WASHINGTON—In what one observer called “its strongest international response in years,” the U.S. scientific community played a role in the ouster late last month of the unpopular government-appointed head of the University of Chile in Santiago.

The National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Medicine and the American Association of University Professors sent letters to Chilean President Gen. Augusto Pino- chet and his education minister criticizing the actions of rector Jose Luis Federici. Federici, an economist with close ties to the government, arbitrarily fired at least 150 professors during his three-month tenure and finally shut the school The school reopened November 1 under a new rector, and the cases of those who were dismissed were being reviewed.

“We’ve won a hattle,” said Luis Izquierdo, professor of biology at the university. “But until we see if the new appointment has any strings attached,...

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