Chilean Assassination in Washington DC

Alan McPherson’s Presentation on the 1976 Car Bomb that shocked the world

On Oct. 23, 2019, in the Planetarium, Dr. Alan McPherson presented on his book “Ghosts of Sheridan Circle: How a Washington Assassination Brought Pinochet’s Terror State to Justice”, continuing the GSIS Speaker Series. For the early birds of his lecture, this Temple University History Professor answered questions and autographed books .  

Of his many books, this “Ghosts of Sheridan Circle” is a “political thriller”, with the true events and repercussions of the 1976 car bomb that killed the former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier. The book and McPherson’s presentation give in-depth recollection of the event’s timeline to give “real families of the victims justice” and demonstrate the recklessness of the Chilean regime at the time. The bold assassinations of Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, ordered by the then Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, shook the global stage and reflected the concurrent battle between fascism and human rights. 

Over the course of the presentation, McPherson described the real-time dialogues and interviews that occurred during the 70s, clearly reflecting that “this is not an academic book”. In reviewing the Chileans misguided ideas, he highlighted their misunderstanding in the differences between country government agencies. He doted on how Chileans may have thought the countries alike, with “one (government agency) that dominates all the others”. However, “the FBI turned out wasn’t really scared of the CIA. They had the job of doing this and they did their job”, that is, locating and detaining the assassin. Pinochet’s regime’s ignorance shown in their lack to “consider the implications of killing a former ambassador and US citizen on US soil”. While it may have gone unpunished in Chile, it obviously didn’t in the United States. 

Ultimately, McPherson, through much research and extensive historical analysis, defined one of the Cold War’s most impactive assassinations. The Letelier car bomb “is unprecedented” and the United States’ reaction to this attack in Washington DC, of all places, “has surely been of interest to the U.S.’s adversaries for decades,” speculated a student of the College of Security and Intelligence. In his closing, McPherson noted that the Chilean regime’s audacious move on U.S. soil gave “rise to a human rights revolution”. The “Letelier case should shore up the morale” for human rights movements, providing an example against injustices, especially those dealing with fascism and authoritarianism.  

For more information on the Chilean and other Latin American historical events, refer to McPherson’s book, “The Invaded: How Latin Americans and their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations”.

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