Latin America & Caribbean

Chilean ambassador resigns after praising Pinochet

File photo from September 1973 after Gen Pinochet seized power in a coup
Gen Pinochet seized power on 11 September 1973

Chile's ambassador to Argentina has resigned after making favourable comments about the military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Ambassador Miguel Otero caused uproar last weekend when he told an Argentine newspaper that most Chileans had not suffered under the military.

He also said that had President Salvador Allende not been overthrown in 1973, Chile would today be like Cuba.

Some 3,000 political opponents died during the 1973-1990 military rule.

In his interview with Argentine newspaper Clarin, Mr Otero, 79, said most Chileans had felt relieved after the army took power.

He also said he believed most human rights abuses were not official policies, but rather that there had been people who abused their authority and committed excesses.

His comments provoked demands in Chile and Argentina for him to step down.

Mr Otero apologised on Monday "to all those who suffered under whatever dictatorship, to all those whose human rights have been violated. I offer my sincere apologies as they are right to feel offended".

On Tuesday, after a heated debate, the foreign relations committee of the Chamber of Deputies voted by six votes to five to ask President Sebastian Pinera to sack him.

Mr Otero, who said he would not step down while he enjoyed the president's support, offered his resignation the same day.

The former ambassador is a prominent member of the centre-right National Renewal Party, as is President Pinera.

Mr Pinera, who took office in March, was the first conservative elected president since Chile's return to democracy 20 years ago.

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