Chilean Australians demand apology, transparency over covert operation to oust Salvador Allende

Approval from Foreign Minister William McMahon to open an ASIS station in Santiago to support US covert operations. ASIS is referred to by a codename “MO9”. Photo: National Archives of Australia

The Chilean-Australian community wants the federal government to give an “unreserved apology” for its support for the United States and its Central Intelligence Agency in helping to overthrow the democratically elected government of Dr Salvador Allende in 1973.

They are also requesting the government declassify the files regarding ASIS activities in Chile in the 1970s. 

The following open letter, written by Rodrigo Acuña and Adriana Navarro, to Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been signed by 70 members of the Chilean-Australian community who were victims of the brutal US-backed military regime in Chile led by General Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990). 

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The publication by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (10/09/2021) of recently declassified Australian government records, confirms the active involvement of Australian Secret Intelligence Service agents (ASIS) in Santiago, Chile, between 1971 through to apparently early 1974.

These ASIS agents were assigned to assist the government of the United States of America and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the destabilisation of the democratically-elected Popular Unity Government of Dr Salvador Allende Gossens.

We, the undersigned, wish to express our outrage and outright repugnance of Australia’s involvement in that violent coup d’état.

We are Australian citizens and residents of Chilean origin, and some of us and our loved ones were illegally detained and tortured by state security forces of the military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Those brutal actions were the outcome, to some extent, of ASIS activities in Chile.

The overthrow of Allende’s Popular Unity government directly and deeply affected our lives and that of our families physically, psychologically, socially and economically. Our persecution by the Chilean State, which from 11 September 1973 through to March 1990 engaged in the well documented practice of state terrorism, eventually saw many of us recognised as political refugees by the government of Australia. Our universal human and democratic rights were interfered with and violated prior to being offered refuge in Australia.

In that context, having been confirmed that ASIS agents cooperated with the CIA to bring about that violent coup d’état, we are entitled to an unreserved apology from the Government of Australia which — through its secret intelligence agency  interfered in a sovereign nation.

The violent overthrow of President Allende resulted in our loved ones being persecuted, savagely tortured in secret prisons, and even assassinated; our studies and jobs were taken away from us; and upon arriving in Australia as refugees, many of our families were under surveillance and received anonymous threats and were subjected to intimidation by unknown agents, due to their activities to restore democracy in Chile.

As Australian citizens and residents of Chilean origin, we request that the government of Australia declassifies all necessary files regarding ASIS activities in Chile in the 1970s.

Unlike the Clinton Administration in the United States, which between June 1999 and June 2000 declassified 24,000 records under the Chile Declassification Project, the government of Australia has insisted on secrecy and consistently blocked investigative journalistic efforts and freedom of information applications regarding the activities of ASIS in Chile.

This attitude suggests the Australian government refuses to be accountable for its unjust and gratuitous involvement in the overthrow of a democratically elected government, however limited that involvement may have been.

Our community and the wider Australian community are unable to measure the impact of that involvement without those disclosures. The Australian government has a moral obligation to help set the historical record straight, and a legal obligation to be transparent and accountable.

To date, many Chilean-Australian citizens and residents, and citizens from other countries, continue to search for their relatives who were disappeared during the brutal Pinochet military regime. The complete declassification of ASIS activities in Chile will not only contribute to help the victims of the military dictatorship attain closure to such a painful period of their lives, but also contribute to their efforts to hold those accountable for crimes against humanity through the Chilean judicial system.

We, the signatories, are academics, lawyers, health professionals, trades people, service employees, students, artists, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mums and dads. We are but a sample of the hundreds of families of Chilean Australian origin living in and contributing to Australia, who have been deeply affected by the overthrow of Allende’s government.

