On March 23, 1979, Guillermo Novo and Alvin Ross Diaz are sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Orlando Letelier, former Chilean ambassador to the United States. The murder to place on September 21, 1976, when a car bomb exploded while victims, Orlando Letelier, and his friends Michael and Ronni Moffitt were driving on Washington D.C.'s Embassy Row.
Letelier was the intended target because of his political work against Chile's dictator Augusto Pinochet. Letelier was the ambassador to the U.S. for Chile's leftist government led by Salvador Allende in the early 1970s. However, after a CIA-supported coup by Pinochet in 1973, he was sent to a concentration camp on Dawson Island in the Straits of Magellan at the southern tip of South America. He survived and was exiled to the U.S. where he spent his time lobbying against the new military dictatorship. According to the prosecution, a man named Michael Townley was contacted by key figures in Pinochet's regime to assassinate Letelier and he used Cuban exiles, among them Novo and Ross Diaz, to help carry out the assassination. The entire plot was unraveled when Townley was caught and became a prosecution witness. For his cooperation, Townley was given a new identity and only a 40-month prison sentence. He never expressed any remorse and is thought to have returned to Chile after his release. General Pinochet was granted amnesty for his crimes when he stepped down from power in Chile. Novo and Ross Diaz's sentence was over turned on appeal and they were later fully acquitted. Evidence has since come to light suggesting that the CIA might have been aware of the impending assassination in advance and, perhaps because of the U.S.'s close relationship with Pinochet, did nothing to stop it.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: