The Santiago Times
Ex-DINA Head, Manuel Contreras, Provides New Details On Pinochet Wealth
(July 11, 2006) Manuel Contreras, the general who headed Chile’s secret DINA police from 1973 through 1978, accused former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet of amassing millions of dollars from the production and trafficking of cocaine. The accusations were made in a report last week to Claudio Pavez, the judge in charge of the current investigation on the murder of Col. Gerardo Huber Olivares.
The accusations are not the first time Pinochet has been accused of drug trafficking (ST, Dec. 7, 2005), but they have never before been corroborated by a high-ranking member of Pinochet’s former regime.
Contreras, who was called to testify because of his connections to Huber, stated that Pinochet pocketed millions of dollars from the production and distribution of cocaine. According to Contreras, cocaine production began in the mid-1980s, while Col. Huber was in charge of the Chilean Army’s chemical division in Talagante. The drug production was allegedly authorized by Pinochet and was carried out by chemist Eugenio Berríon, Edgardo Bathich, and Pinochet’s son, Marco Antonio Pinochet.
The team allegedly produced a form of the drug known as “black” or “Russian” cocaine, which involved the mixing of cocaine with other minerals in order to make the drug lose its scent. The altered form of the drug cannot be recognized by drug-sniffing dogs.
The drugs were supposedly shipped to the U.S. and Europe, where the infamous international drug lord and arms dealer, Monser Al Kassar, was placed in charge of distribution. Funds were deposited into Pinochet’s secret bank accounts in the U.S. and Europe, alleged Contreras.
Huber disappeared in January 1992 and was found dead a month later, floating in the Maipo River. Huber had faced severe pressure to talk with court investigators after it was discovered that the Pinochet regime had been illegally selling arms to Croatia in 1991. (ST, March 9). Contreras claims Huber was intimately aware of both the arms and drug smuggling operations, and that he was murdered by the military’s Counterintelligence Special Operation Force (Coeci).
Contreras’ lawyer Fidel Reyes denied that his client was motivated by revenge. “Cnotreras has never said anything about anyone that was not true,” Reyes said. “He might have upset a lot of people, but the truth hurts.”
Army Commander Gen. Óscar Izurieta promised a full review of Contreras’ allegations, but insisted that the charges have nothing to do with Chile’s current Army. “What is printed in the news is not always what should be in the news. The only truth is judicial truth, determined by the courts,” said Gen. Izurieta.
President Michelle Bachelet avoided commenting on the issue but, when pressed, expressed views similar to those of Izurieta, stating, “As in any other process, justice must be allowed to operate.”
Contreras is best known for the 1973 assassination of Allende’s ambassador to Washington, Orlando Letelier, which his agency orchestrated. He is currently in prison for involvement in the disappearance of MIR member Miguel Ángel Sandoval.
Pinochet’s clandestine wealth first became a source of public controversy after a 2004 investigation by the U.S. Senate found millions of dollars belonging to Pinochet in offshore bank accounts.
Pinochet is accused of amassing more than US$27 million in bribes and illegal kickbacks from the sale of military weaponry while he was Commander-in-Chief of Chile’s armed forces (ST, Nov. 25, 2005). His attorneys insist that the wealth was earned legitimately.