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Tribute to Letelier Case Prosecutor

December 3, 2010 ·

Larry Barcella was a good and courageous man.

On September 21, 1976, my IPS colleagues Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt were killed by a car bomb in Washington, DC. The FBI later determined that Chilean secret police agents working with far right wing Cuban exiles had carried out this heinous act of terrorism.

After the Justice Department indicted five Cubans, plus four Chilean top intelligence agents, a trial took place in Washington. Lawrence Barcella, who died recently of cancer, was one of two U.S. prosecutors who won the first case. Three Cubans got convicted, two of conspiracy to assassinate a foreign dignitary; the other for aiding and abetting and perjury before a Grand Jury.

Barcella, Landau and othersAn appeal overturned the verdict and Barcella lost the second case. He was deeply upset. I recall the scene in the courthouse corridor when he shook his head in disbelief that a jury could have acquitted the three Cubans. The scene became especially dramatic for me when one of the Cubans, Guillermo Novo, threatened to get me and I maturely responded by extending a finger upwards at him.

Barcella remained emotionally attached to the case for decades. In the mid and late 1990s he worked with Spanish attorney Juan Garces (a former IPS associate fellow) and me, along with former FBI Special Agent Carter Cornick and John Dinges (who co-authored the book Assassination on Embassy Row with me) and others to get the U.S. government to release massive files on Pinochet and the Chilean government’s involvement in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination and other crimes.

He also wrote op eds and letters to keep the case alive — to get Pinochet indicted and the information about his involvement made public.

Larry Barcella was a good and courageous man. Those of us who knew him will miss him.