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David H. Popper

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Biographical Details

David H. Popper, a United States diplomat who, as ambassador to Chile (1974 to 1977) in the early years of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s government, "struggled to balance military and human rights concerns," died in 2008. on July 24 in Washington. He was 95.

"In 1976, during Mr. Popper’s tenure in Chile, Orlando Letelier, foreign minister in Mr. Allende’s government, was assassinated by car bomb in Washington. Many years later, Mr. Popper’s role in the months leading up to the murder emerged in declassified documents.

"The documents said that Mr. Popper had been ordered in late August to discuss with Mr. Pinochet an initiative of South American leaders, called Operation Condor, to eliminate political opponents. Mr. Kissinger wrote in a top-secret cablegram that the United States objected to the idea on political and moral grounds...

"He worked for the Foreign Policy Association, a nonprofit group founded in 1918 to teach Americans about international issues...

"Mr. Popper’s first overseas assignment was that of negotiating nuclear issues with the Soviet Union in Geneva. He then worked at the United Nations in the Kennedy administration with Ambassador Adlai E. Stevenson.

"He was ambassador to Cyprus from 1969 to 1973, a period of rising tensions between Greeks and Turks. Mr. Popper’s successor as ambassador was shot and killed in the same office in which Mr. Popper had worked.

"From 1973 to 1974, Mr. Popper was assistant secretary of state for international organizations...

"In his retirement, Mr. Popper published a biography of Kurt Waldheim, the former general secretary of the United Nations. Mr. Waldheim did not tell him about any Nazi past. Evidence of that past began to emerge in Mr. Waldheim’s campaign for president of Austria, which he won in 1986, the same year the book was published." [1]

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  1. David H. Popper, Ex-Envoy, Dies at 95, NYT, accessed December 12, 2010.