Chilean Foreign Minister Hernan Cubillos charged yesterday that the U.S. Justice Department is applying unacceptable pressure on his country and is failing to live up to an agreement for full cooperaton in the investigation of the assassination of former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier.
U.S. handling of the case, he said, raises the question of whether the Americans' aim "is seeing justice done or bringing down a military regime that they don't like."
Cubillos, here for the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, called yesterday's recall "out of all proportion. I find it strange that they have taken a diplomatic reaction to what is really a criminal case."
However, he added, "I think it will help, because maybe he can explain to people here the Chilean position - as I would have done if I had the clance."
Cubillos, who two months ago became the first civilian foreign minister since the military coup of 1973, indicated that U.S. tactics could complicate extradition of any Chileans charged in the 1976 murder of Letelier.
Insisting that Chile maintains "a will to collaborate in the investigation," he said the proof of this "is the fact that we handed over" Michael Townley, the American expatriate who worked for Chile's secret police and is accused here of playing a major role in Letelier's death.
Chile strained its own judicial process to accommodate U.S. demands at that time, he said. "We told the United State we wanted reciprocity [of cooperation] in the case. That has not been forthcoming. We are being pressured on several aspects of the case without any respect for our legal proceedings."
He pointed out that Chile initiated its own investigation on the basis of offical passports with false names issued to Townley and a Chilean army officer for a trip to the United States prior to Letelier's death.
Cubillos also stated that, contrary to published accounts, an amnesty decreed by the Chilean junta in April does not apply to persons who might eventually be charged in the Letelier case.
"We felt that somebody could be involved and we didn't want to cover it up," he said.
"The Department of Justice does not trust us or our legal system," he added.
Cubillos is a former executive of a Santigo conglomerate and was instrumental in operation of its El Mercurio newspaper when it was a principal opposiiton voice to the late president Salvador Allende.
AT that time, according to a U.S. Senate committee investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency funneled $1.7 million to the newspaper.