From Rabbbi Arthur Waskow's latest e-mail bulletin:
In dark times it is good to remember that even a brutal fascist dictatorship, even one supported by the government of the world's one superpower, can be shattered by the slow and steady assertion of public commitment, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people can be restored and renewed.
In Washington this month, the President of Chile -- herself a victim of torture -- honored and celebrated that truth.
In 1976, when I was a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, the Chilean secret police murdered two of my colleagues on the streets of Washington, blowing up their car by a radio device that exploded a previously placed bomb, as the car passed the Chilean embassy.
The Chilean junta had on September 11, 1973, with the support of the US government, overthrown the democratically elected government led by Salvador Allende. Their attack on the car was aimed at -- and killed -- Orlando Letelier, the Ambasador to the US of the Allende government, and also killed a young American woman who was on the IPS staff, Ronni Karopen Moffitt.
In my congregations, I have ever since added their names to the list of martyrs recited by Jews on every Yom Kippur.
Please note this news item below.
"The arc of the universe bends slowly, but it bends toward justice."
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Shalom Center
June 8, 2006
Chilean President Pays Respects to Washington, DC victims of Pinochet
Bachelet Thanks Institute for Policy Studies Leaders at Site of Letelier and
Moffitt Car Bombing
Michelle Bachelet, the newly elected president of Chile, placed a wreath this morning at the Sheridan Circle memorial in Washington, DC, that marks the site of the assassination of former Institute for Policy Studies colleagues Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt.
Orlando, the former ambassador to the United States under Chilean President Salvador Allende and an outspoken critic of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and Ronni, a 25-year-old fundraiser, were driving to work at the Institute on September 21, 1976 when they were killed by a car bomb set by secret police agents of the Pinochet regime.
In her remarks this morning, President Bachelet emphasized that she could not come to Washington without stopping to pay her respects and to remember this act of horror. She also spoke briefly with IPS Co-Founder Marcus Raskin and IPS Director John Cavanagh, expressing her gratitude for the Institute's commitment to keeping the memory of Letelier and Moffitt alive and pursuing the struggle for justice. IPS has held an annual human rights awards program in the names of Letelier and Moffitt for the past 30 years, and has worked with others to hold Pinochet accountable for his crimes. Bachelet's personal history ties her to this tragic event. Nearly 30 years ago, President Bachelet's mother worked as a volunteer at the Institute for Policy Studies with Orlando Letelier's widow, Isabel.
Isabel led a Third World Women's Project at IPS and was also active in the Chile Human Rights Committee. Michelle Bachelet sometimes stopped by the IPS offices to visit when she was a medical student. During Bachelet's campaign for the presidency, Isabel Letelier served as an active volunteer.
In addition to being a friend of the Letelier family, President Bachelet and her family also suffered greatly under the Pinochet dictatorship. Her father, an Air Force General who supported democracy, was tortured to death by the Pinochet regime and President Bachelet and her mother were themselves detained and tortured in the years following the 1973 military coup.
At Sheridan Circle (Massachusetts Ave. NW and 23rd St.), Bachelet emphasized the importance of remembering what happened to Ronni, Orlando, and other victims of the dictatorship as a way to strengthen democracy and to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again. Her appearance at Sheridan Circle was part of a one-day visit to Washington, which will include a meeting with President George W. Bush.