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Monday Morning Skeptic: NY Times Buries CIA Facts Re Latin American Deaths

of Salvador Allende’s eyeglasses. Museo Historico Nacional, Santiago, Chile

of Salvador Allende’s eyeglasses. Museo Historico Nacional, Santiago, Chile

The New York Times has a venerable history of eliding references to any US role in overthrowing governments or murdering foreign leaders. But an article in Thursday’s edition by Times reporter Simon Romero (“Latin America Brings Up Its Dead, Seeking Truth to Help Settle the Past”) raises the censorship bar.

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

Running at over 1200 words, the article describes the exhumation of the remains of the likes of leftist Chilean poet and Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, deposed leftist Brazilian Presidents Joao Goulart and Juscelino Kubitschek, ousted Chilean President Salvador Allende Gossens and his predecessor Eduardo Frei Montalva—all of whose deaths are viewed with suspicion by Latin Americans. Yet Romero manages to mention a possible US role only once, and then only indirectly and with reference to a half-century old case —when he notes that Brazil’s elected President Goulart had been ousted from office in a 1964 military coup “supported by the United States.”

Eduardo Frei Montalva

Eduardo Frei Montalva

That is the only reference to the US in the entire article.

Quite remarkably, given the amount that has been exposed over the years about it, Romero mentions the role of a Latin America-wide assassination program called Operation Condor—without once noting that the whole thing was orchestrated or at least encouraged and enabled by the US.

Salvador Allende Gossens

Salvador Allende Gossens

Condor’s Wingmen

Condor was a vast conspiracy that involved the cooperative efforts of the intelligence agencies of all the military dictatorships in the region which, during the 1970s and 1980s, killed as many as 35,000-50,000 people, mostly leftist leaders, labor activists, and opponents of those dictatorships.

This lapse is particularly outrageous given that in years past, even the New York Times itself reported on the intimate role of the US in the creation and operation of Operation Condor.

For example, in a March 6, 2001 article, the NY Times reported on a “recently declassified” US State Department document. It revealed that the US had facilitated communications among South American intelligence agency heads who were busy trying to eliminate left-wing opposition groups in their respective countries.  Part of the program involved going after opposition leaders who had fled coups and were living in neighboring South American countries.

The document in question, a 1978 cable to then US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance from the US ambassador to Paraguay, Robert E. White, was unearthed by Professor J. Patrice McSherry of Long Island University, who called it “another piece of increasingly weighty evidence suggesting that U.S. military and intelligence officials supported and collaborated with Condor as a secret partner or sponsor.”

In this cable, Ambassador White reports on a conversation he had with the chief of staff of Paraguay’s military, General Alejandro Fretes Davalos, who he says informed him that the South American intelligence agencies involved in Operation Condor “keep in touch with one another through a U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone which covers all of Latin America.”  That communications station, he wrote, was “employed to coordinate intelligence information among the southern cone countries.”

White, in this memo to Vance, expresses a fear that the U.S. role in Operation Condor might be revealed during a then active criminal investigation into the assassination of former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and an American colleague, Ronni Moffitt—both of whom were killed by an explosive device placed in their vehicle in Washington, D.C.  “It would seem advisable,” writes White, “to review this arrangement to insure that its continuation is in U.S. interest.”

image002Another document discovered at the same time, this one a CIA cable concerning the Brazilian junta’s role in Operation Condor, refers to “Condor-Tel,”  described as the “communications network established by the Condor countries.” It also refers to “European operations” of the Condor countries, which likely involved assassination plots against ousted leaders and activists currently living in asylum there after fleeing their martial-law homelands in Latin America.

The Times Tango

The whole approach taken by Times journalist Romero, with the apparent cooperation or perhaps encouragement of the paper’s foreign editors, was to present the current exhumations of important leftist corpses (the ones he cites actually date from between 2004 and 2013) like Neruda’s, Goulart’s, Kubitschek’s and Frei’s—as part of some kind of delightful if arcane Latin American cultural tradition. It was an “exhumation fever,” as he puts it, even going so far as to write, “Scholars say the practice may be the secularized continuation of customs from the time of early Christianity, when a vibrant trade involved the body parts of saints.”

None of these exhumations, however, involve the selling of body parts. They are about looking for evidence that important leftist leaders and political figures, said to have died natural deaths, may have in fact been assassinated in conspiracies that, for the most part, could likely be traced back to the US and the Central Intelligence Agency. Romero mentions none of this.

