Ronni Moffitt

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Ronni Karpen Moffitt ...

Letelier case

On September 21, 1976, Institute for Policy Studies 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 in 2010 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.

An appeal overturned the verdict and Barcella lost the second case. He was deeply upset. Saul Landau recalls the scene in the courthouse corridor when Barcella shook his head in disbelief that a jury could have acquitted the three Cubans. The scene became especially dramatic for Landau 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 Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow) and Saul Landau , along with former FBI Special Agent Carter Cornick and John Dinges (who co-authored the book Assassination on Embassy Row with Landau) 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.[1]

In May 1980 Federal district judge Joyce Green ruled[2]that the Chilean government liable for $2.9 million in damages to the survivors of Institute for Policy Studies/Transnational Institute director Orlando Letelier and his aide, Ronni Moffitt, and that an additional $2 million in damages is owed by Juan Manuel Contreras, former head of the old Chilean intelligen agency NINA.

National Lawyers Guild theoretician Michael E. Tigar, who handled the civil lawsuit, said that if collected, the money would be donated to the IPS Letelier-Moffitt Memorial Fund. NLG attorney Michael Maggio who handles the Letelier estate and also represents the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, said the importance of the damage award was the political implications of a court finding against a government that "commtted an act of political terrorism here in the United States.

Institute for Policy Studies

In 1993 Ronni Karpen was listed among "former fellows, project co-ordinators and staff" of the Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC.[3]


  1. Tribute to Letelier Case Prosecutor, December 3, 2010 · By Saul Landau, IPS website
  2. Information Digest November 21 1980 p 404
  3. Institute for Policy Studies 30th Anniversary brochure