The ghost of Letelier

November 28, 1990|By The New York Times

A LONG shadow is still cast by the 1976 murder in

Washington of Orlando Letelier, former ambassador of the leftist Allende regime in Chile.

His car exploded, killing Letelier and an American friend, Ronni -- Moffitt. The crime was plotted by an American gun-for-hire, Michael Townley, who recruited help from the violent Cuban Nationalist Movement.

The prime instigator was the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, anxious to silence an exiled opponent.

The other day in Washington, a federal judge gave the maximum possible sentence -- 12 years -- to one of the Cuban conspirators, Jose Dionisio Suarez Esquivel, because of the harm caused to bystanders by the explosion.

Suarez eluded authorities for 12 years until his arrest in April.

If justice has been delayed, at least it has finally been served. But others implicated in the outrageous act of terrorism have managed to escape conviction on appeal, including two Nationalist Movement firebrands, Guillermo and Ignacio Novo.

And now they have resurfaced in Miami as members of the "information commission" of the zealously anti-Castro Cuban-American National Foundation led by Jorge Mas Canosa.

Mas, a favorite of the Reagan and Bush administrations, has deplored a wave of violence against moderate-minded exiles in Miami.

In three years the FBI has investigated at least 17 incidents of attempted intimidation, including the firebombing of an art gallery.

Mas may well be sincere in condemning such violent acts. But his words would ring truer if his foundation refused to associate with exiles implicated in an outrageous act of terror on a Washington street.

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