Signatories:

  • Patricia Acosta, daughter of Gladys Galaz, political prisoner
  • Rodrigo Acuna, son of Leonardo Carrillo, who was jailed and tortured in 1975 for approximately two months by police, police intelligence and military; son of Luz Acuña Aguayo, summarily dismissed for political reasons
  • Luz Acuña Aguayo, summarily dismissed for political reasons in 1973 from the Department of Public Housing
  • Luis Rodolfo Roberto Allemand Ramirez, detained by Pinochet secret police, CNI, in 1985 and 1986, held illegally captive and tortured in Borgoño Barracks, political asylee under the UNHCR program in 1987
  • Sonia Alvear and Haydee Alvear, daughters of Javier Alvear, tortured and assassinated in October 1973
  • Manuel Amstein, university student union leader, expelled from university, threatened and intimidated, forced to leave Chile
  • Miguel Barrientos, mining worker summarily dismissed for political reasons, political refugee
  • Carlos Nelson Beltran Lira, detained and tortured at Moto Nave Lebu; widower of Cecilia Zamora Carvajal (QEPD), detained and tortured at Intendencia de Valparaiso
  • Alfredo Caceres, political prisoner for two years, tortured and disappeared for one week
  • Leonardo Carrillo, jailed and tortured in 1975 for approximately two months by police, police intelligence and military,
  • Jorge Castro, political prisoner, tortured and jailed from 1986 to 1988
  • Patricia Castro, former wife of Hector Perez, mining worker, taken to secret detention centres Chacabuco and Ritoque where he was severely tortured for over a year. This family was under surveillance while in Chile and also in Australia, once they came to Australia as refugees
  • Christian Cifuentes, shot, detained and subjected to physical and psychological abuse by police
  • Elbia Concha, Active member of National Campaign for Truth and Justice
  • Elba Cruz, brother killed and disappeared by State security forces(body never recovered)
  • Arnoldo Diaz, detained and tortured by CNI secret police for 28 days, then imprisoned in Santiago’s Penitentiary, September 1986
  • Cielo Ellis-Vega, son of Vlaudin Vega beaten by police; grandson of Gustavo Vega who was detained and tortured by Chilean police
  • Isabel Espinosa Galleguillos detained on 11 September 1973 in the factory where she worked, pregnant at the time, severely beaten causing the loss of her baby
  • Jaime Espinosa, persecuted for his political beliefs, political refugee
  • Hugo Espinoza, detained and tortured by Air Force personnel and then imprisoned on a ship used as a concentration camp, political asylee
  • Eduardo Figueroa, jailed, tortured and exiled
  • Ricardo Fredes, son of Hector Fredes, detained in Pisagua concentration camp, tortured
  • Bernarda Gomez, jailed and tortured in 1983
  • Ana Hurtado, daughter of Fulvio Hurtado Rojas, jailed and tortured in 1985
  • Maria Eugenia Jimenez; her brother was savagely tortured, her father was tortured in one of Pinochet’s concentration camps; her mother was tortured and imprisoned; she was beaten for being a student leader, exiled
  • Patricio Ledo, jailed in 1986
  • Maria Teresa Mardones, daughter of Guillermo Mardones, political exoneree
  • Victor Marillanca, university student from regional Chile, illegally detained in September 1973 and held in two separate Army barracks; severely tortured with permanent and severe physical sequelae; given refuge in Australia due to special circumstances
  • Simon Marti Peñaloza, son of Sandra del Carmen Pinto Silva whose father, Edras de las Mercedes Pinto Arroyo, disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s state security agents in 1976 (body never recovered) and sister of Gloria Pinto Silva who was murdered
  • Gustavo Martin, detained, beaten by Pinochet agents, household belongings were destroyed, given refuge in Australia,
  • Jose Martinez, jailed and tortured in September 1986
  • Carlos Mujica Morales, mining worker, summarily dismissed for political reasons, political refugee
  • Mercedes Muñoz Reyes, detained 1984
  • Adriana Navarro, whose husband was imprisoned by Air Force personnel and savagely tortured
  • Segundo Nitor, jailed and tortured in 1973
