Chile: The 1985 Meeting Between McCain and Pinochet

In 1985, a U.S. Congressman named John McCain traveled to Chile and met with dictator Augusto Pinochet, among other government officials. The previously unreported meeting was revealed by journalist John Dinges, who published the findings in his blog CIPER [es], as well as in the Huffington Post, where he writes about John McCain “who has harshly criticized the idea of sitting down with dictators without pre-conditions, appears to have done just that.” with “Pinochet, one of the world's most notorious violators of human rights credited with killing more than 3,000 civilians and jailing tens of thousands of others.”

Chilean blogger Juan Guillermo Tejeda writes about some of the details of the meeting [es]:

El senador estuvo media hora con nuestro monstruito, y además conversó con el almirante Merino, cuyo humor sádico conocimos tan bien… El encuentro, organizado por el entonces embajador de Chile Hernán Felipe Errázuriz, no apareció en los medios y el senador se abstuvo de realizar declaraciones.

The senator spent half an hour with our little monster, and also met with Admiral Merino, whose sadistic humor we know all too well… The meeting, organized by the then-ambassador Hernán Felipe Errázuriz, did not appear in the media and the Senator did not make any comment.

Dinges wrote about some of the context of the meeting in the Chilean blog of the Center of Journalistic Information and Investigation (CIPER for its initials in Spanish)

Al momento del encuentro, realizado la tarde del 30 de diciembre, el Departamento de Justicia de Estados Unidos intentaba obtener de las autoridades chilenas la extradición de tres hombres cercanos a Pinochet –el ex jefe de la DINA, Manuel Contreras, y los ex oficiales DINA Pedro Espinoza y Armando Fernández Larios- por un acto de terrorismo ocurrido en Washington DC. Un juicio en Washington determinó su procesamiento por el asesinato en 1976 del ex embajador y ex canciller Orlando Letelier y de la norteamericana Ronny Moffit, quien viajaba con él. La bomba puesta en su auto y que estalló en Sheridan Circle, fue descrita en esa época por la prensa internacional como el más flagrante acto de terrorismo internacional perpetrado en suelo estadounidense por una fuerza extranjera.

En esos mismos días en Chile, la oposición buscaba desesperadamente el apoyo de líderes democráticos de todo el mundo en su intento por presionar a Pinochet a poner fin a la dictadura que ya cumplía 12 años y permitir el retorno a la democracia. Otros congresistas visitaron Chile después de la vista de McCain e hicieron declaraciones públicas contra la dictadura y en apoyo del retorno a la democracia, convirtiéndose en el blanco de violentas demostraciones pinochetistas.

At the time of the meeting, in the late afternoon of December 30, the U.S. Justice Department was seeking the extradition of three close Pinochet associates – the ex-chief of the DINA (National Intelligence Directorate) Manuel Contreras and DINA officials Pedro Espinoza and Armando Fernández Larios -for an act of terrorism in Washington DC. A trial in Washington determined that they should be charged for the 1976 assassination of former ambassador to the U.S. and former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and of U.S. citizen Ronny Moffit, who accompanied Letelier. The car bombing on Sheridan Circle in the U.S. capital was widely described at the time as the most egregious act of international terrorism perpetrated on U.S. soil by a foreign power.

At the time of McCain's meeting with Pinochet, Chile's democratic opposition was desperately seeking support from democratic leaders around the world in an attempt to pressure Pinochet to allow a return to democracy and force a peaceful end to the dictatorship, already in its 12th year. Other U.S. congressional leaders who visited Chile made public statements against the dictatorship and in support of a return to democracy, at times becoming the target of violent pro-Pinochet demonstrations.

At his blog Chile From Within, Chilean-American blogger Tomás Dinges links to the articles written by “document-maven and father” and provides additional links to information, including a response from the McCain campaign that appeared in the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog.

Many Chilean and Latin American blogs are republishing John Dinges’ articles, as a way of spreading the information.


  • On Wikileaks there is a Copy of McCain Pinochet US Dep of State Cable from 1986


  • Norron Lee

    My vote is for Obama, I just think situations in which these candidates were participants that took place many years ago are not revelant. If it has not been deemed criminal or irresponsible, what is the point of bringing it up at this late state in the campaign?

  • Karina Adriasola

    As a Chilean who moved to the USA in 1997 and now a proud US citizen, very involved on getting Obama elected: Believe me, it is relevant when a candidate like McCain on his campaign critize “the idea of sitting down with dictators without pre-conditions”… People should now that he did it and is a prove of his character: he’s not really telling the truth to his voters.
    Pinochet killed way more than 3000 Chileans and many of us suffer from his dictatorship.
    You cannot really say that’s irrelevant if you didn’t have to live and suffer 17 years with Pinochet in the Chilean government.

  • […] Chile: The 1985 Meeting Between McCain and Pinochet […]

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