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The Progressive

"Missing" Verdict: U.S. Guilty in Chile

In a remarkable judicial verdict in Chile, the U.S. government has been held responsible for the deaths of two of its own countrymen 40 years ago.

“The United States military intelligence services played a pivotal role in setting up the murders of two American citizens in 1973, providing the Chilean military with the information that led to their deaths, a court here has ruled,” reports the New York Times.

The two were Charles Horman, whose killing was so memorably narrated in the movie Missing, and Frank Terrugi.

The ruling was in response to a case filed by Charles’s widow, Joyce, in 2000. On the fortieth anniversary of the coup in Chile last September, she wrote a powerful cover story for The Progressive.

“Forty years ago in Santiago, Chile, my dear, smart, Harvard-educated, independent thinking, loving, trying-to-figure-it-all-out-and-do-the-right-thing journalist/documentary filmmaker husband was stolen from my life, from the lives of his loving parents, and all of his friends,” it began. “Charles has been described as ‘an American sacrifice’—one of the many victims of the U.S.-backed coup in Chile on September 11, 1973.”

Horman explained during an appearance on Democracy Now last year why her husband was targeted.

“He met in the hotel that [Charles and a friend] stayed U.S. military people who were taking quite a large credit for the coup and were very excited about the success,” she said, referring to Charles’s visit just before the coup to the Chilean town of Vina del Mar. “And my husband, the journalist, knew that that was not something that anybody in the United States knew about.”

The Chilean verdict names in particular an American official, Raymond Davis, who, it states, alerted Chilean security to the whereabouts of Horman and Terrugi. “Captain Ray Davis … is the one who drove through all the roadblocks, because he had all of the connections with the Pinochet forces, and brought [Charles and a friend] back to Santiago,” Joyce told Democracy Now.

Davis was the head of the U.S. Military Mission in Chile during that period. Afterward, he was covertly living in Chile even as a Chilean court ordered his extradition from the United States, and he passed away there in 2013.

“More than forty years after my husband was killed, and almost fourteen years since I initiated judicial proceedings in Chile, I am delighted that the cases of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi are moving forward in the Chilean courts,” Joyce told the media. “At the same time, I remain outraged that, through death and delay, a key indicted U.S. official, Captain Ray Davis, has escaped this prosecutorial process.”

Joyce is still optimistic that the full truth of U.S. involvement will emerge.

"Judge Zepeda's ruling both implicates and incriminates U.S. intelligence personnel as playing a dark role in the murder of my husband," she said. "My hope is that the record of evidence compiled by the court sheds further light on how and why Charles was targeted, who actually ordered his murder, and what kind of information on one of its own citizens the U.S. government passed to the Chilean military who committed this heinous crime."

Amitabh Pal

Amitabh Pal

Amitabh Pal is managing editor of The Progressive. He has interviewed the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter and John Kenneth Galbraith for the magazine.

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