Augusto Pinochet 1915-2006: He took his crimes to the grave
By David Usborne
Published: 11 December 2006
Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator who ruled Chile with an iron
fist from 1973 until 1990, died in a high-security military hospital
in the capital, Santiago, yesterday. His death from heart failure
leaves a disputed legacy of brutal political repression; salvation
from Marxism; and civil turmoil.
Doctors said they rushed the discredited dictator back into the
hospital's intensive care unit yesterday morning after a sudden
deterioration of his condition. He was only released from the unit
last Thursday where he had been under treatment for an acute heart
attack suffered one week ago after which he underwent an emergency
angioplasty to widen a clogged artery.
In a brief announcement, the hospital said the one-time military
strongman - who in recent years had been hounded by charges at home
and abroad of human rights violations, corruption and fraud - had died
at 2.15pm local time in Chile. He was 91.
His death sparked champagne-soaked celebrations, skirmishes with
police and displays of lasting devotion as Chileans took an anguished
look back at the dictator who brutally ruled for 17 years.
Celebrations broke out in several parts of the Chilean capital. At a
major plaza, hundreds of cheering, flag-waving people gathered to pop
champagne corks and toss confetti.
Outside the hospital where Pinochet died, Chileans who believed he
saved them from communism wept and hoisted posters with the general's
image. Some chanted that Pinochet and his feared secret police were
Chile's saviours. " He will live forever in my memory - I love him as
much as my own children," said Margarita Sanchez.
Meanwhile, police clashed with demonstrators who threw rocks and
erected fire barricades that sent up thick plumes of smoke and blocked
traffic on the city's main avenue. Tear gas and water cannons were
used to disperse the protesters, many of them masked, who quickly
Officials blamed the violence on a small contingent among the
thousands of demonstrators who poured into the streets to denounce
Pinochet's legacy. At least two bank offices were damaged.
The clashes spread past midnight to several working class districts
and police said 23 officers, including a major and a captain, were
Deputy Interior Minister Felipe Harboe said there had been a number of
arrests but did not give a figure.
"The government makes an appeal to peace," Harboe said. "We do not
want people to be affected today by facts of the past."
Chile's government said Pinochet will not receive the state funeral
normally granted to former presidents, but only military honours at
the Santiago military academy.
This morning, Pinochet's coffin was transferred to the Military Academy.
The coffin, covered with a Chilean flag and Pinochet's military hat
and sword on top if it, was placed in a large hall, but the media was
kept at a distance and could hardly see it through large windows.
As he requested, Pinochet will be cremated, according to son Marco
Antonio, to avoid desecration of his tomb by "people who always hated