Some Chileans drank champagne and sang patriotic songs, while others mounted angry protests, after the widow and five children of General Augusto Pinochet were arrested on corruption charges related to US accounts controlled by the late dictator.
All told, 23 people were indicted on Thursday by a judge in an investigation into millions of dollars allegedly diverted from the government. Police director Arturo Herrera said most had been arrested, including Pinochet's widow Lucia Hiriart, 84, and his grown children.
Hiriart was transferred to the Santiago military hospital after suffering a rise in blood pressure and requested that she remain under arrest there, family lawyer Pablo Rodriguez said. He said the indictments and arrests would be appealed.
"I am astonished by this illegal and abusive decision by the judge, and I am sure that it will be reversed by the Court of Appeals," he said.
Reaction to the arrests varied widely, reflecting the deep divisions the dictator still inspires almost 10 months after he died last December at age 91 while under indictment on human rights and corruption charges.
A group of about 20 people, some carrying photographs and even small statues of the dictator, gathered at the military hospital chanting slogans in support of Pinochet and his widow.
Retired army Colonel Cristian Labbe, who was a close aide to Pinochet and visited Hiriart at the hospital, called the indictments "cruel" and "a blow to efforts for reconciliation among Chileans."
Right-wing Congresswoman Angelica Cristi suggested a political motivation for the arrests, saying: "It's curious that something like this happens right at a time when we hear a new opinion poll showing government approval continues to drop."
But elsewhere in the capital of Santiago, human-rights activists popped open champagne bottles. In the lower house of congress, pro-government lawmakers celebrated by singing the national anthem.
Those indicted included at least six retired army generals -- Jorge Ballerino, Guillermo Garin, Juan Romero, Hector Letelier, Sergio Moreno and Ramon Castro -- as well as lower-ranking officers, Pinochet's longtime secretary Monica Ananias and one of his lawyers, Ambrosio Rodriguez.
Ballerino and Rodriguez were also hospitalized with high blood pressure, corrections officials said.
Judge Carlos Cerda said he ordered the arrests because of "solid indications that they had participated in the misuse of fiscal funds" during Pinochet's 1973 to 1990 dictatorship.
Cerda was to decide whether to keep them in custody or free them to stand trial.
The ruling is related to an investigation into the multimillion-dollar accounts Pinochet controlled at the Riggs Bank in Washington and other foreign banks.
According to court papers, some of those accounts may have been fed with funds from the so-called Military House, an office that aided Pinochet's military activities during the dictatorship. Pinochet remained an army commander during his long rule.
Cerda estimated that some US$7.9 million were illegally diverted from the Military House.
Pinochet and his associates have steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, insisting the sources of the bank accounts were legitimate savings, investments and donations.