mexico in 1977 (El Sol de Mexico, February 3, 1977), where I obtained it, and has been widely accepted as authentic in press accounts and books.
A copy of the 1977 document is displayed, along with newspaper articles about the publication of the document. In addition, there is an article by John Dinges in Columbia Journalism Review analyzing the question of the document’s authenticity. I confirmed that the document was false several years later. KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin revealed the letter was fabricated as part of “Operation Toucan” after the assassination of Orlando Letelier. See Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The World was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (Basic Books 2005), pp 87-88.

In the letter, Col. Manuel Contreras asks General Pinochet  for a $600,000 increase in DINA’s budget to intensify operations in countries where Chile’s most prominent exiled adversaries are located: Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, United States, France and Italy. By 1977, when the letter surfaced in Mexico, it was known that DINA had already assassinated or attempted to assassinate opponents in all of these countries. The request the money to place additional agents and for “additional expenses for the neutralization of the principal adversaries of the Government of the Junta located abroad.” It is dated September 16, 1975–the precise timeframe when Contreras was organizing the formal Condor alliance.

An exiled Chilean senator, Hugo Miranda, made the document public, without revealing its origin or otherwise establishing its authenticity, in a press conference in Mexico in February 1977. The author obtained a copy of the document  soon after. Because its authenticity had not been established, the FBI declined to use it as evidence against Chile in the Letelier assassination prosecution, despite its seemingly dramatic statement of what we now know to be the central mission of Operation Condor.

I have reproduced the principal documents associated with the origins of the document. I also include an article (Columbia Journalism Review) in which I analyze the document’s authenticity and examine an attempt to falsely protray it as having been discovered among secret police documents in the Paraguayan “Archive of Terror” in 1992.

In the first edition of The Condor Years, I question the document’s origins but not its authenticity and I reproduce its key passages. I did not learn it was a fabrication until several years later when I came across “Operation Toucan” in Mitrokhin’s book.  I now believe it was an error to have used the document as I did.  I will correct the error in the new edition. Despite the falsity of the document, it seems to have a basis in fact in two ways: First, the countries named were indeed countries where Condor operations were launched. Second, I was able to corroborate from an independent, first hand source inside the Pinochet government that a DINA request for additional funds was indeed made to Pinochet, in the same time frame, for the “internationalization” of DINA. See The Condor Years (2004 edition), pp 106-108 and corresponding notes. 

Here is the letter.

And here is the New York Times story about the release of the document in 1977, presumed to be authentic at the time.

John Dinges

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