The article (May 18), “U.S. Chile Policy Mired in Dilemma,” has provoked me to write my first letter to you. In it, Doyle McManus reports on the extension of the state of siege by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, despite our Administration’s hopes to the contrary.
What irked me particularly was that, in filling in the historical background, McManus neglects to mention the relevant fact that the coup by which Pinochet and “the Chilean army overthrew the (freely elected) Marxist government of Salvador Allende” was masterminded by the CIA with at least tacit approval of the Nixon Administration.
Now there is nothing new in this by now well-documented fact; however, the distorted impression left by its frequent omission (and not just in this newspaper) to me amounts to nothing less than a rewriting of history. After all, a part of telling the truth, something newspapers hopefully strive to do, is to tell the “whole truth,” since selective reporting can often slant the conclusions. I found this particular article to be a good illustration of this principle. Had McManus included the vital information on the U.S. role in bringing Pinochet to power, it would surely have given the lie to the position that President Reagan and his Administration are taking: “‘We can’t lean on Pinochet . . . We don’t have the leverage.”’
Although Reagan has ameliorated his stance toward Chile from calling for “warming relations” to comparing Chile’s “‘entrenched military rule”’ (he still will not call it a dictatorship) to Cuba’s “‘Communist tyranny,”’ it is nevertheless clear that he has little desire to rock Chile’s political boat.
As McManus relates, Administration officials even acknowledge that they have been “pulling their punches.” Their reticence continues in the face of their own recognition that “Pinochet’s actions play into the hands of the extremists by creating a clandestine opposition which the Communists can control.”
It is certain that if Reagan and his Administration really wanted to flex their political muscle, they could do so, and with far better success and international support than their current Nicaraguan policy. After all, Pinochet remembers the means that brought him to power, and is undoubtedly aware that the United States could potentially undermine his rule to the verge of collapse. The bottom line is that Pinochet, like other tyrants before him, will eventually be toppled. Unfortunately, if our Administration insists on pursuing its shortsighted course, we will be left out in the cold again as in Nicaragua--for having stood behind the oppressor rather than behind the populace.
VERA CERNY LEWIS