Ex-Chilean Dictator Pinochet Dies at 91


For some, like supporters outside the hospital where he died, Gen. Augusto Pinochet was a national hero who saved his country from communism. But most Chileans remember him as a brutal dictator.

More than 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" during Pinochet's 16-year rule. Ten times that number were tortured.

"Not a leaf moves in Chile if I'm not moving it," said the general, who seized power in a bloody coup in 1973. That coup, which overthrew a socialist president, was backed by the United States.

"I don't think he's going to heaven," said Geoffrey Robinson, a human rights lawyer. "If there is a hell, he's in it, which is not dissimilar to his own torture chambers."

Pinochet stepped down as president in 1990, but remained head of the armed forces, appointed himself a senator for life and cast a long shadow over Chilean politics.

During a visit to London in 1998, Pinochet was arrested on a Spanish warrant, accused of torturing Spanish citizens in the 1970s and '80s. After 18-months of legal wrangling, a frail Pinochet was judged too ill to stand trial and released.

Last month, on his 91st birthday, the ailing dictator released a statement accepting "political responsibility" for all that happened during his rule.

But years of ill health meant Pinochet never had to answer the charges of human rights abuse and fraud leveled against him. Tonight some of his opponents say Pinochet's death has robbed them of justice.

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