Wed, Nov 26, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Pinochet says he was a democrat and an angel


Augusto Pinochet, Chile's former dictator under whose bloody rule 3,000 suspected communists died and thousands more were imprisoned and tortured, said on Monday he had always been a democrat and had no regrets.

The comments came a day after a Chilean newspaper published details of a report indicating that the bodies of between 400 and 500 execution victims of Pinochet's secret police were thrown into the sea.

The report, taken from investigations carried out by special judge Juan Guzman into human rights abuses during the 1973-1990 Pinochet regime, appeared in Sunday's La Nacion newspaper.

According to the report, after being murdered by the secret DINA police, the bodies of victims were tied with wire to train rails, put inside sacks, loaded onto helicopters and dumped into the ocean.

Most of the flights by the Army Aviation Command to get rid of the evidence of killings occurred between 1974 and 1978.

Government spokesman Francisco Vidal said Monday that what happened was of "indescribable inhumanity," but it was up to Chile's courts to mete out justice.

The vice president of the Association of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared, Mireya Garcia, said the report was "shocking" and "brutal."

"It is something very difficult to assimilate, to digest. It has made such an impact on me I wish the news did not exist," she said.

Despite the accusations, Pinochet said in a rare interview on Miami's Spanish language television channel WDLP-22 that he was "an angel" who had always acted for love of his country. The 87-year-old's voice was raspy and his words were often unclear.

"I never aspired to be a dictator because ... I considered that to be a dictator would end badly," Pinochet said from his home in Santiago, clutching a cane as he sat in an ornate wooden chair.

"I always acted in a democratic way," he said.

Pinochet came to power in a US-backed military coup in 1973 and ruled with an iron fist until Chileans rejected him in a plebiscite in 1990.

Asked if he had any regrets, Pinochet said no. He also refused to consider apologizing to opponents of his government.

"Who shall I ask to be pardoned by? They say I should ask for forgiveness, what shall I ask to be forgiven for?" he said.

If anyone should ask for forgiveness it was the "Marxists, Communists" who Pinochet said tried on several occasions to assassinate him.

He said he had left a document in the hands of a lawyer that would be released after his death, and in which he recounts "the truth" of what happened.

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