202. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Chile1

165377. Subject: Proposed Covert Action Operation

1. I have carefully reviewed your earlier proposal together with the additional points set out in Santiago 5582.2 However, much as we might sympathize with the objective of curbing the role and power of Col. Contreras [less than 1 line not declassified] I am not rpt not persuaded we should go the covert action route to get at this problem.

2. The development of a solid and influential Chilean opposition [less than 1 line not declassified] indicates there is a good chance that Chileans themselves will accomplish most if not all of the aim sought: A curtailment [less than 1 line not declassified] of DINA. It has not been demonstrated that the suggested covert contribution to this “withering fire” DINA is under would make the difference between the success or failure of this movement. At the same time, the apparently irrepressible tendency of our covert operations in Chile to become the subject of wide-spread public comment opens up the real possibility that our initiative would ultimately become known. The consequence would be that an indigenous and healthy movement toward the realization of human rights in Chile would become almost irretrievably compromised. We are of course concerned over the unfortunate results for our position in Chile and elsewhere were it to become known that we had resumed covert operations in Chile, but our principal aim is that the move toward human rights in Chile remain unencumbered and [Page 612] uninfluenced, and therefore unendangered, [less than 1 line not declassified]3

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Roger Channel, Santiago 1963–79. Secret; Roger Channel. Drafted in INR/DDC and by Barneby; cleared by Devine, Todman, and McAfee; approved by Kirk.
  2. In telegram 4537 from Santiago, June 2, Boyatt described the proposed covert action. An Embassy contact would “make a representation to President Pinochet, ostensibly on the part of concerned Chilean senior military officers, that Colonel Contreras’ actions have become counter-productive to the interests of the Chilean government and that he should either be removed from his position as chief of DINA or at the least his powers [less than 1 line not declassified] should be sharply curtailed.” (Ibid.) In telegram 136105 to Santiago, June 13, Luers wrote: “Given the special history of our past actions in Chile, it would seem particularly unwise to launch such an initiative there,” and instructed the Embassy to “take no action along the lines suggested.” (Ibid.) In telegram 5582 from Santiago, July 7, Boyatt asked that the proposal be reconsidered: “DINA is now under withering fire from many quarters” and “the operation proposed would add to this momentum.” (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 5920 from Santiago, July 20, Boyatt wrote: “I believe that the momentum within Chile will result in a restructuring of DINA and its loss of arrest powers. I fear that Contreras may survive the reorganization and that will mean risks in the future. In any case, your argumentation is persuasive; [less than 1 line not declassified].” (Ibid.)