Global Policy Forum

Ailing Pinochet Takes Responsibility

Associated Press
November 25, 2006

Gen. Augusto Pinochet took full responsibility for the first time Saturday for the actions of his 1973-90 dictatorship, which carried out thousands of political killings and is blamed for widespread torture and illegal imprisonment in Chile. At a celebration of his 91st birthday, Pinochet also defended the bloody military coup that toppled freely elected Marxist President Salvador Allende, in a statement read aloud by his wife as he sat by her side.

"Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all and that I take political responsibility for everything that was done which had no other goal than making Chile greater and avoiding its disintegration," he said. "I assume full political responsibility for what happened."

Pinochet, surrounded by family, bodyguards and retired generals outside his home, raised his hand to acknowledge about 200 supporters gathered outside who sang him "Happy Birthday" and chanted "Long live Chile! Long live Pinochet!" After about a half-hour, he slowly stood and walked inside supported by a cane and the arm of a bodyguard.

According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons under Pinochet, including more than 1,000 who were made to "disappear." Thousands more were illegally imprisoned, tortured or forced into exile. Pinochet rarely speaks in public and has not made such extensive comments for several years.

Ricardo Israel, a political scientist at the University of Chile, said Pinochet has never taken full responsibility for the actions taken during his rule, instead blaming abuses on subordinates. "But I think it's too late," Israel told the Associated Press. "He should have done it while he was in power, or when he remained as army commander after stepping down. Things would have been different."

Social, political convulsions

In his statement, Pinochet claimed the military had to act against Allende's government because the social and political convulsions at the time were threatening the country's integrity. He also sent "a message of support to my comrades in arms, many of whom are imprisoned, suffering persecution and revenge," in a clear reference to the scores of trials of military officers for rights abuses. "It is not fair to demand punishment for those who prevented the continuation and worsening of the worse political and economic crisis than one can remember," he added.

Pinochet is currently under indictment in two human rights abuse cases and for tax evasion, and has scores of others criminal suits pending, filed by victims of abuses or their relatives. Until now, the courts have dropped the charges against him citing his poor health.

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