Augusto Pinochet dead at 91

Former dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990 and spent his old age fighting human rights, fraud and corruption charges, died on Sunday. He was 91.

Pinochet, who was diabetic and had been in frail health for years, suffered a heart attack last week and underwent an angioplasty. His son then said the surgery had brought him back from the brink of death.

“He died surrounded by his family,” Juan Ignacio Vergara, a military doctor, told reporters outside the hospital.
Vergara said Pinochet’s health had suddenly deteriorated on Sunday.

Pinochet grabbed power in a 1973 coup and went on to become the best known of South American dictators from the 1970s and 1980s. More than 3 000 people died in political violence under his rule, many at the hands of repressive secret police.

Despite Pinochet’s human rights record, many Chileans loved him and said he saved Chile from Marxism.

Throngs of weeping supporters gathered outside the military hospital on Sunday, singing in broken voices the national anthem and praises to their deceased general.

“He broke the chains of communism for us ... we didn’t become a second Cuba, and that’s thanks to him,” one woman told local television.

Pinochet was accused of dozens of human rights violations but a lengthy effort to bring him to trial in Chile failed as his defence lawyers successfully argued that he was too ill to face charges.

Pinochet was under house arrest at the time of the heart attack last week, accused in the deaths of two bodyguards of former Chilean President Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in the 1973 coup.

The charges were the latest in a series against Pinochet, who issued a statement last month on his 91st birthday suggesting he realised his death could be near.

“Today, close to the end of my days, I want to make clear that I hold no rancour toward anybody, that I love my country above all else,” he said in a statement read by his wife.

In the statement, he accepted “political responsibility” for acts committed during his rule. - Reuters

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