  • Angelica Oliva, daughter-in-law of Jaime Donato, detained, disappeared in 1976
  • Maria Orostegui, disappeared for one month and tortured by her captors
  • Jeanette Oujani, exiled; daughter of Luis Muñoz, jailed, tortured and exile; daughter of Margarita Muñoz, exiled; sister of Alexis Muñoz, shot and killed; sister of Luis Muñoz, disappeared
  • Marcial Mario Parada, union organiser in 1973, arrested by the military and tortured, political refugee
  • Carmen Luz Parra Sanhueza, former partner of Luis Rodolfo Roberto Allemand Ramirez, forced to witness other detainees being tortured, political refugee
  • Diego Peñaloza Pinto, son of Sandra del Carmen Pinto Silva, grandson of Edras de las Mercedes Pinto Arroyo, disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s agents, and nephew of Gloria Pinto Silva, murdered by those State agents
  • Jaime Pineda Araneda, son of Sandrino Pineda and Luisa Araneda. Father was jailed and the mother and her young son persecuted. The family was forced into exile
  • Sandra del Carmen Pinto Silva, daughter of Edras de las Mercedes Pinto Arroyo, disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s state security agents in 1976 (body never recovered); sister of Gloria Pinto Silva, murdered
  • Miguel Pizarro, detained and tortured 1984 and 1985, then imprisoned in Santiago’s Penitentiary
  • Luis Roberto Pizzorno, detained, tortured, state agents attempted to murder him, causing serious injury and loss of vision in one eye
  • Claudia Catalina Raddatz Torres, detained and tortured by the CNI, Pinochet’s secret police
  • Miguel Ramirez, jailed and tortured, March 1987
  • Jose Rios Fernandez, detained, political prisoner, tortured on several occasions between 1978-1983
  • Paulo Rios Olivares, son of Jose Rios Fernandez, kidnapped at 8 years of age in 1982, subjected to psychological torture
  • Osvaldo and Romina Rios Olivares, son and daughter of Jose Rios Olivares
  • Elizabeth Rivera, student leader persecuted for her ideals, and cousin of Hector Herrera Olguin, the young man who found the mutilated body of singer-songwriter Victor Jara
  • Nancy Rivera Huencho, tortured and jailed between 1988 and 1990
  • Nelson Rivera Huencho, tortured and jailed in 1982, 1984 and 1988
  • Patricia Saavedra, jailed with her husband Antonio Sergio Cabezas Quijada at Tacna Army Barracks. Subsequently Antonio was again kidnapped by State agents and later disappeared; he is presumed dead. He was an economist,
  • Paula Sanchez Castro, tortured and jailed in August 1987
  • Guillermo Sanchez Tucas, detained on 11 September 1973 in the factory where he worked, then taken to National Stadium, tortured
  • Raul San Juan, trade union leader; persecuted with his family, political exile
  • Maria A Santana Morales, detained Tejas Verde concentration camp, 13 September 1973
  • Carlos Saravia, detained at Technical University, Santiago, Chile
  • Danni Serrano, sister of Jorge Aspillaga, jailed and tortured
  • Patricia Javiera Serrano, daughter of Rony Serrano Saavedra, political prisoner
  • Carlos Trigo Jofre, brother of political prisoner Roberto Trigo Jofre, detained 1982
  • Cesar Trigo Olivares, nephew of political prisoner Roberto Trigo Jofre, detained 1982
  • Lorena Trigo Olivares, niece of political prisoner Roberto Trigo Jofre, detained 1982
  • Yvonne, Yslevy and Clive Miguel Tudela, children of Clive Tudela Espinoza, jailed on the afternoon of the 11th of September 1973. Taken from his place of work to the detention centres at Chile Stadium and National Stadium in Santiago, where he was held and tortured for over 4 months
  • Hilda Valenzuela, widow of Manuel Valenzuela, chemical engineer, jailed and savagely tortured before migrating to Australia under its humanitarian programme
  • Patrick Vasquez, son of Pedro Angel Vasquez, who was severely tortured, and brother of Hugo Ribol Vasquez, who was assassinated by State agents
  • Vlaudin Vega, beaten by police, son of Gustavo Vega who was detained and tortured by Chilean police
  • Vrelo Vega, son of Gustavo Vega and brother of Vlaudin Vega.

[Please send any government replies to Dr Rodrigo Acuña at rodrigo.indepj@gmail.com with a copy to Adriana Navarro at navarroassociates@bigpond.com.]