Salvador Allende Gossens

Salvador Allende Gossens

In the case of Chile’s President Frei, for example, who was president of Chile until the election of Marxist Socialist Allende, his death in 1982 had long been officially attributed to complications following an operation for a stomach ailment. But because by that time the retired Christian Democrat had become a sharp critic of martial law under Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, the general who had led the coup against Allende, there were always suspicions he had been murdered. In fact, as Romero reports, after his body was exhumed, forensics experts concluded that Frei had been poisoned by small doses of mustard gas and the highly toxic heavy metal element thallium.

Augusto Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet

What Romero doesn’t report is that back in 1982, under President Ronald Reagan and CIA Director William Casey, Operation Condor was in full swing. It is unlikely that Pinochet—largely a US creation and puppet, whose coup in 1973 overthrowing Allende was the handiwork of President Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger—would have had Frei killed on his own, without US permission. (Even when he mentions the 1973 coup in Chile, Romero fails to say a word about the central US role in fomenting it.)

Goulart too, was said to have died of a heart attack back in 1976, when he was living in exile in Argentina. The exhumation of his body is being undertaken to see if he was actually poisoned. While Romero mentions that concern, he fails to mention who the prime suspects would be behind such a murder: Condor and, by extension, the CIAkissinger-pinochet1

Escalating the Disinformation

The New York Times has long censored its coverage of Latin America, particularly when it comes to the covert actions of the US government to undermine popular democracy in what Washington considers to be its “backyard.” But this particular piece by Romero takes that censorship to the level of the absurd.

He even fails to note, in an aside mentioning the recent exhumation of the body of the late Palestine Authority leader Yasser Arafat, who died mysteriously of unknown causes in 2004, that Swiss medical experts had found traces of the rare and highly toxic element Polonium on his clothing. Such a finding, which was published in the respected British medical journal, the Lancet, makes it probable that Arafat was poisoned. Only a limited number of intelligence agencies have ready access to Polonium, among them agencies in the US, USSR and Israel, the latter of which had long made its dislike of Arafat clear, at one point in 2002 threatening to bomb him as he holed up in the badly damaged Palestinian Authority headquarters.

Joao Goulart

Joao Goulart

It should come as no surprise that Romero, a long-time South American correspondent for the Times who is currently posted to Brazil, would write such an article so blatantly censoring out the history of US covert action in Latin America. Romero also notoriously wrote an absurd scare story, based solely upon Defense Intelligence Agency data, purporting to show that Venezuela was becoming a regional military threat, though as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting noted, Venezuela’s military at the time was dwarfed by both Colombia’s and Brazil’s and was 1/500th the size of the US military.

To give Romero his due, though, the problem is larger than one reporter. Indeed, transforming the horrific doings of this country into “honey isn’t that fascinating” folkloric excursions is nothing new—and not limited to any one Timesman or woman. Indeed, using “cultural tradition” to explain why anyone would want to exhume popular figures who died under suspicious circumstances is reminiscent of a previous New York Times article in which the author used pseudopsychology, and even neurology, to explain why some people believe in conspiracy. Another example would be the hiring of the popular filmmaker Errol Morris to make the assassination of John F. Kennedy a “delightful” example of coincidence in action via the strange case of the “Umbrella Man” on the Grassy Knoll (see this and this.)

***

When it comes to the political murders that underlie most of the current exhumations in Latin America, we have no way around what looks like the Times’ deliberate failure to mention the potentially explosive issue of US sponsorship. That this astonishing oversight comes at a time of rising anti-American sentiment in many of the same Latin American countries seeking closure and justice cannot go unmentioned. And as we mourn these tragic deaths, we might add one more, right here in the United States: the slow death of honest journalism. It’s time to exhume the truth—everywhere.

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Graphic: IMAGE: car wreck   IMAGE: Frei-Montalva  IMAGE: Allende waves to crowd  IMAGE:  Allende   IMAGE: Neruda with pipe   IMAGE: COSAS – PINOCHET   IMAGE: Kissinger, Pinochet  IMAGE: Joao Goulart

 


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  • sgtdoom

    Excellent article, excellent catch(es), sir!

    Curiously, I happened upon a clip of a recent media gathering, where comedian Stephen Colbert was cracking jokes with Henry Kissinger sitting right behind him, almost patting Kissinger on the back, instead of honestly pointing out how close he, Colbert, was to a mass murderer. (When media whores behave like whores, nothing more need be said.)

    A tremendous book to read regarding US intel involvement in South America is Gerard Colby’s Thy Will Be Done which presents an incredible amount of information, touching on many important and recondite areas.

