The Assassin Next Door

Chile's infamous undercover operative Armando Fernandez Larios has lived a quiet life in Miami. But his past is about to catch up with him.

Orlando Letelier's eldest son, Cristian, another person whose life has been touched by Armando Fernandez, would also like to see him pay a higher price for his crimes. "I've tried to find some benevolence and peace and forgiveness about all this over the years," says the 42-year-old actor and model from his home in Venice, California. He had welcomed Fernandez's decision to come to the United States in 1987. "He had some sincerity," Cristian says. "So I could understand that in some way he should be protected. But the deal should only apply to involvement with my father's assassination, that he can't be sent back to Chile for trial on that. But [la Caravana de la Muerte] is a different case."

Calling Fernandez's brief time in jail for the deaths of his father and Ronni Moffitt "appalling" and "ridiculous," he adds, "After all, he is a murderer, so I'd like for his life to be as difficult as possible."

The Chilean consulate in Miami says Armando Fernandez Larios, unlike nearly all Chilean permanent residents of Miami-Dade County, is not listed in their files. A Chilean passport is good for five years, but Fernandez has not had his renewed. All other inquiries about Fernandez are referred to the Chilean Embassy in Washington, where a functionary says, "We have nothing to do with Sr. Fernandez Larios. All we know about him is what we read in press reports from Santiago."

September 21, 1976: Two more dead in Pinochet's bloody fight for power
September 21, 1976: Two more dead in Pinochet's bloody fight for power
Marked for death: Orlando Letelier was considered a danger to the Pinochet regime
AP/Wide World Photo
Marked for death: Orlando Letelier was considered a danger to the Pinochet regime

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Steven Davis confirms that Fernandez does not possess a valid document identifying himself as a citizen of Chile. It seems el aguila -- a formerly patriotic military man from a military family (his father was an army general) -- has become a man without a country.

Eleven days before he was killed, Orlando Letelier received word from Santiago that the generals had taken it upon themselves to set legal precedent by revoking his Chilean citizenship. They cited "his ignoble and disloyal attitude" and "his carrying out in foreign lands a publicity campaign aimed at bringing about the political, economic, and cultural isolation of Chile."

Letelier was described by friends and family as initially depressed by the news. But then the presumptuousness of such a thing filled him with righteous anger. And he sat down at the desk in his room at New York's Algonquin Hotel to rewrite a speech he was to deliver that night in the Felt Forum of Madison Square Garden to mark the third anniversary of the coup and resistance to it.

During the speech he noted "the revulsion of the civilized world against the barbaric and brutal violation of all human rights by the Chilean military junta." Then in the middle of the address he paused, changed tone, and said slowly: "Today Pinochet has signed a decree in which it is said that I am deprived of my nationality.... But this action makes me feel more Chilean than ever."

His voice rising, he went on: "I was born a Chilean, I am a Chilean, and I will die a Chilean. They, the fascists, were born traitors, live as traitors, and will be remembered forever as fascist traitors."

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