By DAVID KIDWELL
Herald Staff Writer
The surviving family of a Chilean economist -- tortured, murdered and decapitated
25 years ago by the secret police of former military leader Augusto Pinochet --
has sued a Miami businessman they say is responsible.
``It took a private investigator and a very long time to track him down,
but we did
it,'' said Zita Cabello-Barrueto, whose brother Winston Cabello's body was
exhumed in 1990. ``This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened for us,
but it is very sad, too.
``It brings everything back all over again.''
It is the first U.S. case against an agent of Pinochet's regime, accused
of murders and disappearances since a 1973 coup d'etat brought him to power.
Accused of ``crimes against humanity, wrongful death, summary execution,
cruelty, arbitrary detention and civil conspiracy'' is Armando Fernandez-Larios,
49, a Miami import/export businessman. The lawsuit identifies him as a former
Chilean army major who has lived under federal protection for reporting atrocities
in which he participated.
A man answering a cellular telephone at Fernandez-Larios' business identified
himself late Monday as an associate and said Fernandez-Larios was traveling
outside the country.
``I understand your question. I will try to get a message to him,'' said
the man, who
declined to provide his name. ``You need to talk to him.''
According to a 23-page lawsuit in U.S. District Court and unsealed Friday,
``Fernandez-Larios was a highly trusted lieutenant in the Chilean army who led the
coup's final assault on . . . the presidential palace.
``In the days following the coup, the defendant was assigned to participate
campaign to eliminate key political prisoners throughout Chile,'' said the lawsuit,
filed by lawyers from Amnesty International's Center For Justice & Accountability
in San Francisco.
Fernandez-Larios came to the United States in 1987, turning himself in
authorities seeking him for his involvement in a car-bombing in Washington, D.C.
The explosion killed a Chilean ambassador and his assistant.
Fernandez-Larios pleaded guilty to being an ``accessory after the fact''
bombing and turned government informant regarding the roles of other Chilean
military figures in the bombing case. He spent a short time in a federal prison and
entered the federal witness protection program, the suit says.
``Larios recently left the witness protection program and currently lives
the suit says.
Cabello's mother, two sisters and brother filed the suit under seal last
seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. Cabello was 28, married
and the father of two children in September 1973 when he was arrested.
The military announced he had been shot ``trying to escape.'' But after
elected a civilian president in 1990, the bodies of Cabello and others were
exhumed, showing they had been dismembered, beheaded and tortured.
``What we are really searching for is some truth,'' said Zita Cabello-Barrueto,
sister. ``We were fortunate that we knew where my brother was buried, but there
are hundreds more still missing, and I think this man knows where they are.
``In Chile there is no truth,'' she said. ``No one wants to talk about it.''
Cabello was imprisoned after attending a meeting of public service officials
immediately following the Pinochet coup. For about a month, his family was
allowed to visit, but on Oct. 16, 1973, Gen. Sergio Arellano Stark and his
``bodyguard'' Fernandez-Larios arrived by helicopter and order Cabello and 12
others executed, the suit says.
The family's attorneys -- including Coral Gables attorney Julie Ferguson
lawyers from Amnesty International -- said the suit was not filed earlier because
Fernandez-Larios had successfully concealed his whereabouts.
The lawsuit is expected to cause a stir in the diplomatic community as
in the United States against a member of the Pinochet regime.
In 1978, Chile's military regime passed an amnesty law prohibiting such
Pinochet himself was arrested in London last year on a Spanish warrant
him of crimes against humanity during his 17 years in power. Lawmakers there are
set to vote Wednesday on whether he can assert diplomatic immunity as a former
head of state.
According to a February 1991 report by the Chilean government's Commission
Truth and Reconciliation, 2,025 people disappeared or were killed by state agents
under Pinochet. Thousands more were arbitrarily detained, tortured and
subsequently released as a result of the military campaign to eliminate potential
political opponents following the coup.
Copyright © 1999 The Miami Herald