    Operation Brother Sam, Operation Condor, Operation Charly, where does the super-imperialism and murderous ways of the USA (a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street) ever end?

    • Gregg Stanley

      “where does the super-imperialism and murderous ways of the USA (a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street) ever end?”

      Or is Wall Street a subsidiary of the USA? As Mises has pointed out political contributions are bribes and bribes are paid by the weaker party. Also, who owns the big guns (military)?

      • sgtdoom

        Oh, save us from this Mises crapola, the same people who quote his drivel, also quote C. Wright Mills, who Ferdinand Lunderberg, formerly an investigative journalist before becoming a professor of sociology, easily demolished in one of his books (never once does Mills ever cite the TNEC study, the most important national economics study undertaken by congress, major sections of which are still classified to this day, over at the SEC).

        Go and read the notes and background on the last action taken by FDR before his death while in office, directing the DOJ to pursue the lawsuit, United States of America v. Morgan et al., alleging a criminal conspiracy among the 17 banks and investment houses of Wall Street in the concentration of corporation ownership, dating back to 1914.

  • Torstentopp

    Very interesting again. Thanks for that. I remember when Arafat died, I did have my suspicions already at that time.

    I have always had a great interests in society, I have studied the social sciences for a long time, I think that John Perkins book “Confessions of an economic hit man” really made me understand something substantial about how the world works, how multinational corporations hand in hand with the US-government bribe, murder and invade to capture the resources in the form of oil, minerals and so on from the third world.

    Probably a very substantial reason for the poverty in these countries.

    Russ’s article above illustrates this even further, didn’t know that they had – possibly – murdered so many political leaders. It wouldn’t surprise me. But I think Perkins book gives the reasons for all the murders – money.

    There is an article from the Rolling Stone magazine published in the 1970s – on how all the big media corporations have very close ties to CIA. Written by the journalist Carl Bernstein, you can read it on his home page. So: New York Times, that is perhaps why they are so careful not to mention USA or the CIA. Also: NYT was a very active cheer leader for the Iraq war. CNN is said to have psyops people from the Pentagon working there during that war. Also: I remember an interview on CNN of the late Michael Hasting, he says that Barbara Starr, CNN, is a spokesperson for the Pentagon.

    This web of people working for the media corporations and the military-intelligence institutions is scary.

    A digression: In “Family of Secrets” (haven’t had time to read it yet), there is mentioned that possibly there never was any deep throat, well in this context I remember that in “All the presidents men”, it says that people thought that Woodward was a foreigner, he wrote so poorly. If he didn’t write well I ask why did he become a journalist? Woodward’s background was and is naval intelligence. He got very rich by writing about secret matters …. So I too wonder who is he really?

    • sgtdoom

      It’s good that you mention Carl Bernstein’s article in the Rolling Stone, around 1977 or ’78.

      Today, we have an Anderson Cooper (of the Vanderbilt family) who interned at the CIA during his summers while at Yale — was Cooper doing so to become a “better journalist” (epic fail) or to become a CIA agent in journalism?

      Brian Williams (I believe he is at ABC, I really don’t follow the CorporateMediaSwine anymore) was the PR spokesman for the Pentagon prior to moving into the job — is he still on their payroll, perhaps?

      Too many other TV “journalists” have similar backgrounds, far, far, too many…….

      Woodward was NCIS, officer-type, and part of what he did was performing background checks on members of the White House Communications Agency — now what a position, since that was the agency involved in installing the tape recorders in Nixon’s offices (by Nixon’s directive, of course). Not surprising that Woodward would go to WaPo, where Donald Graham, husband of the publisher and Trilateral Commission member, served under (if I’m not mistaken, going by memory on this) Dulles in the OSS, and Katherine (Meyer) Graham herself was the daughter of a former Federal Reserve chairman.

      • Torstentopp

        There might be others like you mention. Don’t know anything about Starr. However, a hierarchy like institutions like the pentagon, the CIA, or media corporations. The can not and aren’t in control of the world or anything. Important to keep this in perspective.

        • sgtdoom

          Of course, they aren’t in control of the world, they are simply tools for those who are, and they can certainly order the killing of many innocents (just today on CNN, which I don’t usually view) there was a clip of a former drone operator responsible for the deaths of 1600 humans.

      • Russ

        ok, folks, a bit of research before posting things for all the world to read, please. Believe you are mixing Brian Williams up with Pete Williams. Brian never worked for the Pentagon. And Brian is on NBC, not ABC.

