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Orlando Letelier

Marcos Orlando Letelier del Solar was a Chilean economist, political figure, diplomat and, later, US-based activist. He was assassinated in Washington DC by Chilean DINA agents.

Letelier was born in the city of Temuco, the youngest child of Orlando Letelier Ruiz and Ines del Solar. He studied at the Instituto Nacional and, at the age of sixteen, he was accepted as a cadet of the Chilean Military Academy, where he completed his secondary studies. Later he abandoned the military life to attend the University of Chile, where he graduated as a lawyer in 1954. In 1955, he joined the recently formed Copper Office , where he worked until 1959 as a research analyst in the copper industry. In that year, Orlando Letelier was fired for supporting Salvador Allende's unsuccessful second presidential campaign. The Letelier family had to retreat to Venezuela, where he became a copper consultant for the Finance Ministry. From there, Letelier made his way to then recently created Inter-American Development Bank, where he eventually became senior economist and director of the loan division. He was also one of the UN consultants responsible for the establishment of the Asian Development Bank.

His first political participations were as a university student, when he became a student representative at the University of Chile's Student Union. In 1959 Letelier joined the Chilean Socialist Party (PS). In 1971 President Allende appointed him ambassador to the United States because he had some unique leadership qualities rare among Latin American socialists of the time: chiefly among them a sophisticated grasp of the complexities of US politics and an in-depth knowledge of the copper industry. His specific mission was to try to defend the Chilean nationalization of copper against the privatization favored by the US government.

Related websites

Orlando Letelier Archive

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base

Institute for Policy Studies

John Dinges

Biography at Memoria Chilena

Short biographical sketch

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