Orlando Letelier

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Marcos Orlando Letelier del Solar (April 13, 1932 - September 21, 1976) was a Chilean economist, political figure, and diplomat during the presidency of Socialist President Salvador Allende. As a refugee from the military dictatorship of American-backed General Augusto Pinochet, Letelier accepted several academic positions in Washington, D.C., where he was assassinated by Pinochet's DINA agents in 1976.



Letelier was born in Temuco, Chile, the youngest child of Orlando Letelier Ruiz and Inés 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 (Departamento del Cobre, now CODELCO), 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 leave for 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.

He married Isabel Margarita Morel Gumucio on December 17, 1955, with whom had four children: Cristián, José, Francisco, and Juan Pablo Letelier.

Political career

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.

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