        • sgtdoom

          My apologies and you are emminently correct, I should have said Pete Williams, instead of Brian. My problem has been I pay scant attention, since the 1990s, to the douchetards of the American media, so it is difficult distinguishing among the doucheys, like Bob Schieffer, Andrea Mitchell (Alan Greenspan’s wifey), Barbara Starr, Anderson Cooper, and Brian and Pete Williams.

          Also, my apologies to douchey Brian Williams, whom I have never cared for but didn’t work for the Pentagon (although he too sounds frequently as if he may be on the payroll).

  • JohnJoslin

    On the subject of ‘comedians’ and Kissinger, I have to mention the ingenious American political satirist , Barry Crimmins … whose book” Never Shake Hands With a War Criminal” shows us , among other fascinating things, what not to do if one accidentally bumps into that blood- soaked servant of violent death. Funny thing …. doesn’t crack a single joke , either.

    – John A. Joslin , ( Detroit )

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  • Trutherator

    I agree with most of this, but there is a VERY important new development in Latin America especially with respect to US meddling and undercover operations around the world. That is, nobody noticed, but now, instead of supporting so-called misnomered “right-wing” coups, and never-ending re-”election” of anti-Communists, their intelligence apparatus has begun, together with the diplomatic corps, to prop up leftist caudillos like Hugo Chavez and his fellow fascists.

    In Honduras, they supported the left-wing coup by Manuel Zelaya, who became dictator while the world was ignoring the country. Even though the Congress was elected by the same electorate as himself. It started much worse when he came back from the Caribbean-Central American presidential summit in Santo Domingo in November 2008 where George Soros was keynote speaker! Kid you not.

    Not only did he refuse to obey anything legislated by Congress, he also disobeyed a long series of Supreme Court orders, and lots more.

    The American Ambassador was in the presidential mansion the night before Zelaya planned his phony “survey” that he was going to use to justify dissolving Congress. He was helping plan this auto-coup consolidation, why else was he there, and he lent his name and office in support to this another leftist coup by phony “election”.

    This is one case that I know about. Accusations that the CIA supported ousting Zelaya are a laugh riot. Hondurans wanted to get rid of him so bad, they were marching in the streets regularly, protesting him and especially his plans to consolidate his dictatorship.

    Nobody needed to convince the Hondurans over this at any level. And through it all, the military forces stayed strictly obedient to the civil authorities.

    Meantime, CHAVEZ was the meddling imperialist in Honduras. He’s gone now, and his successor is trying to be another one. You can blame the CIA for a lot of things around the world, but not that one.

    And in Chile, never mind that the Cubans were meddling and intervening, pouring agents in, and helping coordinate the importation of leftists from the entire continent, no doubt with logistical and other support from the tyrants in the Soviet Union. Government embeds in the Communist government also were stockpiling large warehouses full of weapons, preparing for confrontation, no doubt. They started calling for troops to mutiny.

    But Congress and their people saw the economy in the pits. Nationalizing the copper mines only provided payout opportunities for political cronies. Accidents skyrocketed over Anaconda’s record, the mines began losing money instead of paying taxes, and the nationalization was like shooting yourself in the foot to spite your leg!

    So the CIA may have been involved, but the military did not intervene until their Congress passed a resolution finally, demanding that the military brass do something to stop the runaway Communist dictator!

    The USA is the biggest bully and interventionist in the world, for sure. But let us remember that socialism and fascism tends to shoot itself in the foot by its nature, and that there is a significant and numerous part of the people in Latin America who want NOTHING to do with socialism.

    • gustave courbet

      “to prop up leftist caudillos like Hugo Chavez and his fellow fascists”

      All the information I’ve seen about the US’s relations with Hugo Chavez, described extreme acrimony, not support. Care to cite sources that lead you to this conclusion?

      • Trutherator

        They pushed Zelaya’s phony, fraudulent “referendum” in Honduras and his plans to be jefe-for-life, from mostly behind the scenes. (My wife is from Honduras). They mostly let Chavez take the credit. The U.S. Ambassador even lent his person to Zelaya’s TV campaign for the thing. Hillary Clinton called up Micheletti on the phone and told him to put Zelaya back in power.

        George Soros spoke at the summit of Caribbean-Central American presidents. Zelaya and Chavez present. Mr. Z went back and did dirty.. Connect the dots…

        Venezuelans are not monolithically so stupid as to rush for socialism. It’s American hubris to think that opposition to him was all CIA. Libertarians are susceptible, apparently.

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