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Reagan Aide Spurns Helms Criticism of Envoy to Chile

July 14, 1986|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration today brushed aside Sen. Jesse Helms' criticism of the American ambassador in Chile for having attended the funeral of a young man who was killed during anti-government protests.

The ambassador, Harry G. Barnes Jr. "is carrying out the President's policies toward Chile . . . (and) continues to have the President's full confidence," White House deputy press secretary Edward Djerejian said.

Helms, a Republican from North Carolina, said in an interview on the state-run television network in Chile that "if President Reagan were here, I believe he would send this ambassador home."

The senator accused the ambassador of having "planted the American flag in the midst of a Communist activity" when he went to the funeral Wednesday of Rodrigo Rojas de Negri, a 19-year-old Chilean who lived in Washington with his mother, a political exile.

Rojas was visiting Chile when he and a woman were set afire at the start of a 48-hour strike called by opponents of the government of Augusto Pinochet. Witnesses were quoted as saying that men in uniform set the two afire after pouring or spraying a flammable substance on them.

Djerejian, saying that the United States is trying to encourage movement toward democracy in Chile, said Barnes "went to the Rojas funeral in a humanitarian gesture, just as the United States has provided assistance to the Rojas family as a humanitarian gesture in the face of tragedy."

As for Helms' criticism, Djerejian said: "Sen. Helms is expressing his opinions. I've given you our position."

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