Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship lasted from 1973 to 1990

A Chilean newspaper has suggested nearly 3,000 classified US documents contain information linking former dictator Augusto Pinochet to drug trafficking, a somewhat questionable claim given the legacy of his iron rule.

Chilean news outlet El Ciudadano reports it solicited 2,984 pages of documents in 2015 from the US Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Of these documents, which are part of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) archives, only one was declassified and released.

According to El Ciudadano, US authorities cited several reasons for keeping the files classified, including their potential to jeopardize ongoing cases, affect the privacy of third parties, and identify sources of intelligence for government agencies.

Nonetheless, El Ciudadano implies the censored DEA files contain information pertaining to Pinochet's involvement in the drug trade.

A key piece of evidence linking Pinochet and drug trafficking are statements made in 2006 by Manuel Contreras, the former head of Chile's National Directorate of Intelligence (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional – DINA), the secret police during Pinochet's dictatorship. That year, Contreras alleged the Pinochet family became rich from drug trafficking. Contreras also claimed Pinochet sent his son to work with head DINA chemist Eugenio Berríos to learn how to make "black cocaine," which is supposedly undetectable by drug dogs.

Additionally, El Ciudadano cites testimony from a former Central Intelligence Agency employee, Ivan Baramdyka, who said that during Pinochet's dictatorship Chile sold precursor chemicals to drug cartels and exported cocaine to Europe and the United States.

El Ciudadano plans to appeal the denial of the FOIA request.

InSight Crime Analysis

Pinochet's hold on power from 1973 to 1990 was one of the single longest dictatorships in the Americas. During his reign, reprehensible acts of government repression and human rights violations occurred, with thousands tortured, killed, or disappeared.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Chile

Nonetheless, the DEA's withholding of files does not necessarily imply he was involved in drug trafficking. While this is not a declaration of his innocence, any details of US support for the Pinochet regime as part of broader Cold War policy -- even if unrelated to drug trafficking -- may have been deemed too diplomatically sensitive to release, especially given the atrocities committed during his rule.

Accusing Pinochet of drug trafficking also carries a hint of irony. Despite his dark legacy, since Pinochet's iron fist rule Chile has been considered one of the safest countries in Latin America.

Chile certainly did not emerge from the Pinochet-era on a trajectory towards greater involvement in the drug trade. While Chile does serve as a drug transshipment point and consumer nation, it has managed to avoid the rampant drug violence that plagues other parts of the region.

Whether or not Pinochet is to thank for that, however, is up for debate.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...